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Prayers for Health and Peace Mark Start of Jewish New Year

By Aidan Gardiner | September 17, 2012 4:16pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — All across the city, New Yorkers gathered in synagogues and with their loved ones to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

Hundreds of people packed the noon services at Temple Israel of the City of New York, on the Upper East Side, to ushered in year 5773 on the Jewish Calendar. 

“It’s family time,” said Shira Wasserman, 28, who plays music for the temple. “Everyone’s here. This synagogue is bursting at the seams on Rosh Hashanah. It’s nice to be with this big community.”

As people exchanged good tidings of “Happy New Year!” and “L’Shana Tovah!” some reflected on the long traditions of Rosh Hashanah and their hopes for the new year.

Robert Spandorfer, 20, clutched a shofar — a long instrument made from a hollowed out animal horn — that spiraled up his arm. He’s played the instrument during the temple’s Rosh Hashanah services for the past eight years after learning how to play it in Hebrew school.

“He was fabulous!” said a passing woman, prompting him to smile.

“It was fun,” Spandorfer said. “It’s cool that it’s a tradition going back hundreds of years and I’m continuing that.”

Daniel Kalin, 60, who works in finance, said holiday’s rituals of redemption and renewal are particularly poignant as the economic and political climate remain so tumultuous.

“There’s a lot of drama around us,” Kalin said. “We’re in very unusual times.”

He and a friend he was standing with, Adrienne Gordon, both hoped the new year would bring peace to the country and the world, but they also hoped their own lives would see a new calm as well.

“We clean our slate and wash away the things we want to atone for,” Kalin said. “It’s soothing.”

“It’s a good time for reflection,” added Gordon, who volunteers at Bottomless Closet, a New York-based women’s advocacy organization. “It grounds you for the new year.”

Some worshippers looked forward to life’s simpler and more tangible treasures.

“I hope for a happy healthy year,” said Wasserman’s husband, Jason, 29. “If I have that, that’s good enough.”

Greg, 8, said with a beaming smile that he hoped to improve his skills on his skateboard, which he said is emblazoned with a Spider-Man decal.

“I love my family,” said his brother Zach, 6. “I look forward to having a good family.”