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Rosh Hashanah 2012 Begins

The two-day Jewish holiday begins a 10-day period of penitence and contemplation leading up to Yom Kippur, Judaism's most solemn day, and marks the Jewish New Year. President Barack Obama offers remarks.

At sundown Sunday, Jews began the observance of Rosh Hashanah, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year.

Services ushering in the year 5773 on the Hebrew calendar will feature the blowing of the shofar, a ram's horn.

Rosh Hashanah is a festive time when Jews gather with family members to reflect on the past year and the new one that is beginning. Celebrants also eat festive meals featuring apples dipped in honey, symbolic of the wishes for a sweet year.

Rosh Hashanah begins a 10-day period of penitence and contemplation leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism's most solemn and somber day.

Jews believe that God records the fate of humankind in the Book of Life during the High Holy Days.

Although most congregations require membership and tickets for High Holy Days services, some synagogues and organizations have services and Rosh Hashanah observances that are open to the public for no charge.

In his remarks in advance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur released Thursday, President Barack Obama said, "This is a joyful time for millions of people around the world, but Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are also opportunities for reflection. They represent a chance to take stock of our lives and look forward to the coming year with clear eyes and renewed purpose.

"In that spirit, the Jewish tradition teaches us that one of the most important duties we have during this period is the act of reconciliation. We're called to seek each other out and make amends for those moments where we may not have lived up to our values as well as we should," the President continued.

"At a time when public discourse can often seem harsh, when society too often focuses on what divides us instead of what unites us, I hope that Americans of all faiths can take this opportunity to reach out to those who are less fortunate, to be tolerant of our neighbors and to recognize ourselves in one another," Obama added.

"And as a nation, let us be mindful of those who are suffering, and renew the unbreakable bond we share with our friends and allies, including the State of Israel."

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