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Rabbi Eli Langsam demonstrates the sounding of the shofar, a ram's horn that is blown at specific times during Rosh Hashanah as a cry like a child to God requesting a good year. Rabbi Langsam said that it would be improper to photograph during the actual celebration because the services forbid work, which includes mechanical devices. Ceremonial soundings of the shofar will occur Thursday and Friday during Rosh Hashanah events at the Garrett Cultural Center, 824 N. Duryea. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in 2013 from sundown on Sept. 4 to nightfall on Sept. 6

- Extra chairs were carried into the Garrett Cultural Center as Rabbi Eli Langsam began the special service for the Jewish New Year just before sundown Wednesday.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, began as women lit ceremonial candles and took their seats on the left side of the room, men on the right, to begin the two-day high holiday.

"It's the day when we crown God as the king of the world, and there can't be a king without a nation," said Langsam, rabbi of Chabad Jewish Center of Peoria and at Bradley University. "And therefore we come together and we once again proclaim God as our king. So to speak, we re-elect him."

The short service was followed by a holiday meal, where about 100 Jewish residents from the Peoria area gathered over challah among other traditional foods.

"Most important on the dinner menu is apples and honey," Langsam said. "We want to symbolize the fact that we're going to have a sweet New Year."

The sundown ceremony kicked off a special time in the Jewish calendar, with Rosh Hashana followed closely by Judaism's second high holiday, Yom Kippur.

"It's a time to come together and be with your friends and family," Julie Rabin, a Bradley student from Naperville, said. "It's a joyous time."

The integral ceremony of Rosh Hashana is a daily sounding of the shofar, a ceremonial instrument made from a ram's horn.

The shofar will be blown in special ceremonies at noon on Thursday and Friday at the Garrett Cultural Center on Bradley University's campus.

"That is the call of the hour. That is a Biblical commandment. Everybody, man or woman, should come here for the sounding of the shofar," Langsam said. "That's what the mitzvah or, so to speak, the holiday is all about."

While Rosh Hashana is a celebratory time for Jewish families, the holiday is also an annual reminder of God's judgment and a time to not only anticipate a new year, but to look back on the year past.

"The Jewish New Year is not like the secular New Year with just a big party," Daniel Bachrach, student president of Chabad on BU's campus, said. "The Jewish New Year is about that, too, but it's about looking back and reflecting."

 Laura Nightengale can be reached at 686-3181 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lauranight