This Sunday marks not just the start of a new year in the Jewish tradition, but the start of a new seven-year cycle.
"In the Jewish community, this year is known as the year of Hakhel ... a year of gathering and year of unity," said Rabbi Raleigh Resnick of Chabad of the Tri-Valley. "There's a seven-year cycle in Jewish years; this year that we're just finishing is the next seven years."
In addition to the significance of this year's Rosh Hashanah as the beginning of a new cycle, Resnick noted that this year's celebration -- with pandemic restrictions mostly lifted -- is particularly momentous.
"That's really so special and so important, and it's a time to wish each other blessings, goodness and happiness, and it's a year of new opportunity and joy and we wish it for ourselves, for our community, and for all of mankind," Resnick said.
Rabbi Dr. Laurence Elis Milder of Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton also pointed to the challenges of the past two years for the Jewish community and world at large.
"The past two years have tested our mettle," Milder said. "Between COVID restrictions and rising antisemitism, we have been challenged in ways that few of us could imagine."
Milder also emphasized the importance of this year's Rosh Hashanah as a symbol of the value of community amidst difficult times.
"This year, our High Holy Days find us with a deeper commitment to community," Milder said. "We recognize, more than ever, how the synagogue helps us strengthen one another through hard times."
In addition to celebrations through Chabad of the Tri-Valley and Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, Tri-Valley Cultural Jews will host a secular humanistic celebration of the holiday in Livermore.
The Livermore event will kick off at 3:30 p.m. this Sunday with a walk ahead of a one-hour outdoor ceremony, with complimentary snacks consisting of challah, honey, and apples.
Resnick noted that the tradition of sweet foods for Rosh Hashanah is highly symbolic.
"Everything there is sweet," Resnick said. "We don't have anything sharp or bitter or tangy. We want to start the year with sweetness and goodness."
Chabad of the Tri-Valley's menu for Sunday also reflects this, with a dinner scheduled at 7:15 p.m., following a 6:45 p.m. Rosh Hashanah service.
Congregation Beth Emek will observe the day with both in-person and online services Sunday evening, as well as daytime service on Monday and Tuesday.
The three-day holiday continues on Monday and Tuesday, with Yom Kippur marking the end of the Jewish High Holiday season on the evening of Oct. 4.