SYNAGOGUES are preparing to mark the Jewish New Year in services from Sunday until Tuesday.

The festival of Rosh Hashanah involves reflections on people’s sins ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 10 days later.

Rabbi Maurice Michaels of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue said: “The new year as far as Judaism is concerned is unlike a secular new year. It doesn’t involve lots of parties and that sort of celebration. It’s much more a solemn occasion. We eat, but then Jews always eat, whatever the situation is.

“It’s much more an occasion where we go to synagogue for services on Sunday evening, Monday morning, Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

“The synagogue looks different in that all of the curtains that we would normally have over the ark will be in white, the mantle that we place over the scrolls of the law will be white. For the majority of the people who would normally wear head coverings, that will be white.

“We have this idea of purity and white is a symbol of that.”

Services will include the blowing of the shofar, a traditional ram’s horn, whose significance stems from Abraham’s willingness to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.

“The concepts and themes around the festival are those of repentance, looking for forgiveness for our sins of the past year,” Rabbi Michaels said.

The congregation thinks of God less like a parent and “more like a sovereign, but a sovereign who has the power of life and death”, he said.

Members would then reflect on their sins before coming before God 10 days later.

Yom Kippur brings atonement for sins against God, but for sins against other people, Jews hold that forgiveness can only be given by those who have been wronged.

“On Yom Kippur, we see God as having the book open, the book of life and death, reward and punishment, the book of will he give us a good year or unfortunately be not so good,” he added.