"We look at it as kind of a rebirth, a resurrection really," said Arnie Katz, president of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook. "Most cultures and religions have that idea of being born again, starting over, and learning from our mistakes. We really try to create a new world."
Before sunset, the day is marked by acts of charity and pleas for forgiveness. Two special meals also precede a 25-hour fast; synagogue attendance typically surges for the solemn rituals, where hours are spent in reflection and special prayers. Work on this day is forbidden. The day's ultimate purpose is to seek redemption in the eyes of G-d.
At Temple Isaiah, services will include a trip to Stony Brook Harbor in which members will cast symbols of their misdeeds into the water. This year, instead of throwing bread or other symbols as has been done in the past, Katz said they will toss environmentally friendly pellets into the water to mark this tradition.
"It's a beautiful ceremony. There's a feeling of something being lifted off your shoulders," he said.
Yom Kippur completes the annual period known as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe") which began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Many area synagogues conduct open services on Wednesday.
Jewish teachings hold that G-d inscribes a person's fate for the coming year into the "Book of Life" on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. Between the two High Holy Days, Jews attempt to amend their behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done to G-d and their fellow man, Jewish scholars say.
Click here to view service times and descriptions at Temple Isaiah. Click here to view service times and descriptions for Chabad at Stony Brook, which will hold its services at the Bates House in Setauket.
Like most districts on Long Island, Three Village public schools are closed on Wednesday. However, Stony Brook University will hold classes as part of the first year the school is following a secular calendar. Students observing Yom Kippur will not be penalized for absences and professors cannot give tests on those days.
Editor's Note: The spelling of "G-d" is intentional in this story in respect of a Jewish tradition. See the link for details.