Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, left, and Alan Clymer prepare the scrolls containing a handwritten copy of the Torah as they ready for the start of Rosh Hashanah at Beth Israel Synagogue in Waterville on Sunday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Beth Israel congregation in Waterville began its celebration of the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah – on Sunday, hosting more than 120 people from the Waterville area and Colby College for dinner.

The two-day celebration concludes at sunset Tuesday.

In addition to the new year, Rosh Hashanah celebrates creation, marking the covenant between the divine and humans with the creation of Adam and Eve. It also marks the start of the High Holidays that lead up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews reflect upon their lives and repent. Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, begins at sunset Oct. 8, and concludes at sunset Oct. 9.

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – make up the Torah, which is read by 20 people throughout the holiday. The Beth Israel scrolls are handwritten on cow hide.

The congregation, led by Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, describes itself as a modern Conservative egalitarian synagogue, where men and women participate in the religious, social and business functions.

High Holiday services at Beth Israel are open to the public.

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