ASHEVILLE — The lobby of the Jewish Community Center on Charlotte Street was filled with crates of Red Delicious apples and sticks of clover honey on Tuesday. Receptionist Joan Karasick was spending the few minutes of free time she had between answering phones and assisting visitors filling treat bags for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the celebration of which begins at sundown today.

Rosh Hashana, like many Jewish holidays, is often associated with food customs that symbolize its meaning. The apple and honey represent hopes for a sweet New Year.

As Jews welcome the year 5771, Jewish establishments in the Ashville area are getting busy. Rosh Hashana is the beginning of a 10-day period known as the high holy days.

One of those establishments is the Chabad House, just established in 5766 — or June 2006.

“Setting up a Chabad community is an initiative to break down titles like ‘reform,' ‘conservative' and ‘orthodox,'” said Rabbi Shaya Susskind, who established Merrimon Avenue center with his wife, Chana. Both are natives of Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Chabad around the world tries to get to the core of Jewish identity,” Susskind said. “It allows people around the world to be comfortable as Jews, and that is one of the themes of Rosh Hashana, to focus on who we are and allow for introspection.”

Like many Jewish foundations in the area, Chabad (pronounced “ha-BOD”) will offer an array of services for the high holy days, beginning tonight with evening services at 7. A Tashlich service will be Thursday at the Botanical Gardens in UNC Asheville after a luncheon.

Tashlich is a ritual that many Jews observe during Rosh Hashana. “Tashlich” literally means “to cast off” in Hebrew. The ritual symbolically casts off an individual's sins by tossing pieces of bread into a body of flowing water.

The torn bits of bread carried away by the water represent a person's sins being washed away. In this way the participant aspires to begin the New Year free of sin.

“I find Tashlich services to be very meaningful,” said Heather Whitiker Goldstein, executive director of the Asheville Jewish Community Center. “I see them as a great opportunity for both children and adults to meditate, set resolutions and contemplate on what we can do better.”

Rabbi Susskind speaks of the high holy days, which culminate with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, on Sept. 17-18, as a time for self-examination.

“After 10 days of reflection, the Jewish community with hopefully come closer to seeing who we are at the core and realize we are all one entity.”