Rosh Hashanah literally means the “head of the year.” It marks the start of the new Jewish calendar year and begins a 10-day period of reflection and introspection called the 10 Days of Awe, which run from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.
It’s traditional to eat apples dipped in honey to get a sweet start to the New Year and round challah to remind us that the years go round and round. During the 10 Days of Awe, we set goals for the coming year and prepare for the holiest of days, Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement. It gives us an entire day to focus on our behavior toward other people, toward the world, toward our inner selves and toward God. During this time we ask God’s forgiveness. We also ask other people to forgive us for any wrongs we have committed against them.
Also this month is Sukkot, which begins four days after Yom Kippur. Sukkot refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest, as well as the commemoration of the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after Sinai. On this holiday, we build small temporary shelters called sukkot where families eat, socialize and even sleep (weather permitting!).
We encourage you to welcome this new year and celebrate these three special holidays with these family-friendly activities from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ):
Apple Honey Dish for Rosh Hashanah
Materials you’ll need: a washed apple, lemon juice, honey and a paring knife. Remove the core of the apple and hollow out the sides, being careful not to cut through the sides or bottom. Have your child rub lemon juice on the inside to keep it from turning brown. Fill the apple with honey and place it in the center of a plate. Surround your apple honey dish with apple slices (sprinkled with lemon juice) for dipping.
You can also expand your honey tasting by setting out dishes of different varieties of honey–clover, poplar, wildflower, blueberry and orange blossom are a sample of the many varieties readily available. Add challah pieces to your plate for dipping. After sampling, let everyone pick their favorite. For a graphing project, make a graph of the results.
Mitzvah Wheel for Yom Kippur
Materials you’ll need: paper plates, scissors, markers or crayons, thin cardboard pieces cut into arrows for pointers and brass paper fasteners.
- Tell your children to think about the year that has just passed. Were there things they wish they had done differently? Ask them about nice or thoughtful things they plan to do next year.
- Have children think of the people to whom they would like to show kindness, such as mommy, daddy, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, teacher, babysitter, etc. Divide the back of a paper plate into pie-shaped sections. Have one section for each of these people. Label each section with these people’s names, and draw a picture inside each area.
- Use crayons or markers to decorate the rest of the plate with symbols of Rosh Hashanah.
- Help each child attach the arrow-shaped cardboard pointer to the center of the plate with a brass paper fastener.
- Spin the arrow and decide what nice thing you can do for the person chosen by the pointer. Do this each day for the 10 Days of Awe. Keep track of the mitzvot each child does and keep the list in a place where it will be seen all year to serve as a reminder to perform these sacred deeds throughout the year.
Glittery Craft Dough Star for Sukkot
You’ll need craft dough, glitter and string. Use your favorite craft dough recipe to make stars using cookie cutters, or cut two triangles from the dough and place one on top of the other upside down to form a Star of David. While the dough is still damp, sprinkle on glitter and make a hole in the top to thread string through for hanging in a sukkah.
For more children’s activities, visit the URJ’s Holiday Happenings page.