Celebrating the New Year As A Family

L’shana Tovah—Happy New Year! On Wednesday, September 24, at sundown, Jewish people all over the world will take a break from their daily schedule to honor the creation of the world, the opportunity to make changes in our behavior and to begin the year with a fresh start and to simply be grateful for the blessings that are abundant in our lives. For many, the holiday is a time to gather with family and friends for a festive meal and to spend time in synagogue gathered in community.

For families with young children, long days in synagogue are not always easy or optimal. There are many ways to celebrate and honor the spirit of holiday that may work well for your family. I am going to share some of the favorite Rosh Hashanah traditions that I’ve enjoyed with my children over the years and I hope that you’ll add some of your own in the comments section below!

·Baking Challah: In my home growing up, my parents were not bakers and making cookies meant slicing up a tube of Pillsbury dough. But I still remember the year that my mom decided we should make our own round challah for Rosh Hashanah—a symbol of the seasons and cycle of life. We had so much fun kneading the dough that round challah-making became and annual tradition. Here is a great challah recipe. And if you don’t have time to bake your own challah this year, be sure to join one of our jkidphilly playdates and pick up a round challah from us!

·Apples, apples everywhere: Food helps to explain the meaning of our holidays to young children (and adults, too!). The sweetness and smell of apples and honey reminds us to have a sweet new year. There are so many great pick-your-own farms in the Greater Philadelphia area—why not take your family on an apple-picking adventure and slice up what you pick for Rosh Hashanah?

·Books and Music: Hopefully your family is signed up for PJ Library (if not, just click here) and you have some wonderful High Holiday books to read with your children like Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashana and It’s Shofar Time. You can also listen and sing along to holiday songs with your children; click here for a link to some free songs that you can download.

·Tashlich: On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to go to a body of water and toss in breadcrumbs, representing the process of tossing away old behaviors that are no longer serving us. This multi-sensory ritual is a wonderful one to experience with children. Pack some crumbs, head to a little creek near you (my family loves to go to Valley Green every year), and talk about the behaviors that each of you will try to say good-bye to in the New Year. How powerful it is for children to know that their parents make mistakes and that our tradition provides a way for us to say that we’re sorry and try better next time.

·Attending children’s services: The High Holidays are a special time to experience Jewish worship together–for many children listening to the call of the shofar is a moment that they anticipate each year. If your family is not connected to a synagogue, there are many communities that will welcome you to children’s (and adult) services. Visit our jkidphilly calendar to look for Rosh Hashanah services. If you need help finding a synagogue to attend for the holidays in your Kehillah, our staff at Jewish Learning venture will be happy to help you.

Wishing you all a sweet, happy, healthy New Year and I look forward to connecting with you—online or in person—very soon!