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Jewish New Year!

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and it starts at sundown on 15th September 2023 and continues through nightfall on the 17th September 2023. Here I’ll talk about why Rosh Hashanah is important, how it is celebrated and what it means to me.

Why Rosh Hashanah Is Important:

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, means “Head of the Year” and commemorates the creation of the world.

It is also judgement day, when Jews believe that God balances a person’s good deeds over the last year against their bad deeds, and decides what the next year will be like for them. It is a day of prayer, a time to ask for a year of peace, prosperity, and blessing.

How is it celebrated?

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with candle lighting in the evenings and festive meals with sweet treats.

Many Jews also go to synagogue to pray and hear the blowing of the shofar, which is a ram’s horn trumpet; a hundred notes are sounded in a special rhythm.

After the Rosh Hashanah service, a special meal is eaten at home, including:

  • Apples dipped in honey – a symbol of the sweet New Year that each Jew hopes lies ahead
  • Challah bread dipped in honey instead of salt
  • Honey cake as a symbol for sweetness to come
  • Pomegranate – often seen on the table because of a tradition that pomegranates have 613 seeds, one for each of the commandments that a Jew is obliged to keep

At the meal, Jews dip their first piece of bread in honey and say, ‘May God give me a sweet and happy new year’.

In the afternoon, some Jews practice a custom known as tashlich (“casting off”), in which they throw pieces of bread into a flowing body of water (river) while reciting prayers. As the bread – which symbolises the sins of the past year – is swept away, those who embrace this tradition are spiritually cleansed and renewed.

What Rosh Hashanah means to me

For me, Rosh Hashanah is a time for gathering with friends, family, and community to reflect on the past year and think about moving forward into the next year. It is also a time for personal reflection and forgiveness, to think about how I want to improve my relationships with people around me and to embrace new beginnings.

Shana Tova Umetukah!


Authored by Sophia Norman