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High Holiday Children's Books for Interfaith Families

September, 2007

My children love books. They love everything about them--the pictures, the stories, the lessons taught within and, for my older son, learning to read the words himself. We frequently visit the library and bookstores looking for new books to add to our collection. We have also started to build a collection of books on Jewish holidays and customs to help their understanding of our celebrations. Here are a few on the High Holidays that might be of interest to your family as well.

Happy Birthday, World: A Rosh Hashanah Celebration by Latifa Berry Kropf, illustrated by Lisa Carlson (Kar-Ben, 2005).

This board book, geared towards children ages 3 to 6, likens Rosh Hashanah to a birthday celebration. It shows how some of the same activities done on birthdays are also done on Rosh Hashanah, but a little bit differently. Instead of blowing a party horn, you blow a shofar; instead of getting presents, you give tzedakah (charity); instead of eating cake, you eat apples dipped in honey. The illustrations show a small picture of the birthday celebration with a larger picture of a family of four celebrating the Rosh Hashanah rituals together. The images are bright and colorful and this brief book can be a good introduction to Rosh Hashanah for interfaith families.

It's Shofar Time! by Latifa Berry Krof, photos by Tod Cohen (Kar-Ben, 2006).

This delightful book for pre-schoolers focuses on celebrating Rosh Hashanah with the shofar as it announces the New Year. It goes on to detail other special and new things that children do when celebrating Rosh Hashanah: bake round challah, make cards for family members, wear new clothes to synagogue and eat new foods. The photographs portray the excitement and joy in a group of diverse children as they are celebrating and learning. This book would make a great addition to an interfaith family's library. Instructions for a shofar craft as well as an overview of Rosh Hashanah are included at the end of the book.

Night Lights: A Sukkot Story by Barbara Diamond Goldin, illustrated by Laura Sucher (UAHC Press, 2002).

This Sukkot story for children ages 4 to 8 tells the story of a young boy who is nervous and afraid to sleep in the family sukkah (temporary wooden structure built to celebrate holiday of Sukkot). As Daniel and his sister help decorate the sukkah and his family eats the holiday meal in it, he tries to forget his fears. That night, as he and his sister lie awake looking at the stars and moon, they begin to realize that their ancestors must have looked at the same sky when they wandered in the desert. Daniel's fears began to fade and he soon feels safe and secure inside the sukkah. This is a nice story, but it focuses more on Daniel's fears than on the holiday of Sukkot. However, a detailed explanation of Sukkot is found at the end of the book, offering a complete overview of the holiday. The book's watercolor illustrations are sketchy and colorful and depict how Daniel and his extended family celebrate Sukkot. This is a good book to read together as a family, and many children will appreciate how common it is to be afraid of the dark.

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hebrew for "righteousness," it usually means "charity" or "righteous giving." In Judaism, it refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, including giving to those in need. A bread that comes in a few different varieties; its most common variation is a braided egg bread, though there are water challahs that don't have eggs, and there are whole-wheat challahs which sometimes also don't have eggs. It is customary to being Sabbath and holiday meals by saying blessings and eating challah. Simple musical instrument made from a ram's horn that is blown in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as each morning after daily services during the Hebrew month of Elul (the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Hebrew for "booth," a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot ("booths").
Abby Spotts

Abby Spotts lives in Harrisburg, Pa. with her husband and two sons.

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