Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), together, are known as the High Holy Days (or High Holidays). For many families, these holidays are the most synagogue-focused, requiring creativity and patience as services are explained to children.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur demand a great deal of self reflection and self-control. At first glance, this might make them seem irrelevant or even oppressive to children under the age of ten or even thirteen, but the gravity and universal pull of these two holidays – when North American synagogues are filled beyond capacity – is felt by youngsters, too.
While the meaning and impact may be far less intellectual or spiritual for children, these holidays are impressive in their solemnity and sheer size. In addition to special meals and attention from family and friends, children will notice the crowds and expanded size of the sanctuary. The annual beginning-of-school excitement will become associated with the start of the Jewish year. For kids who attend secular schools, if they miss school to observe these Jewish holidays, that will seal their importance.
As children grow, they understand more about the themes of the liturgy and grapple with the powerful stories in the Torah readings. But even for very young children, participating in the Jewish community’s biggest convocations – amid mixed generations, from infants to grandparents – can lead them to feel that they belong to a Jewish community that is big and vital.
Let this booklet guide you through the High Holy Days with your children. With helpful suggestions for conversation points, activities, crafts and ways to make the days interesting and relevant to kids and teens of all ages, this booklet is also great as:
- a handout for new synagogue or community members;
- a supplement to a class on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for family education;
- a handout for religious schools, community gatherings and events during the month of Elul.