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Guide To The High Holidays For Interfaith Families: Children on Rosh Hashanah
Unlike other Jewish holidays that are more centered on children, Rosh Hashanah and especially Yom Kippur are primarily adult holidays. Nevertheless, the High Holidays do provide some opportunities for children's education. Rosh Hashanah is a time for adults to model behavior and to integrate children into the adult world.
There are some good children's picture books and songs about Rosh Hashanah. A lot of these emphasize that Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world. For children, two symbols stand out. One is the shofar. In religious school, the rabbi or teacher may take out the shofar and blow it, or let the children examine it. The second symbol of Rosh Hashanah is sweet food. Among North American Jews, the typical sweet foods are apples and honey. Children can prepare for Rosh Hashanah with their parents by going apple picking beforehand, and buying local honey.
On the evening of the second day of Rosh Hashanah, some Jews eat a new fruit, one they haven't tasted in the last six months. They do this in order to be eligible to say the blessing over new experiences, which Jews say on the first night of the holiday with the festival blessing over the wine. This is a fun custom for families. Children can help shop for exotic or unfamiliar fruit before the holiday, or parents can surprise them with the fruit and then the family can try it together at the second night meal.
Other foods that are typical of Rosh Hashanah (see Ritual Foods for the New Year) are honey cake and round challah, usually with raisins. (If your child doesn't like raisins, you can buy or bake round challah without them--they are supposed to be a treat.)
Other customs that have special meaning for children at Rosh Hashanah are sending New Year's cards. A good activity for children and families preparing for Rosh Hashanah is making cards. Today these cards can be sent virtually, on the internet, but children can still make the artwork and write the messages. It's also a custom to buy new clothing at the New Year, and to greet people, "l'shanah tovah tikatevu" (may you be inscribed for a good year) or "Happy New Year."
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