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Guide To The High Holidays For Interfaith Families: Introduction and Table of Contents

The High Holy Days — What Are They?

The High Holy Days—or, High Holidays as they are also called—consist of two autumn holidays called Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In Hebrew, “Rosh Hashanah” means “Head of the Year” and it’s the Jewish New Year. Ten days later comes Yom Kippur, which is Hebrew for the “Day of Atonement.” It is the most solemn day of the Jewish year, and many adults fast as a spiritual practice for the duration of the day. Because of differences between the Hebrew and Western calendars, the High Holy Days move around a bit on the Western calendar, but they always fall sometime in September or October.

These holidays, and the stretch of days in between them, are sometimes referred to as the “Days of Awe” or the “Days of Repentance.” They’re serious but also joyful, and they are the one time of year when the largest number of people in the Jewish community attend synagogue services. The main reason these are considered the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar is because they are about self-examination, forgiveness, the repairing of broken relationships and giving ourselves a fresh new start.

People of all faiths, including people who identify as non-religious, are completely welcome to attend and participate in these holidays.

You can download the Guide to the High Holidays for Interfaith Families as a .pdf file. (Also available in Word format)





Hebrew for "Head of the Year," the Jewish New Year. With Yom Kippur, known as the High Holy Days. Hebrew for "Day of Atonement," the final of ten Days of Awe that begin with Rosh Hashanah. Occurs during the fall and is marked by a 24-hour fast. One of the most important Jewish holidays. 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." A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.

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