You (Really) Can Host a Jewish Holiday Meal

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Setting a table

So maybe you didn’t grow up with Judaism and you’re still learning what Rosh Hashanah (or Passover or Hanukkah…) is all about from your significant other? Or maybe you grew up with all the Jewish holidays but they were only ever celebrated at your parents’ house. Since before I can remember, my mother has been prepping for Jewish holidays by cooking for days and days and everything seems choreographed and perfect. I know how much work goes into hosting, and as a 30-something, it all seems overwhelming. But what I realized is that hosting is possible and doesn’t have to be the major ordeal that it is at my parents’ house. Here are some tips on how to host friends for Rosh Hashanah—or any Jewish holiday—without all the fuss.

Rosh Hashanah is a major Jewish holiday and it has universal themes that are easy to share with others. Whether or not you’re going to synagogue or doing anything else to observe the holiday, hosting a Rosh Hashanah dinner is a great way to share the Jewish new year with friends and to get more comfortable with it yourself. Passover is also an ideal time to bring new folks into your celebrations. You’ll definitely want to try Kristin Posner’s easier-than-you-think brisket recipe for Rosh Hashanah, or her Japanese-inspired gefilte fish for Passover and follow these steps she shared with me on how to make hosting a cinch. Trust her—she’s a pro hostess, and runs Nourish, which is all about building community!

1. You don’t have to make everything—it’s OK to just make two or three items or even one main (such as the brisket) and buy the rest from a good quality source.

2. Nothing has to be kosher unless you invite guests who keep kosher.

3. Prep everything as much as possible in advance—this might be your parent’s secret for a reason. Make sure to do your grocery shopping ahead of time so you have more time to prep the day of the dinner. And if you try out my brisket recipe, it’s actually better a day or two later!

4. Ask people to bring stuff. They will likely want to bring things anyway, so rather than ending up with five bottles of wine, let them bring a real element of the meal, whether it’s challah (or matzah, if you’re celebrating Passover), dessert or a side. People are happy if they can contribute.

5. Set the table the night before—it’s one less thing that needs to be done that day.

6. Dim the lights or use lots of candles. It’s the best way to set the mood for a relaxing evening!

holiday brisket

Choosing simple, easy-to-follow recipes is really important for lightening your burden. In addition to Kristin’s brisket recipe, here are some more ideas:

One-Pot Chicken Tbeet

Eggplant Fritters with Honey

Apple & Honey Galette

High Holiday Cocktails

And for all our High Holy Days recipes, click here.

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About Lindsey Silken

Lindsey Silken is the editorial director of InterfaithFamily based in Newton, MA. She can be reached at lindseys@interfaithfamily.com.