Below is a collection of High Holidays lesson plans, videos, and articles created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
Rosh Hashanah Overview:
- What? Rosh Hashanah, literally meaning “head [of] the year”, is the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah, literally “day of shouting or blasting (of the shofar).”
- When? Rosh Hashanah takes place on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishrei. The first of Tishrei marks the beginning of the ten-day period known as the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the ten days of repentance), which is marked by acts and prayers focused on repentance and forgiveness, and culminates on Yom Kippur.
- How? Rosh Hashanah is celebrated by blowing the shofar, special prayer services, and festive meals which include a series of symbolic foods (simanim).
Yom Kippur Overview:
- What? Yom Kippur, meaning the day of atonement, is a day of fasting and repentance that is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
- When? Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the culmination point of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.
- How? Yom Kippur is a fast day, with five total restrictions (known as inuyim): refraining from eating, drinking, washing, physical intimacy, and wearing leather. The day is focused largely on prayer and asking for forgiveness. There is a widespread custom to wear white clothing on Yom Kippur, to symbolize the purity we hope to achieve.
High Holidays Vocabulary
The ritual act of “casting away our sins” is traditionally performed between the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Traditional symbolic foods that are eaten as part of the festive meal on Rosh Hashanah
|Shofar||A ram’s horn which is blown on Rosh Hashanah is a “wake-up call” to better oneself||שׁוֹפָר|
|Teruah||One of the shofar blast sounds, typically nine short blasts||תְּרוּעָה|
|Tekiah||One of the shofar blast sounds, typically one long blast||תְּקִיעָה|
|Shevarim||One of the shofar blast sounds, typically three medium-length blasts||שְׁבָרִים|
|Selichot||Prayers and poems which focus on the theme of forgiveness and atonement, which are traditionally said starting from the Jewish month of Elul and culminating in Yom Kippur’s prayers||סְלִיחוֹת|
|Yamim Noraim||High Holidays (literally translated as “Days of Awe”)||יָמִים נוֹרָאִים|
|Aseret Yemei Teshuvah||The Ten Days of Repentance (beginning with the first day of Rosh Hashanah on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei and culminating in Yom Kippur, the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei)||עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה|
|Inuyim||Restrictions for the day of Yom Kippur (which include no eating, no drinking, no sexual relations, no washing, and no wearing leather)||עִנּוּיִים|
|Sefer Yonah||The Book of Jonah, traditionally read on Yom Kippur due to its themes of repentance and forgiveness||סֵפֶר יוֹנָה|
High Holidays Educational Themes
- Apologies and forgiveness
- Introspection and personal reflection
- Prayer and connection to God
- Justice and mercy
LESSON PLANS, ACTIVITIES, AND ARTICLES
Rosh Hashanah Simanim Padlet – This interactive, collaborative digital activity reviews the symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah and their meanings and includes instructions for adaptions for both elementary and middle school students. By The Lookstein Center.
Yom Kippur Tefillah: A Discussion Guide – This lesson for middle and high school students explores common feelings that are felt by children (and adults) during Yom Kippur services in an open and non-judgmental way. By The Lookstein Center.
Teshuvah: A Discussion Guide – This lesson explores the Jewish approach to repentance, drawing on Rambam’s Hilchot Teshuvah. Included are hands-on activities for younger and older students that deal with guilt and apology. By The Lookstein Center.
Taking Our Schools L’Ayla Ula’ayla – This blog post by Rabbi Lee Buckman connects educational planning for the new school year to themes of the High Holidays. By The Lookstein Center.
Sefer Yonah – This three-part lesson plan for high school students explores the argument between Yonah and God. By The Lookstein Center.
High Holidays Classroom Activities – These classroom activities and discussion points for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can contribute to lessons from elementary through high school. By the Jewish Agency.
Rosh Hashanah Family Activities – These resources include stories, blessings, crafts, and more for children of all ages. By Reform Judaism.
Family Guide to the Fall Holidays – This resource guide contains general information, videos, recipes, arts and crafts projects, book recommendations, and more for young children. By PJ Library.
Yom Kippur 101 – This article explores the history, customs, and theologies of Yom Kippur. By My Jewish Learning.
Rosh Hashanah Articles – These resources include basic and advanced articles, audio lectures, and video lectures on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. By the Orthodox Union.
Yom Kippur Scavenger Hunt – This activity guide for young children includes meaningful activities for Yom Kippur. By Little Compass.
Yom Kippur and Jewish History – These printable resources explore Yom Kippur throughout different periods of Jewish History. By the National Library of Israel.
This blog post, coloring booklet, and word search by Alef Bet Games helps students of all ages connect to the themes of Rosh Hashanah.
VIDEOS AND SONGS
Rosh Hashanah Melodies – This resource from the Dezimra Institute includes an index and direct video links to a large compilation of Rosh Hashanah prayers and their commonly sung melodies.
Songs from the High Holiday Liturgy – This playlist of songs from Hadar’s Rising Song Institute includes classic melodies for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy.
Rosh Hashanah Videos for Kids – These short videos from Chabad.org teach young students about Rosh Hashanah customs and traditions.
High Holidays Videos and Ebooks – These educational videos and ebooks from Aish explore the themes of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
What is Rosh Hashanah? The Jewish New Year – This video from Bimbam reviews holiday themes and traditions.
The Rosh Hashanah Special – This video from Shaboom teaches the values of teshuvah and forgiveness to young children.
Four Things Jews Do On Rosh Hashanah – This video from Mayim Bialik shares some important holiday traditions.
Starting Over: A Song for Rosh Hashanah – This song from Six13 discusses themes of teshuvah.
Call Me Maybe – Chana Tova – This song from the Agence Juive Pour Israel reviews Rosh Hashanah themes (subtitles in English).
This is the New Year – This song from the Maccabeats explores High Holiday themes.
What is Yom Kippur? – This video from Bimbam reviews holiday themes and traditions.
Yom Kippur: Book of Jonah – This video explains the story of Jonah through song.
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