Passionate About Cincinnati
and the Moms Who Live Here

An Outsider’s Take on the Jewish Holidays

jewish-holidaysAuthor’s Note: this is an opinion piece, full of personal observations and is by no means perfect or completely accurate. Any mistakes are mine alone.

I used to describe myself, in religious terms, as a “nothing married to a Jew”. I grew up the child of a lapsed Methodist and a lapsed Southern Baptist, with the occasional born again relative thrown in. I have never felt I missed formal religion in my life and this gave me the freedom to develop my own inner faith. After I married into a Reformed Jewish family, I began to explore the ins and outs of what Reform Judaism is. I found that Judaism is, in my opinion, not only a religion but a culture, as so many of the rituals and observances are based in the home, not just the synagogue. I found a place of acceptance, not just of my interfaith marriage, but of all races, backgrounds and relationships. It is a movement based on social action and healing the world.

As I became a part of a Jewish family, and especially after we had kids, we followed the Jewish holidays. I discovered that the most important ones to the Jewish faith are the High Holy Days.

Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance. This period, known as the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe or High Holy Days), is widely observed by Jews throughout the world, many with prayer and reflection in a synagogue. There also are several holiday rituals observed at home. Customs associated with the holiday include sounding the shofar, eating a round challah, and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year.

Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. Part of the High Holidays, which also includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

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I found I really enjoyed these holidays. It gives you time to stop and celebrate life and reflect on the year that has passed and how you will change for the better going forward. This idea is highlighted by our temple’s commitment to helping others with its Mitzvah (good deed) bag project. In the last 25 years the temple has donated over 600,000 pounds of food to the Freestore Foodbank. Each member takes an empty bag home on Rosh Hashanah and returns with a bag full for food and personal care item donations on Yom Kippur. Most families return with many bags. It is has been a wonderful way to teach my kids, even at a very young age about helping others, recognizing our own good fortune and our obligation to pay it forward.

As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur arrive in early October, I am asking all of you in the spirit of the Jewish High Holy Days that you take a moment to do something for someone else.

Take a look around and find a way to tikkun olam (repair the world). Use this time to show your kids how great it feels to do something for others.

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