Every year as the calendar rolls around to the High Holidays, our minds are filled with memories of times past and anticipation of the traditions we are about to celebrate. We asked several Jewish believers to tell us what has made their holidays special and as some have reminisced with us, our hearts have nodded in recognition. We hope these anecdotes bring a smile to your face and perhaps provide a seed or two for new traditions to grow in your home for years to come.
Annette Sofaer — New York City, New York
Last year, at home with our girls, we baked two round challahs and gave one to our neighbor as a New Year’s greeting. We always read the K’tonton* stories related to the particular Jewish holiday we’re celebrating. Last year, as we walked down towards the East River to do a tashlich service with our girls, there were some ducks interested in the crumbs we had thrown into the river. However, the jellyfish floating by seemed to actually ingest the crumbs! When we got home, our daughter Eliana asked, Why don’t we call that the ‘tashcrumbs’ service since we ‘tashed’ crumbs into the river?”
Jeannie Goldstein — Tel Aviv, Israel
Before Yom Kippur begins, our family eats a nice meal together. When it’s dark and the holiday has officially begun, we go for a long walk around our area. It’s a tradition, not a law, that no one here drives on Yom Kippur. The children take to the streets with their two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers, and have a great time just cruising around. Since the Bet Knesset (Parliament) has just let out, there are hundreds of people just walking around, chatting with neighbors and friends. You can literally walk for miles with just the noise of children and voices echoing around you. We look forward to this each year.
Pat Feinberg — Lincolnshire, Illinois
Since the New Year comes in the fall when school is just beginning, it’s a good time to look through a box or drawer where you’ve stored your children’s art and schoolwork over the past year. The children enjoy reminiscing with you about past projects, reading old stories, etc. You can also weed through these pieces to keep the best ones and put them aside in a more permanent type of container. Then the other box or drawer is empty and fresh, waiting for the next year’s projects to fill it. This is also a good time to take a photo, record some acting/talking on an audio or video cassette, perhaps add a new mark on the door frame indicating a child’s height on that date. You could also pull together all your old photographs from the past year and put them in an album, but frankly, I’ve never been that ambitious or successful!
Michelle Beadle — New Orleans, Louisiana
Growing up, I remember enjoying the new outfit I would get every year at the High Holidays, and hanging out in the hallways of our synagogue, through endless services. I enjoyed schmoozing with my friends and every once in a while joining the service.
Susan Perlman — San Francisco, California
One of my favorite holiday memories is the teglach my bubbe would make. This dessert is made of small, round balls of cookie dough held together with honey, sugar and nuts, and is very messy but tasty (see enclosed recipe). One year I asked my bubbe why she only made teglach at the holidays and not yearround. She told me that we grandchildren wouldn’t appreciate it as much if it were something we could always have. Years later, as a believer, I reflected on what she had said and wished I could have told her that her “principle” didn’t apply to knowing the Messiah. We taste and see that He is good everyday and hopefully we grow in our appreciation of God’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, Yeshua, and how sweet is His salvation.
Charlotte Sagi — St. Louis, Missouri
When my son Alex was younger, we always enjoyed waiting to hear the sound of the shofar echoing from the Orthodox shul around the corner from us.
Nici Smith — Boston, Massachusetts
We have begun opening our home on Yom Kippur during the day for prayer together with anyone who shows up. We often consecrate that time especially to pray for unsaved family, and then enjoy breaking our fast together with whomever is still there at the end of the day.
Lyn Bond — Skokie, Illinois
I remember when I was growing up that my mother and father kept us home from school on Yom Kippur and we prayed together as a family for those relatives who didn’t know Yeshua as their Atonement. My grandmother used to send us mandel brot crumbs. I didn’t figure out until many years later that she was sending us mandel brot for Rosh Hashanah to have a sweet year, but that the post office had reduced it to crumbs.
Sandi Decker — Skokie, Illinois
My husband Will usually blows the shofar at our congregation’s High Holiday services, so part of the holiday is spent listening to all sorts of noises coming from the basement—the only place we will allow him to practice. Our daughter Amanda, who is learning to play the trombone, tries to blow the shofar, too; when she does, our cats run and hide.
Milt Gould — Warsaw, Indiana
As a family, we emphasize during the Ten Days of Awe the need to demonstrate our faith by being especially mindful of how we live and treat others.
Jill Sidman — West Bloomfield, Michigan
I have a cherished memory of the High Holidays from when our children were young. We lived in a condominium complex at that time with trails and ponds and lots of animal life. One of our favorite pastimes was to walk down to a particular pond that had a fountain, to feed the ducks and geese there. I would carry a handful of dried corn in my pocket and then distribute some to each child when we arrived at the pond. They promptly would throw the corn down to the waiting critters.
One year, when the High Holidays approached, I thought about how to make tashlich a more relevant illustration of sin in our lives and of God’s forgiveness. I took the children down to their favorite spot, corn kernels in pocket. I explained how sin is like the corn, but that when we were sorry for the wrongs we had done, we could ask God to forgive us because of Yeshua’s atonement. The children understood that God could take away our sins just like the ducks and geese “took away” the corn. It was a wonderful, tangible moment of spiritual understanding for my young children.
Cyndi Fine — Madison, Wisconsin
To me, the High Holidays feel like Christmas and Easter must feel to the “Christian world.” I love having our children around, especially now that one is married and one is away at college—the glow of our family’s faces, the preparing of holiday foods, the significance of what Jesus has done for us. These all contribute to making this time of year significant for us as Jewish believers, especially since we do not live in the type of Jewish neighborhood I grew up in in Chicago, where High Holiday observance was much more of a visible, community event. Hopefully, the warmth of this holiday flows from within our home outwardly to our Madison neighborhood.
* Sadie Rose Weilerstein, The Adventures of K’tonton: The Little Jewish Tom Thumb, (JPS, 1935)