By Leah Jalfon, MHWOW Program Coordinator

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, can bring mixed emotions. The new year can be exciting; your mind might be racing with all the things you want to do this year. Or, you might fear the unknown. I feel a little bit of both, so I’ve put together some resources to help you both celebrate and reflect on the new year!

HBD, world!

In some traditional Rosh Hashanah services, Jews recite the words Hayom harat olam: Today the world is born anew. You could throw a birthday or Happy Jew Year-themed MHWOW program – birthday cake, gratitude, new year’s resolutions – the possibilities are endless.


  • What are you grateful for right now?
  • Have each person share their favorite memory from the past year.
  • In honor of the new year, what is something new you want to try this year?
  • What is something you want to accomplish this year?


What “gifts” are you going to give to the world this year?

You can give the world even more birthdays by reducing your carbon footprint! You can start with what food you serve at your MHWOW programs. Here’s how.


Don’t forget that you can use MHWOW funding for perishable decorations! You can use funds to print out photos of your friends from the past year to hang up on a garland like this. You also can buy balloons, streamers, tealight candles, and more!

Wake up!

The blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) is an iconic part of the Rosh Hashanah service. It’s meant to wake us up to the real purpose of the high holy days – looking inward and repenting for the sins of the past year. There are four sounds of the shofar. Tekiah is the steady blast that signifies that we are immediately before God. Shevorim and teruah are many short blasts put together, symbolizing that we are imperfect and broken. We end with Tekiah godolah to praise God.

Moshe Braun beautifully summarizes the meaning of the shofar sounds: “Let us open our heart on Rosh Hashanah to expe­rience the true brokenness of our being and our exile as a people.


  • What helps you be present?
  • Rabbi Steinsaltz believes that the blowing of the shofar “is a mixture of joy and triumph with worrying and crying,” which mirrors how we feel on Rosh Hashanah, going into the unknown. How are you feeling about the new year? What are you worried about? What are you excited about?
  • How do you feel about experiencing the “true brokenness of our being” on Rosh Hashanah?

Here we go…

Many Jews begin both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by reading the poem Unetanah Tokef. It reads, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed…who shall live and who shall die, who shall perish by water and who by fire…but repentance, prayer, and righteousness avert the severe decree.” Click here for the full text. The purpose of Unetanah Tokef is to remind us that this is real; the high holy days have begun, and it’s time to repent.


  • In this poem, God is both the judge who decides who will live and die and is the shepherd who takes care of us. How does playing both of these roles shape your concept of God?
  • Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer, Head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel, describes Unetanah Tokef as “a religious poem that is meant to strike fear in us.” Do you agree with Rabbi Hammer? What emotions do you feel after reading this poem?
  • The poem suggests that we have control over our fate. What do you think we need to do during these high holy days to “avert the severe decree?” Do you believe that God will punish us if we don’t act accordingly?


  • “Who by Fire” by Leonard Cohen
    How is Leonard Cohen interacting with the prayer by asking, “Who shall I say is calling?”

Let it go

On Rosh Hashanah, we symbolically cast off our sins into a body of water. Terry Wunder tells why Tashlich is so relevant today.

Just as important as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the days in between. Read more about why there are 10 days between Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur and how you can make the most of them.

By Leah Jalfon