These suggestions are suitable for family, youth group and classroom.

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"Try It You'll Like It"

We are encouraged to eat a second new fruit of the season on the second evening of Rosh HaShana. This is so that we have a reason to say the Shehechiyanu blessing a second time.

Great "excuse" to try new fruits & vegetables

In your family, turn this into a "discovery mission" before the chag/holiday to go with the children to the supermarket, grocer, or - best of all - the farmer's market.  Look for something/s in the fruits and vegetables that you never tried before. Ask the grocer about it.  Buy something/s new.  Have the kids look up its background to present at the meal.  If you want to follow this to the letter, no taste-testing in advance (except for the cook, if it is something you have to eat cooked)- that night it will be the real-deal-extra-new experience.

Note that "new to you" might be something more unusual you never tried before, but it could also be something different about a fruit or vegetable you already know.  Perhaps something from an organic farm or local garden stall.  Or a different variety than what you are accustomed to usually eating (like a purple pepper, or different kind of tomato…).  If you have more skittish eaters, you could even do this with something as simple as the apple- plan that night to try a taste test of three to four different types you normally don't buy, dipping in honey of course :) .  This could also be trying a fresh version of something you usually don't buy that way- like a fig (here is Israel they are ripening on the trees in this season).  If there is a place you can pick something fresh in your area, even better.

You could also try a new kind of honey, for that matter, or even something different for sweet dipping.

(You may want to try getting more than one thing, to increase the odds that there will be something that turns out being liked.)

In the classroom or youth group, you can do this as an outing too.  Or alternatively have a discussion of "what I've seen but never tried before".  Then have each child bring one "new" thing to class for everyone to taste test, after saying a shehechiyanu of course:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

baruch ata Adonai eloheynu melech ha-olam,
shehecheyanu vekiyemanu vehigi-anu lazman haze.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has kept us alive and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

This is a lovely way, very suited to the atmosphere of "new year" to create a symbolic focus as well as generate discussions on the theme of new experiences, striving to learn something new, the start of a new year of study, being willing to try (or taste) something new…  You could even create a poem or added personal prayer about the blessings of new experiences, meeting new people, learning and trying new things.

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Make It, Post It!

If you don't know a couple of the blessings included here, like Shehechiyanu, the bracha for fruit from trees, or for that matter basic candle lighting, blessings for wine and bread, this is a good time to get in the spirit.  Have your child or student make a large version of the text/s, or provide a blown-up Xeroxed copy (large print) to decorate.  Post these in the classroom or at home on the fridge or in sight of wherever you eat. (*We have always been big fans of posted "legal cheat sheets and labels" at home and in the classroom.  Everyone is looking up instead of down at a small book or sheet.  Also everyone feels more at ease and included. And finally, such a practice is "in the daily atmosphere" of the home or school, thus encouraging relaxed and repeated review and study.)

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Magen David Paper Chain

melechet yad / arts & crafts


Scissors, pencil (ruler or cardboard triangle stencil).

Sheets of paper- regular  rectangular paper size.

Any lighter colors that you can see writing on, or alternate blue and white.

*If you want smaller "bowtie" links overall, cut each sheet first in half before you start the below.

  1. Fold each sheet in half along the width and then in half (again width-wise)  like you would to make a greeting card one quarter the size.
  2. You will draw lines if necessary, and then cut it like a "seven"- whose width is 1"/2.5 to 1 1/4"/3 cm. wide.   The "top", horizontal part of this "seven shape" should be on the side of the paper without the folds.  The "bottom" of the seven is where your second folding is.
  3. When you open it, you should have the shape of a simple bowtie  (e.g. -  two triangles connected at one point in the middle).
  4. Make a bunch of these.  Thread one through the next, alternating blue and white.  That creates successive stars of David :) .

On the "V" part of one half of each "bowtie" (because it is in front), have each person write something they aspire to improve in themselves  or hope to try to develop or do in the coming year.  For a younger child, sometimes a good prompt is "more of this, less of that", "this instead of that", more like such-and-such example of so-and-so (my mom, a Biblical character, a teacher, a grandparent, a personal hero, etc.)…  Alternatively, each person can write personal blessings and wishes for loved ones, the world, etc. for the coming year.  Or simple words of good wishes for the world- peace, love, joy, music, laughter, learning…

Voila, you have a spiffy magen david message chain.

Note:  For younger children and/or those with fine motor issues, having simple pre-prepared stencil shapes (in this case larger and smaller right triangles) is sometimes very helpful.  You can knock out a bunch in a few minutes, utilizing cardboard from empty packaging- like from a cereal box.  They trace around the shapes on the paper to create their guidelines for cutting.

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Cast That Last Crumb - Tashlich 1

Tashlich means casting away.  It is a beautiful and thoughtful tradition, where one goes to a place of naturally flowing water to cast off those aspects of you that you wish to leave behind in the coming year.  These aspects are symbolically thrown using crumbs or pebbles.  Some share these out loud, and others do this silently.  If you have such a source near you, it is worth the trip and experience, after a discussion and preparation all together.

Some recite special penitential prayers.  The main idea goes like this:

ותשליך במצולות ים כל-חטאתם: וכל-חאטת עמך, בית ישראל,
תשליך במקום אשר לא יזכרו ולא יפקדו, ולא יעלו על-לב לעולם.

Vetashlich bimetzulot yam kol-chatotam: vechol-chatot amcha, bet yisrael,
Tashlich bimkom asher lo yizachru velo yipakdu, velo ya-alu al-lev le-olam.

"You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea, and may You cast all the sins of Your people, the house of Israel, into a place where they shall be no more remembered or visited or ever come to mind."

By the way, while this may be viewed as a serious undertaking, not everyone does this with full solemnity.  Some have included in their tashlich ritual the reciting of funny poems or prose they've prepared about failings, etc. they would like to 'cast off', and what they'd like to replace these qualities with. (It's also a useful preparation activity with children especially.) Sometimes some creativity and humor make a process of change more discussable, natural and actually doable.

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Let's Go Fly A Kite - Tashlich 2

a kiteYes, you read that right.  The author experienced a version of this annual custom while living on a kibbutz.  The key here being "natural, flowing", and "cast off".  The difference is using air flow instead of water (okay, and there are always water molecules flowing in that air anyway, right?).  Everyone goes out to a field in the afternoon and flies a kite (or 2 or 3…).  If you like to straddle traditions a bit more, dust it with symbolic crumbs first.

By the way, if you do not have a kite or field handy, even a colorful plastic bag on some kite string, or running with an attached ribbon in hand works well if there's sufficient wind.  Still, do try to keep to some area fairly clear of "kite-eating trees", so that your tashlich experience doesn't suffer a "Charlie Brown failure", okay?

While we do not know who actually started this newer "tradition", as a family or group event, it is a wonderful experience.  There is also that feeling of new freedom, flying in your imagination like a bird, sending up your hopes literally to the sky for the coming year.

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Wear It, Share It, Eat It

This is good to make with your friends or to hand out as gifts, or to take along when doing your kite tashlich, or for your world birthday celebration…  It's also manageable to make by small children or the fine-motor challenged.  We are going to assume that a dedicated endeavor to "being less sticky" is not one of your overriding goals this year. (It's kind of hopeless on Rosh HaShana anyway).

You need dental floss (or yarn or string), honey-nut Cheerios, and dried apple pieces (adding other dried fruit and cereal O's is fine too). For apple pieces with no hole, just make one with a knife in advance.  If someone has sight issues or you are dealing with a tiny tot, wind some scotch tape around the end of the floss to stiffen it.  Now string up "apple and honey" necklaces "to go" for you and your buds.  It’s a healthier snack than many things out there (we are fond of these for birthdays too).

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Hey, You Don't Look A Day Over 5000! ;-)

Happy Birthday, World!

Yay! It's the world's birthday. Why not celebrate with cake, candles, a couple of plastic shofar horns to practice the calls on… (We have a recipe in this holiday packet of course if you feel like baking). You could review what was created on each day. And what a great opportunity to learn how to sing birthday songs in Hebrew! Israelis happen to have more than one birthday song- they even sell whole tapes of these for toddlers, and they are sung by young and old at every birthday occasion (see "cool links" for a couple of these songs). Make a big poster card for the world and/or make actual representations of those creation days.  By the way, the Hebrew word for a "greeting card" is ברכה / bracha, the same word as for "blessing"! What promises can we make and commit to, in order to protect God's creations this coming year?  Also think about thanks for those things in this creation we especially appreciate.  What hope and wishes do we have for the world this coming year.  Add all those to your poster or giant bracha.

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Card Ideas

Just a few symbol suggestions:

  • apple
  • bee (makes the honey)
  • shofar
  • Magen David (star of David)
  • Torah
  • decorated Jewish Year in Hebrew &/or English
  • decorated letters in Hebrew &/or English
  • world & peace sign
  • dove
  • "Tree of Life"
  • creation
  • chamsa (a good luck symbol / hand to ward off evil)
  • Make a play/pun on the word "rosh" (head).

See typical greetings listed in Hebrew and English in "Worthwhile Information and Tidbits".

Card 1

Good for smaller children just getting the hang of scissors and glue.

Use larger paper folded into a card. Provide cardboard stencils of simple symbol shapes, or Xerox these in advance, like of a shofar. Have kids cut up construction paper bits in a few colors. Glue-stick mosaic style within the lines of the symbol.

Card 2

Take a sheet of construction paper.

Fold in half to make a card.

Make doors or shutters on the front part. The easy way to do this (besides a matte knife) is to fold the front page in half again vertically. Make two equal, parallel horizontal cuts halfway,  and then open and cut vertically between the two cuts to create the crease for your two doors. Fold the doors open and shut. Decorate them or put some message on them.

Voila, you now have, for one example, ark doors - you can paste or draw a picture of a Torah to go on the inside of the card.

Or bees on the doors and a smiling apple inside, with wishes for a sweet and fruitful year.


More Quick Ideas!

Card idea: Draw a tree by tracing your hand
  • Have some old fabric/clothes to throw with a nice pattern or flower print on it? Cut squares of these for the kids to paste onto the fronts of cards, with a short greeting &/or the Jewish year printed around the border.
  • Make decorated bookmarks with cardboard strips, for example, instead of cards – to exchange in class for a year of good study ahead, or with "have a good year of reading" for a loved one at home or a friend. :)
  • Trace your hand on the front of a card- with all the fingers spread apart. Include the wrist in tracing to the bottom end of the card. Draw or paste on bits for leaves.  Draw or paste on a picture of a dove or two. You now have a Tree of Life and peace message.
  • Same idea but draw or add red sticker dots for apples. Doodle in some happy bees for a sweet year message.
  • Same idea but instead of tracing in the wrist, close off the bottom of the hand (or make a hand print in paint). In this instance, you want to hold the traced hand with fingers and thumb upright and together. You can now turn this into a chamsa for good luck, and decorate, or write  חי [chai] which means "life", or the year date, or a short message on it or around it. 
  • Or make or paste a large circle on the page (lids make good stencils) - to represent the world ((any jumbled coloring of blue and green (and beige) or blue and white ["aerial shot"!] is sufficient, or even a blue circle will do; or Xerox a blown up photo for everyone to paste). Make a hand tracing (or hand print in white paint) over this "world", again closing off the bottom part of the hand instead of including the wrist. In this case, the best way to hold the hand is with the thumb spread out. If it can be managed, try to keep the three middle fingers together (but it's no big deal if this doesn't work out!). Turn the hand shape into a dove of peace (  שלוםshalom). This can require as little as adding a little triangle for a beak and an eye to your thumb part. :)
  • Cut out sponge shapes and other handy simple shapes (like old toy pieces or from your junk drawer!) for printing with paint. You can either have the kids do abstracts or print patterns within the lines for Card 1 above.
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Toss Review Game

Make up some large cards with vocabulary words or concepts taken from our other packet sections. Lay these out on the floor in a grid pattern of rows, all touching each other.  Individually in a small group or divided into teams in a larger group, take turns tossing a small object (like a bottle cap) on the cards.  Wherever it lands, that's what you must describe, explain, depict or act out.

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"Learning From Mistakes"

Each person writes and shares a short paragraph about Rosh HaShana. They are told to include one or two mistakes on purpose for the others to ferret out. 

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Good Time To Learn The Calendar

Depending on age, curriculum or level:

Introduce and/or review the 12 Hebrew months.

Introduce and/or review the chagim/holidays of the coming year/calendar.

Introduce and/or review what chagim fall in what months.

(see Cool Links for quick references).

Explain that we run on a lunar calendar, that this means we need a leap MONTH, and that this extra month (Adar Bet) ends up being needed every 2-3 years to keep things straight – like so that Chanuka doesn't show up in September, for example, which would be pretty wierd.

Explain that we have FOUR new years (see Overview)!

Some tips & ideas

  • Make the months a rousing chant. Or set them to a popular easy tune (even the "happy birthday song" will do). Either as a rahrah chant or song, this works best in 3 months per line, four lines total. Start off each Rosh Chodesh (new month) with your chant.  Tell your students or children that this year everyone should keep a look out for the new moon for scheduling purposes! It's cool to be the first to note when the next new moon is coming up and which month it will be.
  • Find an old calendar (or print out one from online) of the year/s your students or kids were born so that everyone can look up their Hebrew birth date.
  •  Play "What Doesn't Belong". Either you can make these up, or even better, have each child create one challenge question for the group after you give them a few samples.  Play in Hebrew (see "Good To Know In Hebrew" list) or English. (Difficulty depends on age and level.)
    For example:
    shofar, apple, doughnut, selichot
    Kislev, Chanuka, tree, sevivon (draydel)
    new moon, Rosh HaShana, fast, bee
  • Make a class display of a calendar to refer to for the coming year. Each kid gets a chag or two to depict in the calendar, or they can work in small groups.
  • OR- create a "coat of arms" kind of depiction for each chag in the calendar.  Like one sees regarding cities in Israel, by the way, just for the holiday instead. Or apply this activity each time you have a chag coming up.
  • For handy reference:  months + main holidays
    *see any Jewish calendar for a more complete holiday year + Jewish calendar dates

luach shana  לוח שנה  =  calendar
chodesh  חודש  =  month
chodshim  חדשים  = months
Rosh Chodesh  ראש חודש  = "head of the month", 1st day of the month,
                                                    at the time of the new moon
Tishrei  תשרי  =  Rosh HaShana   ראש השנה , Yom Kippur  יום כפור ,
                              Sukkot  סוכות  ,  Simchat Torah  שמחת תורה
Cheshvan  חשון
Kislev  כסלו   =  Chanuka  חנוכה
Tevet  טבת 
Shvat  שבט   =  Tu BeShvat  ט''ו השבט
Adar  אדר   =  Purim  פורים
Nisan  ניסן  =  Pesach  פסח , Holocaust Day / Yom HaShoah  יום השועה
Iyar אייר    =  Israeli Memorial Day / Yom HaZikaron  יום הזכרון ,
                        Israeli Independence Day / Yom HaAtzmaut  יום העצמאות ,
                        Lag BaOmer  ל''ג בעומר
Sivan  סיון   =  Shavuot  שבועות
Tamuz  תמוז
Av  אב  =  Tisha BeAv   תשעה באב , (okay, while not a bigger one, we have to throw
                  in Tu BeAv  ט''ו באב  because it's a love day, sort of the Jewish version of
                  Valentine's day :) .
Elul  אלול

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Funny, It Doesn't Look Like A Number…

Age Suitability- middle elementary grades through adult.

Every Hebrew letter has a number designation. Which is why how we render the Jewish year looks so funky. (see Worthwhile Info and Tidbits).

Go to  for a handy-dandy table of the numerical value for each letter of the alef-bet.

Gematria looks for associations (often mystical)  based on a word's numerical value, by the way.

The numerical value of "shalom". Try the rest yourself...

In more popular terms, the most well-known example of cultural usage of "number value" of letters – besides the rendering of the Jewish year – may be the word חי   "chai".  Yod = 10 and chet = 8.  So chai is 18 (it's why 18 is a number often used in small money donations, connoting some luck to that number).

Have your class figure out the numerical values for their names.  Have them try this out for simple "good" words like

  • shalom שלום   peace
  • simcha  שמחה  joy
  • osher  אושר  happiness, bliss
  • mazal tov!  מזל טוב  congratulations! 

Of course you will now be waiting for it to dawn on your students that the written form of each number therefore also has a total other numerical value based on the values of the letters in the word! 

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Five Senses

Heritage, tradition, Judaism in general work best when they touch us experientially.  Chaggim / holidays are certainly hands-on occasions for this. 

Taste, Touch, Smell, Sight, Sound.
(You can add a sixth - Orientation / where you are in space.)
Have each child list and share what Rosh HaShana "feels" like through each sense.
Which one, by the way, hits them the strongest, or might work well to depict in a picture?

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Questioning Is Where Good Things Begin

Where? What? How? Who? Why? When?

Encouraging questioning in your children and students is to encourage learning. We cannot always know everything, even adults, and when a question is asked that you don't have the answer immediately at hand, one of the best answers to give may be "Good question! Let's find out the answer together? Or… "how may we find out the answer?

Starting off your year by encouraging questions is a general good tone to set. A questioning mind is an engaged student. With that in mind, take out ye old "Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, Compare" to list on the board (or fridge…). Have each person write 2-5 questions about either Rosh HaShana in general or this coming new year, etc. These can be informational or personal or whatever is meaningful to the individual. Then share and discuss together.


  • How do Rosh HaShana and the secular new year compare to each other?
  • Why do we eat apples?
  • What do you think if I try to work on improving this?
  • Why do we have this shofar business?
  • Can we do tashlich at the ocean? 

Here is one other worthwhile point to keep in mind in this vein of "questions". This is a time of year of reassessment and betterment, figuring out new changes and solutions and making plans, etc. That also starts with questions. Because you cannot find a solution until you ask the right question (identify the real problem or missing element) first. It is a useful thing to pass on and teach.