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Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year

To learn about the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah and think about how different sounds make us feel different things.

by Manon Ceridwen Parry

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To learn about the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah and think about how different sounds make us feel different things.

Preparation and materials

  • This festival celebrates the Jewish New Year and traditionally the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is also a day of judgement. The date is moveable. It is on the first of the month of Tishri and marks the beginning of the ten days of repentance before Yom Kippur.
  • To be seen: apples and a jar of honey. You may also be able to locate a shofar from the local RE centre, and there are pictures in books and on the web.
  • To be heard:  a couple of contrasting sounds, for example, lively/still music, or a triangle and a drum, or a siren and a baby’s cry (see section 6), and some stilling music to end (see ‘Time for reflection’). IPods or phones may have applications with evocative sounds or noises.


  1. Discuss the New Year traditions of the pupils – family traditions or traditions that are part of their culture. Do they, for example, have New Year’s resolutions? Do they or their families have New Year parties?

    Do they know of any other traditions? Maybe special songs, for example, ‘Auld lang syne’, counting down the year and so on.

  2. Explain that the Jewish festival of New Year happens usually in September, not January, and is the start of the ten days leading on to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

    This is a special time for Jews. Yom Kippur is the most special of all the Jewish festivals, so it needs a lot of preparation.

  3. Jews believe that on Rosh Hashanah God looks at each of them to see what they have done, good and bad, in the previous year. They have ten days to ‘repent’ (literally, turn around) and be good. On the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur, if they have tried hard to be good, and made friends with people they’ve argued with, they will be forgiven.

  4. As well as special stories, there are also special practices. Apples and honey are eaten on Rosh Hashanah and are given to family and friends. These sweet things are given and eaten because the people want sweetness and happiness in their lives in the coming year and wish this for others.

  5. The shofar – a special horn (a ram’s horn) – is blown in services at Rosh Hashanah. Its sound is supposed to call everyone back to God.

    The shofar is an old instrument. In past times it announced the arrival of a king. Its special sound was easy to recognize. This was important because people had to get ready if a king was arriving.

    They also need to get ready for God, who will judge their behaviour – that is, he will decide if they have been good or bad. Jewish people who are used to the sound of the shofar will associate it with New Year, and with this judgement.

  6. All of us have special sounds that remind us of different things. Discuss with the children how different sounds make them feel (this will depend on what you have brought to the assembly). For example:
    –  a drum beat makes us want to dance
    –  dreamy music or sounds make us want to sleep
    –  a baby’s cry makes us feel anxious
    –  a siren makes us feel worried in case someone’s been hurt.

    (Any evocative sounds will do – the idea is to discuss how sounds make us feel different things.)

    Remind everyone again that the shofar sound reminds Jewish people of the need to turn to God and be sorry for the wrong things they have done.

Time for reflection

Play some reflective music. Say that this helps us to be still and think.

Encourage the children to use the next few minutes to think about what they do that is wrong, and how they will change.

Lord God,
help us to respect others, and respect ourselves.
Help us to care for others, and care for ourselves.
Help us to be sorry when we hurt others, and try to put things right.
And may this year be filled with sweetness
for ourselves, our friends and families.


‘Kum ba yah’ (Come and Praise, 68)

Publication date: September 2012   (Vol.14 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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