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Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah 2018 is on 9-11 September

by Helen Levesley (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah.

Preparation and materials

  • You may wish to use readers to ask the questions in the ‘Assembly’, Step 5.

  • Optional: you may wish to have available the YouTube video ‘Get Clarity:’s Rosh Hashanah Music Video’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.38 minutes long and is available at:


  1. We probably all remember where we were for New Year last year. We might even be already planning what we will do for this year’s New Year’s Eve. For most people, New Year’s Eve involves staying up late, either at a party or at home, in order to see in the New Year at midnight.

  2. Ask the students the following questions.

    - Can you remember what resolutions you made this New Year?
    - How many of you have managed to keep them until now? (Take a quick straw poll – probably very few!)
    - Can you recall what you said you would try to do better at?

    Many of us probably can’t even remember what resolutions we made - and there’s a strong possibility that our resolutions only lasted a few days, weeks or possibly months.

  3. Today, we are thinking about the Jewish New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means ‘head of the year’. Rosh Hashanah falls during the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is around September/October in our calendar. In 2018, Rosh Hashanah begins in the evening of Sunday 9 September and ends in the evening of Tuesday 11 September.

    Rosh Hashanah is an important Jewish festival because, although it is a celebration, it’s bound up with serious promises and a careful consideration of the year that has just passed. It provides an occasion for personal development and reflection, and allows some time to just stop and ‘be’, something that in today’s society we often have little chance to do.

  4. During Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people all around the world will spend the time in periods of reflection. It is a time for people to shed light on what their priorities really are. It is a time for them to ask serious questions about their actions throughout the past year.

  5. We are going to consider five questions that Jewish people ask themselves during Rosh Hashanah. After each question, we are going to take some time to consider our own personal answers to the questions.

    – What is the most meaningful thing in your life?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    – Who in your life means the most to you?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    – How often do you let this person know this?
    Pause to allow time for thought.

    – What are the most significant things you have achieved in the last year?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    – What do you hope to achieve next year and in your life generally?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  6. A great deal of time is spent in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah. Services focus on God and his kingship, but also people spend time quietly thinking about their actions over the past year, and they ask forgiveness for the things that they have done wrong.

  7. Although Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection, it’s not all sadness. The New Year is a time of hope and, after visiting the synagogue, families return home for a meal together. They dip pieces of apple or bread into honey as a symbol of a sweet new year ahead and the hope that there is within it.

Time for reflection

We are going to consider the following questions, pausing for reflection after each.

- Is there anything that you can think of in the past year that you need to ask forgiveness for? Maybe it’s an action, a deed or just an unkind word to someone.

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Do we need to say sorry to anyone?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Think about the start of the school year: what hopes do we have for this year?

Pause to allow time for thought.

For Jewish people, when they are reflecting on the previous year during Rosh Hashanah, there is the hope that they will try to do better in the year ahead. This is something that each of us can strive for.

Dear God,
Let us see what the most meaningful things are in our lives, and be grateful for them.
Let us tell the important people in our lives how much we love and appreciate them.
Help us to do this often.
Help us to see our achievements as significant, and to be pleased with them.
Please give us hope for the future and for life in general.
Please help us to live full and useful lives.


Optional: you may wish to play the YouTube video ‘Get Clarity:’s Rosh Hashanah Music Video’, available at:

Publication date: September 2018   (Vol.20 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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