New Years in September: Five things you need to know this Rosh Hashanah


Felicia Cohen

With her tallit (a fringed garment, traditionally worn as a prayer shawl by religious Jews) on and her sidur (prayer book) in hand, junior Sarah Marks participates in the Rosh Hashanah service. Marks is a member at a conservative synagogue, B’nai Amoona.

The empty desks within our classrooms may seem sporadic, but at synagogues across town, greetings of “Shanah Tova!” echo all around. In celebration of Rosh Hashanah, here is your guide to the Jewish New Year.

1. How to say the words.

Some may pronounce Rosh Hashanah, the name of the Jewish New Year Holiday “rashashanuh,” while others may pronounce it “rush ha-sha-nah.” Both ways are accepted.

To wish your Jewish friends a ‘Happy New Year,’ it is customary to say “Shanah Tova” pronounced “Sha-NAH To-VAH.”

2. The day of the celebration varies annually.

This year, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated Monday, Sept. 29, while next year, it will be celebrated Friday, Sept. 18. Judaism follows the lunar months and the solar year, so Rosh Hashanah falls sometime in early autumn each year.

3. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Tuesday. Jews can attend services throughout the evening and daytime.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of reflection on one’s actions over the past year and sincere repentance for any sins. Jews attend services and listen to the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn).

“[The shofar] is sort of like an instrument: we blow into it in different patterns to represent the different parts of the prayer,” junior Sara Marks said. “It symbolizes the calling [of] the New Year.”

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Jews pray at rivers, lakes or oceans for the “Tashlich” ceremony. This is in addition to the traditional synagogue service. Jews bring bread or some sort of food to throw into the body of water to cast off their sins for the year while praying.

As it is a religious holiday that asks for a commitment, freshman Tyler Lang believes the district should recognize it and have a day off in observance.

“We shouldn’t have school because there are similar holidays in other religions that we do get off for, but for Rosh Hashanah, we don’t,” Lang said. “It is an important holiday, and we should get to celebrate with our families and our culture.”

Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be a day of rest, not labor. Jews are forbidden to work.

[Dreamstime via TNS]
Dinner on Rosh Hashanah traditionally begins with apple slices dipped in honey, for a sweet new year.

4. Traditional foods hold symbolistic value.

“We eat apples and honey to symbolize a sweet start to a new year,” junior Joe Rosenberg said.

Challah, a bread usually braided in a straight loaf, is served round with raisins on Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize the year is round. 

Pomegranates are often found on the dinner table during Rosh Hashanah as well because they have 613 seeds, which symbolizes the 613 “mitzvot” or commandments in the Torah that Jewish people are supposed to follow.


Sonya N. Hebert/The Dallas Morning News/MCT
A freshly-baked challah horn at Whole Foods. Rosh Hashana is the one time of the year when the challah is round rather than braided.

5. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy days.

The ten days that follow Rosh Hashanah are a time to focus on making the world a better place, Tikun Olam. Judaism encourages people to find solutions to problems they may find themselves lamenting, therefore improving the quality of life for those around them in the upcoming year.