Quick...word association. What comes to your mind when we say Rosh Hashanah? Do you think of synagogue? Hebrew? New Year’s without the hangover? Brisket? Wearing wool in 85-degree September heat? Us too! Rosh Hashanah is one of the two big High Holidays. (No, not that kind of high. High in this case means holy and important.) Rosh Hashanah is also one of the most popular synagogue days, which is kind of a bummer, because Rosh Hashanah services are among the longest and most difficult to understand... also, yeah they can be a little boring. JewBelong will help you get to the good stuff quickly, which is important because Rosh Hashanah is actually a fantastic holiday. At the core, it's about cleaning up the shit in your life so that you can start the new year with a clean slate. It's the perfect time to take stock of your life and do some soul searching about how to be a better human. Keep reading whether you plan to go to synagogue or not. JewBelong's Personal Roadmap and Rosh Haggadah (below) will help you get the most out of the holiday.

Relax, there's nothing to atone for at this one.


When Is It?

This year Rosh Hashanah 2020 starts at sundown on Friday, September 18th and ends at sundown on Sunday, September 20th. This year, the first real “day” of the holiday – the day most people stay home from work and when schools are sometimes closed – falls on a weekend and is Saturday, September 19th. Some folks celebrate Rosh Hashanah for two full days, but most don’t. Rosh Hashanah services are almost the same on both days, but the second day is always way less crowded.

Come for the kugel - stay for the introspection.

Apologize (And Forgive)

You Know That Person Who You Unfriended On Facebook But Actually Kinda Miss?

Start with “I’m sorry.” We hate to be the ones to tell you, but there are no shortcuts. It doesn’t work if you only ask God for forgiveness. Like, “Hey God, please make sure (Josh, Linda, Maryanne, you get the idea,) forgives me for not responding to that email about…” Only you can take care of that. So, stop wasting time, and follow these steps: Feel it: You need to actually feel sorry for forgiveness to happen. (Trust us, we’ve tried it the other way.) Call, visit or write a letter: Don’t use a text to clean up your mess. (OK, fine, text if you must. But there are better ways…) Say this: “I know we’re still fighting about…” or “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you during…” or, “I’m sorry I lied about…” Most importantly, say: “I am truly sorry, and I hope you forgive me.” And then give the person a chance to do that. Don’t expect immediate gratification because it doesn’t always work that way. What about the people in your life who you aren’t arguing with? The ones you see all the time — and you’re pretty sure you’re cool with? Don’t take any chances. Double-check. Say something like, “If I hurt you in this year and I didn’t realize it, I apologize.” It is a very sweet gesture and strengthens relationships. And remember, according to the wise Rabbis of Old: If you apologize to someone three times from your heart, and they still don’t forgive you, you’ve fulfilled your obligation. You might also want to remind said wronged person that forgiving is important too. Actually, don’t. That’s just going to piss them off even more.

Rosh Hashanah without forgiveness is like The Mets without the losing.

L'Shanah Tovah

What To Say To Your Husband’s Aunt Who Always Visits On Holidays

L’Shanah tovah. It’s Hebrew for have a good new year. Shanah is year, tov is good. Or say “Happy New Year” if you feel weird about the Hebrew.  

Regular "Happy New Year" works too!

It's Worth It For The Shofar

Synagogue Or Nah?

If you’ve ever heard someone refer to themselves as a “Twice-a-Year Jew” it means exactly that – they go to synagogue twice a year, probably on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Honestly though, if you’re only going to go twice a year, mix it up. Try a Friday night service. You may be surprised. If you do go to Rosh Hashanah services, it’s cool to hear the shofar. The intense sound is meant to wake us up so that we do better next year.

Do they call it a High Holiday because it’s better to go to synagogue stoned? (The answer is no. But you do you.)

Synagogue Tickets

You Bought Tickets To Hamilton, Right?

Lots of people complain about having to buy tickets for High Holiday services. What they may not know is that most synagogues are actually sucking air when it comes to paying their bills. So be a mensch and buy tickets if you can. Also, tickets at some synagogues are really inexpensive so don’t just assume they’re going to cost a lot. If you can’t afford tickets but want to go to Rosh Hashanah services, call your local synagogue and see if you can go for a reduced price or even for free. The second day of Rosh Hashanah is always less crowded than the first day and is probably free, so go then.

Synagogue is also a good place to check out the hot girls with curly hair.

Personal Roadmap


If you’re like, well anyone ever, there are probably some things in your life you’d like to change about yourself. JewBelong’s Personal Roadmap will help you get real with yourself by asking questions like: If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I try to accomplish? What important decision did I avoid making last year? For some of us, the Personal Roadmap is the most important part of the holiday. It can be transformative, especially when you share your answers out loud with someone.

Better than that yoga retreat you never go on anyway.

Food (And Drink)

Appletinis, Anyone?

Many people make a big meal with all the trimmings, like brisket and kugel, but you be you. There are some basics though: • The traditional start of the Rosh Hashanah meal is apples dipped in honey. (There’s a prayer for that.) The honey is because we hope for a sweet year, and the apple is because ancient Jews believed that apples had healing qualities. Also, apples are mentioned in the bible, @Eve. Honey cake is also popular on Rosh Hashanah. TBH, we’ve never had honey cake that was worth the calories. • Rosh Hashanah challahs are round instead of the typical braided shape. This is to signify the circle of life. A lot of times the round challahs have raisins in them, which are kind of a pain to pull out, but if you don’t like raisins in your challah, it’s worth the effort.

Appletinis add a nice zip to the holiday. Just sayin’.


Game. On.

Tashlich, which means to cast in Hebrew, as in cast off your sins, is one of those little known, but fabulous don’t-miss Jewish traditions. It is usually done after services. If you don’t go to services, then any time during the day works. Just go to a place with running water, a creek or a river is best if you live near one, and whoosh, cast away your sins. Heady, right? It helps when you use bread as a stand-in for your sins, so you are actually tossing something. JewBelong’s readings and prayers will help you get into the right mindset to think about what you need to let go of – the guilt, the habits, the shame, etc. And then chuck it all away. Really take a minute to let this awesome ritual do its work. Take a deep breath and imagine all of the garbage in your life literally floating away. Ahhhhhhhh…. You can improvise with a sink or bathtub if you need to, but make sure to do something, because this physical act of casting off sins is POWERFUL. Make it extra meaningful by starting with these readings.

Cast away all your sins with a slice of bread and any body of water.

Rosh Hashanah Readings


-Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the long list of things we want to change about ourselves (after all, we really are our own worst critics). Check out what Rami M. Shapiro, an award-winning writer and speaker on Judaism and spirituality, has to say about his own list.

First line: Here I am. Last line: Heenaynee – Here I am!…

Get Up

-Rabbi Allen Maller

Totally powerful reading! One of the best for the new year. First line: O Lord, sometimes I feel sad, useless. Last line: Staying on the floor is…

Why Forgive?

-Johann Christoph Arnold

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring wrongdoings, but it’s still so important if we want to feel better.

First line: Forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. Last line: Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning…

Each Second

-Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals was most well-known for his talent as a musician, but he was also a great writer. This reading on teaching our children is especially meaningful for parents.

First line: Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again – and what do we teach our children? Last line: You must work – we all must work to make this world worthy of its children…


See All 23 Rosh Hashanah Readings

JewBelong's Rosh Haggadah is the best thing to happen to Rosh Hashanah since the kugel.

Rosh Hashanah Songs

What A Wonderful World

-Robert Thiele and George David Weiss

This popular song is always a crowd hit (especially for those of us born after 1960). It’s been re-recorded many times since then. A beautiful addition for your celebration.

First line: I see trees of green, red roses too. Last line: What a wonderful world…

Morning Has Broken

-Eleanor Farjeon

Although most of us know the Cat Stevens version of this song, it was originally written as a Christian hymn, traditionally sung by children to give thanks at the start of the new day. Either way, it’s a crowd-pleaser so give it a try.

First line: Morning has broken, like the first morning. Last line: God’s recreation of the new day…

Rosh Hashanah-na

-Lyrics by Clay Brown

Sing to the tune of “Deck the Halls” 

First line: Happy New Year, in September: Rosh Hashanah-na nana na na. Last line: Where’s a guide to simplify it? Rosh Haggadah-da dada da da!…

See All 4 Rosh Hashanah Songs

It's New Year's without Ryan Seacrest.

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