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  • Writer's pictureTziporah Altman-Shafer

Common Questions Your Child (or Friends) May Ask You about Rosh Hashanah And How to Answer Them

The holiday is almost here! (This year Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday night, September 20 at sundown). Here are answers to 5 common questions your child (or friends) might ask you about Rosh Hashanah.

Question: Why don’t Jews celebrate New Year’s on January 1 like everybody else?

Answer: The Jewish calendar is based on the moon (not the sun like the “regular” calendar). Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world. Each year we come together to think about our behavior in the past year, to ask for forgiveness for mistakes, and to plan to do better in the coming year.

Question: Why do you get to miss school (work)?

Answer: Rosh Hashanah is mostly celebrated in synagogue. People miss school or work in order to pray communally. Praying for forgiveness is done as a group; we are asking both for individual forgiveness and blessings and also for the community.

Question: What is that horn?

Answer: On Rosh Hashanah we blow the shofar the horn of a ram or another kosher animal. The sound of the shofar wakes us up and reminds us that it is time to do teshuvah (repent for our mistakes).

Question: Why do you eat specific foods on Rosh Hashanah?

Answer: Each food is symbolic (here are just a few):

  • Apples and honey are for a sweet new year.

  • The round bread, called challah symbolizes the cycle of the year.

  • Pomegranates have many seeds to represent the many good deeds we plan to do in the coming year.

  • The Yiddish word for carrots is meren which means increase of grow; we hope to have our blessings grow in the year to come.

Question: I saw a group of people throwing breadcrumbs in the water. Why are they feeding the birds together?

Answer: This is a service called Tashlich. On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, Jews gather at an open body of water (lake, stream, river) and cast breadcrumbs into the water. The bread represents our sins. For a funny explanation of which types of bread to use, click here.

Now you have some answers for your children and friends. Have more questions about Rosh Hashanah? Post them in the comments below.

There are so many educational opportunities in Milwaukee. If you would like some help finding the right program for your child, contact Tzipi Altman-Shafer to talk about how you can “Go Jewish” with your family (414-963-2718 or

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