At Jewish preschools, little ones are making apple crafts and paper shofars and learning about honey. • Apples, shofars and honey are symbols of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown Wednesday.
A time of family gatherings and special foods, Rosh Hashana ushers in the 10 days collectively known as the High Holy Days, High Holidays or the Days of Awe. The period concludes with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar.
This time of self-examination, repentance, renewal and hope is believed to be when God judges his people and writes their fate for the new year in the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur, the book is sealed, which is serious stuff, especially for the very young.
Those who teach children aim to convey the lessons of the High Holy Days in age-appropriate ways.
"For the little people, on Rosh Hashana, I stress that everybody loves a birthday and this is the birthday of the world. So we celebrate the birthday of the world on Rosh Hashana," said Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B'nai Israel.
And, said Luski, children know that a birthday means sweet things to eat, so this is a perfect way to explain the symbolic foods and greetings of the holiday.
"We wish each other a Sweet New Year and that's why we dip apples into honey," is the way he explains it to the children, Luski said.
Bonnie Halprin, director of Congregation B'nai Israel's Pauline Rivkind Preschool for children 1 to 5 years old, said the teachers also talk about the holiday's symbols.
"We actually had a beekeeper come, so they could see where honey comes from," Halprin said.
"They make applesauce. They do apple prints. They are making cards for Rosh Hashana, wishing people a sweet and healthy new year."
At Temple Beth-El's Early Childhood Center, director Randi Nash-Ortiz planned to place the littlest ones — 12 months — in baskets with apples and photograph them for Rosh Hashana cards.
In preparing the children for Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Michael Torop has been sounding the shofar, a ram's horn, another important tradition of the High Holy Days, Nash-Ortiz said.
"We had only one that covered their ears," she said, laughing.
Torop also has been singing lots of Rosh Hashana songs.
"We do a wide variety of different things,'' Nash-Ortiz said. "We talk about it being the beginning of the new year and we celebrate with apples and honey and make apple prints. The older children make paper shofars," she said.
The solemn observance of Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sept. 13. Also referred to as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur is a time of fasting and prayer for grownups.
To help children understand, Luski first explains that Rosh Hashana is a time when "we start thinking about the good and the not-so-good things we did last year and how we can be better. And that's how we get ready for Yom Kippur. We need to say we are sorry if we did something wrong to Mommy or Daddy, or brother or sister, or teacher or friend."
Additionally, Luski said, "We also sound the shofar for them at the Rosh Hashana party and tell them that Rosh Hashana wakes people up to do the right things in the new year."
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.