Skip to content

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Coming Soon – Jewish CultureGram 2016

September 28, 2016


Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

(Guatemalan Indigenous Rights Activist,
1990 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

Thank you again this year to our guest blogger and colleague, Kelly Steiner. Kelly shares her culture and advice with her colleagues in her school and district. Thank you for including us in your email.

The two biggest days in the Jewish calendar are coming up. Rosh Hashanah is Monday and Tuesday, October 3 and 4 and Yom Kippur is Wednesday, October 12.  I wanted to provide information about how it relates to you in your work and also what’s happening for some of our kids.  Since I’m a part of the majority culture most of the time, I know how easy it is to assume that all kids have similar experiences.  Being a part of the minority culture in this one instance lets me experience how frustrating it is to not fit with what an institution expects.

Are there any days that kids may miss school or not be able to do homework?

Yes. Most Jewish students will miss school on October 3 for the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  Some Jewish students will miss October 4 (second day of Rosh Hashanah).  Almost all Jewish students will miss October 12 for Yom Kippur.

Do I have to do anything?

No, you don’t have to.  I can tell you from experience though, it’s really hard to just be trying to figure out what’s what and how things work and to feel out all of your teachers and figure out what works for you AND miss two or three days of school 10 days apart.  Please do whatever you can to help them navigate what they miss and still merge into your classroom culture.

Can they do their homework?

Probably not.  Rosh Hashanah starts on a Sunday night, but many kids will either be traveling to be with family or have houses full of family which can make the practicality of homework challenging.  During Rosh Hashanah they are probably in services all day, and doing work is expressly forbidden.  Yom Kippur during the day they are in services, forbidden from working, and for students who’ve already been bar/bat mitzvahed they will be fasting.  It’s unlikely that their homework/ classwork will get done that day.  Please, again, try to help them navigate this.  If there is anything that you can condense or excuse, I’m sure it would be very much appreciated.

Why are the kids missing school?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two High Holy Days.  Think of them like the importance of Christmas and Easter, but only 10 days apart.  They are super serious, generally solemn, and big deals.  Different denominations observe different numbers of days for Rosh Hashanah.  Some celebrate only the first day (Sunday night to Monday night – all Jewish holidays start and end at sundown).  Others celebrate both days (Sunday night to Tuesday night).  Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” and it is the new year.  Instead of a big party day it is a serious holiday which starts the 10 days of awe in which you need to ask for forgiveness for sins from the previous year before your fate for the coming year is sealed.  Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement- the last chance to pray for forgiveness before fates are sealed.

Why isn’t it at the same time/ day of the week as last year?

Because Jewish holidays are on the lunar calendar, they’re a slightly different time in our solar calendar each year.  Many school districts in our area are closed for the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

What should I say to them?

If you’d like to say something to your Jewish students, you can say “happy new year” although it’s a thoughtful tone instead of the party tone of December 31 since it’s such a serious holy day. If you work with older students you can ask them if they are fasting for Yom Kippur or wish them an easy fast.

Kelly teaches science at Shorewood Intermediate School in Milwaukee, WI. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University.

I’m including some resources that you might find useful as you learn more about these holidays.

If you have other sites or resources please share.









No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: