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rosh hashanah

The Perfect Rosh Hashanah Dinner? A Labor Day Barbecue!

a lit bbq grill

Adene Sanchez / Getty Images

Here at Kveller, some of us (*cough*me*cough*) have been caught unaware by the coming of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which starts on this year the evening of September 6. Let’s face it, a lot of us were hoping to see the light at the end of the “parenting through a global pandemic” tunnel, but now, unfortunately Miss Delta Variant is here to poo-poo all over that idea — and our High Holiday plans.

While lots of synagogues are dealing valiantly with this new hurdle — requiring vaccination to attend services and allowing for hybrid ones — we still have to deal with the logistics of the Rosh Hashanah dinner. And, honestly, the idea of planning a whole holiday meal right now? It’s not so enticing.

Luckily, this year, the eve of Rosh Hashanah coincides with Labor Day — the federal holiday that honors the labor movement, which, of course, has evolved into a national day for grilling and spending time outdoors. So this year, I’m taking Rosh Hashanah outdoors too — and inviting you to join me (though probably not literally — we still want to avoid crowded gatherings!).

Here’s why you should kill two birds (or more!) with one stone — and have a Rosh Hashanah Labor Day barbecue this year:

It’s outside.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve halted most of my indoor gatherings at this point. Delta is more contagious than other Covid strains, and with unvaccinated kids and the daunting prospect of breakthrough infections, being outdoors just feels like the safe thing to do (as long as the weather permits). Plus, being outside means you don’t have to clean up your house for any guests! Honestly, this exhausted parent is all for that.

You can buy your holiday outfit at a Labor Day sale.

Yes, it is ironic that this holiday, which celebrates the labor movement, is also a time where many stores are having huge sales. Am I here to encourage unbridled consumerism? Of course not! But do I love a good sale? Of course yes! It’s the new year, after all (5782, in case you’re wondering) and I’m buying myself a new holiday jumpsuit. (Did I literally make this decision as I was writing this piece? Again, the answer is yes, but this Jewish New Year we are treating ourselves!)

There are so many easy recipes for the grill that can incorporate Rosh Hashanah traditions.

From starters to dessert, you can honestly cook an entire meal on the grill. With flavors that range honey to pomegranate, here are some great recipes that incorporate Rosh Hashanah traditions into barbecue foods, along with some easy holiday-appropriate sides.

Chicken liver skewers

Shawarma chicken kebab

Texas slow cooker BBQ brisket

Kabab torsh (pomegranate marinated kebab)

Green beans with honey tahini glaze

Grilled eggplant with chermoula 

Black-eyed peas with turmeric and pomegranate 

Honey BBQ chicken wings 

Grilled cinnamon apples

Grilled peaches and honey

Apple and honey punch

Spiced apple cider and gin cocktail

So many barbecue foods are round!

In the Jewish New Year, we eat round foods — symbolizing continuity and the cycle of life — and what’s more round than a hamburger bun? And can you truly call something a barbecue without a round, juicy watermelon? Hot dogs and corn are cylindrical too! You can make little skewers with sliced onions, zucchini and summer squash — all round! Glaze them with some honey barbecue sauce to sweeten the deal (and maybe make those greens more enticing for you and the kids) — et voila! It’s almost like Rosh Hashanah was made for the grill.

There’s little prep and little cleanup.

Yes, this Rosh Hashanah you don’t need to wash 5,782 pots. When your meal is over, all you’ll have to do is scrape the grill, and maybe rinse some cutting boards and salad bowls. That means you can spend more time with your loved ones and less time at the kitchen sink — and after this rough year, that’s just what we need.

Rosh Hashanah is a great time to reflect on labor.

From Jewish perspectives on the labor movement, to our experiences as workers, to the often unequal division of labor in our homes — which the pandemic has shed a light on — the Jewish New Year is a great time to reflect on how we can do better next year, for others and ourselves.

Use the leftovers for tashlich!

Got some dried-out burger buns leftover? Use them for tashlich, a lovely Rosh Hashanah ritual that symbolizes the casting off of our sins.

Have a sweet 5782, everyone!

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