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rosh hashanah

Your Panic-Free Guide to Celebrating Rosh Hashanah During the Pandemic

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Hi. Hello. The High Holidays are here and boy are we not ready. Celebrating Rosh Hashanah with kids is always an extra layer of extra, but this year, the High Holidays are so much more challenging in so many ways.

There’s the disappointment so many of us feel not being able to celebrate with our families. There’s the added loneliness  of not being able to celebrate in our synagogues with our Jewish communities — not being able to warmly hug them, to spend time in the same room, or to find out about co-congregants surprising Shofar skills.

Then there’s the daunting premise of, you know, another project, as if the life of a parent during the pandemic isn’t overwhelming enough.

So first things first, we just want to make sure you know — you don’t have to do anything special this Rosh Hashanah. If the sweetness you need to start this new year is that of not doing anything — and truly there’s nothing more legitimate than that.

But if you do want to do something, even something small, we have some ideas that could help make your Rosh Hashanah a little bit less difficult in this pandemic year.

We repeat: you don’t have to do anything:

Chill at home. Watch Netflix. Take the day off. Come back renewed next holiday season.

Talk with your kids:

Communication is key in these stressful times. If you’re worried about your kids feeling like they’re missing out, have a family meeting and ask your kids what they will miss about this Rosh Hashanah, and what would make the beginning of this new year sweeter for them. A Zoom meeting with all their cousins? An attempt to replicate their grandparent’s most beloved dish in the kitchen together? Doing these things might help life feel a little less out of control in these wild times we’re living through.

Newsflash: you don’t have to cook:

As my colleague and Alma editor Molly Tolsky suggests, pizza may be the perfect pandemic Rosh Hashanah food, it’s round, delicious and most importantly — it’s hassle-free.

Just order it in advance, or if you’re feeling extra fancy, you can order your own pizza dough and make your own pizzas with Rosh Hashanah themed toppings — have we mentioned that hot honey is the perfect pizza topping?!

Honestly, since this Rosh Hashanah is not like any Rosh Hashanah you’ve celebrated before, ordering take-out may be the way to go. If it’s not pizza, maybe Chinese, or a family favorite.

A grocery store rotisserie chicken can totally be your holiday main this year, and if you want to go fancier, you can order traditional and exciting Rosh Hashanah fare from Goldbelly.

Or go all out with these ready Rosh Hashanah menus:

If you do want to cook — we totally get it. Wanting to keep normalcy in these overwhelming times is a priority for a lot of us, and for some of us, cooking for our families (or with our families!) is even therapeutic. But we do have some menus for an intimate dinner, and recipe ideas, to help you out.

Here is a standard Rosh Hashanah menu:

If you must: gefilte fish. If you’re not a fan of the jarred stuff, try making your own!

Starters: apple, carrot, and potato soup or chicken soup with matzah balls and/or chopped liver

Main: honey-baked chicken and/or brisket

Sides:  pomegranate poppy seed salad and/or tzimmes or carrot souffle  and/oSephardic jeweled Rosh Hashanah rice

Dessert: apple-raisin kugel  and/or apple pecan galette

Looking for something else? Shannon Sarna over at The Nosher (who is also the co-host of Kveller’s podcast Call Your Mother) has some great sample Rosh Hashanah menus for you, too.

Some Rosh Hashanah meal hacks:

Want to cook but don’t want the whole shebang? You can structure your meal around one big hearty dish — after all, who says matzah ball soup can’t be the entire holiday meal? Or a great big pot of couscous.

You can also cook the majority of your meal on one sheet pan try this tzimmes roasted chicken. 

Forget about the brisket, here are nine great alternative mains from the Nosher.

Looking for some apple and honey hacks Squeeze some lemon juice on those apples to keep them from browning. Make a honey bowl out of an apple to avoid clean up (just gobble it up or throw it out when you’re done).

This brie, honey, and apple pull-apart bread is the killer, easy-to-make appetizer perfect for a hassle-free pandemic meal.

Or just cancel the sit-down meal and have a Rosh Hashanah bonfire — being outside means it’s safer to congregate as family, and who doesn’t love a bonfire?!

Start some new traditions!

Even if you’re not Sephardic, this may be a great year to have Sephardic Rosh Hashanah seder. Here are some great guides on the Sephardic seder from My Jewish Learning and Alma.

Let Sarah Aroeste walk you through the Seder and some lovely Ladino Rosh Hashanah songs on Kveller Facebook.

To Zoom shul or not to Zoom shul?

It’s totally alright if you and your kids are all Zoomed out this Rosh Hashanah. Maybe all the holiday meaning you need can be found in YouTube clips or fun parodies.

Maybe all you need is this Mayim Bialik Rosh Hashanah explainer or this great Maccabeats video.

If you do opt for Zoom shul, our friends at My Jewish Learning have some great advice on how to make synagogue Zoom feel more special and festive at home. 

Find the meaning of Rosh Hashanah at home:

Boy, have we got some Rosh Hashanah crafts for you! You can make apple print placemats, this paper plate apple art, a stained glass apple plate, or this apple tablecloth craft.You can also make cards, design tablescapes, or even make a Rosh Hashanah craft museum.

Throw a birthday party for the world! Mazel tov!

Or go to the great outdoors:

Going outside may actually be the safest activity right now, aside from staying at home — so take advantage of that. Go apple picking or take a walk in nature.

Make Taschlich extra-special:

One of the best rituals of Rosh Hashanah for kids is tashlich when Jews throw bread into a body of water to symbolize the casting away of our sins of the past year. Here are some ways to make the ritual of tashlich even more engaging.

If you’re worried about going outside, or if you want an extra crafty tashlich activity, join us Wednesday, September 23 at 1 PM Eastern for a virtual tashlich with Rabbi Ruth Magder-Abusch on Kveller’s Facebook.

All the virtual activities are here:

As we said, we’re here to help! Looking for fun virtual activities to make the holiday more meaningful? We’ve got a lot coming up:

 

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