“For me, this period is a special time of reflection"
Published: 22 September 2020
The Jewish festivals of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur take place in late September. President of St George’s Jewish student society, Shir Dor, explains their significance in the Jewish calendar, how they are traditionally marked and how Covid-19 may affect how the festivals are celebrated this year.
Shir says, “Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are two of the holiest days in the Jewish year. Rosh Hashana is Jewish New Year - Jews have celebratory meals and pray for a sweet and successful year to come.
“The 10 days following Rosh Hashana are a time of repentance. We ask our peers for forgiveness for all of our wrongdoings in the past year, culminating in Yom Kippur - a 25 hour fast in which we repent to G-d. From a spiritual perspective, we believe that our fate for the year is determined by G-d during this period, and the ‘Book of Life’ is sealed at the end of Yom Kippur.
“For me, this period is a special time of reflection. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and enter the new year with a clean slate. I particularly appreciate the opportunity to spend meaningful time with my family.
“For most Jews, this is a time for family. On Rosh Hashana, families typically come together to have big celebratory meals with special foods that symbolise our wishes for the new year. On Yom Kippur many people break the fast with (yet another) meal with family and friends. Both festivals involve a lot of time spent praying in synagogue and also giving to charity.
“This year, things will look a little different. Many synagogues are closed and families cannot gather. Some synagogues will be holding online services, particularly in the lead up to, and between, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
“Some synagogues remain open with a booking system for households. Family meals will be slightly smaller, but we will continue to celebrate with our households. And we will pray more than ever for a peaceful, happy and healthy year to come!”