News & Views

Holidays Around the World: Rosh Hashanah

Holidays Around the World!

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with HIAS PA

As part of HIAS PA’s “Holidays Around the World” series, we are exploring holidays which are celebrated widely around the world, but which might not be as well-known in the United States. Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays. Evgeny and Natalia, HIAS PA clients, are here to teach us about how their family celebrates Rosh Hashanah.

What is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the High Holidays, which end with Yom Kippur. These are the holiest days of the Jewish year. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of Monday, September 5th, and Yom Kippur begins on the evening of Wednesday, September 15th. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days in both Israel and in the Diaspora, the land and Jewish community outside of Israel. Judaism follows the lunar calendar.

Round challah represents the cycle of the seasons throughout the year.

How do you and your family celebrate Rosh Hashanah?

We did not celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Russia, but we celebrated it when we visited my relatives in the US and Israel. Our favorite thing about Rosh Hashanah is being around our relatives. Last year we celebrated Rosh Hashanah at my brother’s home. We have no special rituals for celebrating Rosh Hashanah in my family, but many families get together for dinner and go to synagogue to pray and listen to the shofar, a ram’s horn which is blown every year during the High Holidays. People observe Yom Kippur by fasting. During the High Holidays, we also wish each other l’shanah tovah, a “sweet new year”. 

We blow the shofar during the High Holidays.

What foods do you eat to celebrate Rosh Hashanah?

During Rosh Hashanah, we eat apples and honey to signify a sweet new year, round challah to represent the year and seasons being a cycle, and gefilte fish because it is delicious.

We eat apples and honey to signify a sweet new year.

What is your favorite memory of celebrating Rosh Hashanah?

Our favorite memory about Rosh Hashanah is celebrating it when we were in Israel in 2012. I remember Rosh Hashanah in Israel well, because it was my first and only visit to Israel to date, and I also have relatives in Israel, and that year I was able to celebrate with them and with my brother.

What does Rosh Hashanah mean to you?

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur give you time to think about how you lived during the past year. On Yom Kippur, we are “sealed” in the Book of Life. During the High Holidays, people typically apologize to everyone they hurt, and take action to do better in the coming year.


We are grateful to Evgeny and Natalia for sharing about Rosh Hashanah!

Look out for our next “Holidays Around the World” and learn more about the holidays that hold great importance to the immigrants we serve.