How Are You Spending the High Holidays this Year?

Apple, mango, fig, star fruit, lemon

Apple, mango, fig, star fruit, lemon

We posed this question to employees of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Some answered  curtly, such as one colleague who “doesn’t usually do anything (aside from dipping a few pieces of apple in honey…).” Others answered indirectly via an out-of-office message which ended with “Cordial greetings and Shanah Tovah.” Here are some additional responses:

“I’m going to go to my grandmother’s for Rosh ha-Shanah, like every year. With one difference: I’m hoping that she will follow my advice this year and forget to warm up the gefilte fish before serving it, because it tastes better cold.” Alina Gromova, Academic Employee in the Fellowship Program, and Guide

Piled jars with honey

Honey, source: Pixabay, CC0 license

“Like every year, we observe erev Rosh ha-Shanah at a dinner with friends, which we sanctify by reciting various blessings. We dip apples in honey and buy rare fruit which relinquish their mysteries upon consumption. We celebrate the New Year culinarily, with new, unknown foods to discover, resulting in a kind of biology intelligence test. Unfortunately there are never any kreplach to follow because no one knows how to prepare them anymore, and the gefilte fish comes, if at all, out of a jar. Making it would take days, but worse, cooking fish gives off a smell which fills the entire house, and might drive away the neighbors, and not only the disagreeable ones… The remaining array of dishes is unspectacular. Over the next two days, some of the dinner guests attend synagogue – chosen either out of nostalgia for childhood memories, or out of liturgical interest.” Cilly Kugelmann, Program Director 

“As on most Jewish holidays, we are not going to do much for Rosh ha-Shanah because my family does not observe religious practice very strictly. Nonetheless, on the evening before the New Year we will eat apples and honey in hope that the next year be full of sweetness. We cherish this tradition – along with many others holiday rituals – as our Jewish heritage.” Violetta Gershmann-Labunski, Personnel Department

Admission ticket for the synagogue during the High Holidays in 1936, issued for Franz Rosenthal

Franz Rosenthal’s admission ticket for High Holiday services in 1936. Gift from Henri W. Aram
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Julia Miszczuk

“I’ll observe the holidays with friends, drinking and dancing – according to my own Tel-Aviv-style tradition.
I also enjoy going to synagogue and praying in a large group. Everyone participates, generating a perfect prayer. But there’s always a discussion about synagogue seat tickets: I have nothing against voluntary donations, but requesting an obligatory gift (in form of yearly seat tickets) to be able to pray seems questionable to me.” Roland Schmidt, Host

“I’ll spend the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah this year with my six-year-old son. On the second day though, he’ll have to go to school. On Yom Kippur I sometimes go to synagogue, but not always. I fast in my own way – I don’t eat, but I do drink water.” Sarah Hiron, Education

“This year, I’ll spend the High Holidays something like this: at home with my family on the evening of the 4th eating honey cake and watching the movie Ushpizin (2004, it’s actually about Sukkot, but that’s close enough). On the 5th I’ll go to synagogue, though not for too long. By way of exception, the second day of Rosh ha-Shanah will see me entertaining a handful of seven-year-olds, because it collides this year with my daughter’s birthday.” Naomi Lubrich, Media

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