As we reflect on the upcoming chagim, or High Holiday season, we, as Jewish early childhood educators, have many goals for the children and families in our communities. We want our children to develop into confident, independent, and conscientious learners, with strong Jewish identities. We also want families to join us as they embark on their own spiritual journeys, finding fulfillment in Jewish life and celebrating Shabbat and the High Holidays with their children. On a personal level, creating a learning experience with your child helps him/her understand the holiday on a different level. For Rosh Hashanah, try making “round” challahs with your child. Explain to your child why we make round/spiral challahs to symbolize the uniqueness of the High Holiday seasons. The circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. As we know, the Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the word “repeat.” This symbolizes that the circle/spiral reminds us how the years just go round and round. We should also be thinking of ways we can change and grow during the year.
Jewish holidays are a special time; a time when children can learn about their roots. Children are naturally excited to make discoveries about who they are and where they come from. When we engage our children in the traditions and stories of the Holidays, we help them begin to develop their Jewish identities and find their place within the Jewish community.
Engaging Our Kids in the Chagim Starts with Inspiring Ourselves
Children are naturally curious. They love to explore, to hear, and to ask questions. We must take responsibility, and transmit the beauty of each holiday to our children.
How can we as parents and educators engage our children in the Chagim? Pushing ourselves to study and learn something new can help us ignite our own spiritual light. We can then share this new knowledge with our families by getting them involved in fun hands-on activities and projects. Here are a few ideas….
λ Join together and bond as a family. Light Shabbat and holiday candles together, put a penny in the tzedakah box, make a honey cake or bake challah and bring your goodies to a neighbor or family member. Holidays allow us to enjoy our time as one while creating a spiritual home together.
λ Create holiday cards for people in a nursing home. Writing a special message brings joy to people who might be lonely. Hand deliver these cards and say “Good Yom Tov!”
λ Create a family mitzvah chart. Keep track of which family member does a mitzvah. For example: saying a bracha before eating; expressing words of kindness; inviting a new family to your Shabbat table; or donating clothes that you don’t wear anymore to the needy.
λ Create a family machzor. Add your own family prayers and include what you are grateful for as you celebrate the chagim together.
λ Look at family photos together and create a Yom Tov collage. Display this picture frame at your table and share these pictures with friends and family.
These special moments will always be remembered as your family shares their roots together! Chag Sameach!
Dawn Kreisberg has her MA in Jewish Education and Educational Leadership and is the Early Childhood Director at Olam Jewish Montessori.