High Holidays

JNS.org covers the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with related news from around the Jewish world and Israel, and annual special sections containing features, advice content, op-eds and Rosh Hashanah holiday dinner recipes. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.

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As the final minutes of Rosh Hashanah ticked away, 13-year-old Leo Goldberger was hiding, along with his parents and three brothers, in the thick brush along the shore of Dragor, a small fishing village south of Copenhagen. The year was 1943, and the Goldbergers, like thousands of other Danish Jews, were desperately trying to escape an imminent Nazi roundup. For years, the Allied leaders insisted that nothing could be done to rescue Jews except to win the war. But 70 years ago next month, the Danish people exploded that myth and changed history.

The holiest days on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are largely spent in synagogue. Yet prayer isn’t usually the focus when Jews prepare for the High Holidays, observes Cantor Arik Wollheim. “Hopefully people go through this process of repentance, and they give charity, but what about prayer?” Wollheim tells JNS.org. “People neglect that. How many people open the prayer book before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and go over the davening?” The answer, Wollheim says, is almost no one. But he is looking to change that.


There are only 19 verses in the story of the Binding of Isaac, which we read in synagogue each Rosh Hashanah, but there are—without exaggeration—hundreds, if not thousands, of commentaries on this story. James Goodman’s new book, “But Where is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac,” is a fresh and exciting take on the different ways in which the Binding of Isaac has been understood down through the centuries, and also covers how we should understand it today, writes Rabbi Jack Riemer.

Holocaust memoirs and eyewitness testimony record how Jews living under Nazi rule repeatedly took extraordinary risks to mark Yom Kippur in some way. Despite the grave dangers involved, and even though Jewish law permits eating or performing labor on the Day of Atonement in order to save one’s life, many Jews endured unimaginable suffering in order to commemorate the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

During the Holocaust years, there was only one march in Washington, D.C., to plead with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rescue Europe’s Jews—and it took place three days before Yom Kippur in 1943. As the 70th anniversary of that remarkable demonstration involving more than 400 rabbis approaches, the protest is finally gaining mainstream recognition in the Jewish community.

Declassified Israeli government protocols released in June reveal that Egypt rejected then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s proposal for secret peace negotiations in July 1973, three months before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. JNS.org interviews four experts on the significance of the newly revealed documents. 

While the relationship linking Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey never grows old, the elegant and elusive pomegranate is less acknowledged, though profoundly tied to biblical literature and ancient agriculture. Pomegranate seeds offer the kind of culinary beauty that cause us to slow down, take note, and absorb the scared spirit of newness. That being said, they can be a pain to wrangle. Chef Mollie Katzen, one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all-time, is here to help, presenting her strategies to help you conquer the pomegranate this Rosh Hashanah.

It’s 2013, and with rows of bottled pomegranate juice lining every convenience store refrigerator, the sight of those hundreds of little red stains-to-be on Rosh Hashanah night is just all too humdrum. When you usher in the Jewish New Year with a new fruit this holiday season, why not treat your family to these uber-exotic natural delicacies? That is, if you can find them (and afford them). JNS.org presents the ackee, kiwano, mangosteen, jabuticaba, and squared watermelon.

In time for the 2013 High Holiday season, JNS.org has compiled a list of the top five popular songs to put you in the mood for introspection, repentance, and renewal—and a few just to make you smile.

Forget the usual apples with honey. Amos Hayon, an Israeli pastry chef who appeared on an episode of the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” program in 2011 and took home the $10,000 prize, presents six unique Rosh Hashanah-inspired desserts to JNS.org.

What unites “The Jazz Singer,” “The Dybbuk,” and “Liberty Heights” is not just their deep awareness of the secular world, but their willingness to invoke tradition as a yardstick.

The High Holidays will have a different feel this fall at Stony Brook University, where the administration’s decision to change the academic calendar and hold regular classes on traditional Jewish and Christian holidays drew the ire of many in the New York school’s community. How do other major universities treat religious holidays?

In an appeal to U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen hopes and prays that they will be the masters of the upcoming year’s risks—not the servants.

JNS.org humor columnist Leo Margul offers pointers to spice up your Jewish New Year, covering temple fashion, temple seating, apple dipping, and family time. After all, Margul writes, Rosh Hashanah can be a maze of social, familial, and apple-related responsibilities that require more patience than waiting in the bathroom line during services.

JNS.org consulted with several registered dietitians and nutritionists on how to prepare for the Yom Kippur fast and how to get through the day the healthy way.

JNS.org presents 10 meaningful ways to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah for the High Holidays—or throughout the year—without putting a strain on your finances.

A feature story on unique ways to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
An expert examines the significance of the first "talkie"—which happens to have an intimate High Holy Days connection—for the film industry and American Judaism.
Can it be the shofar that put the “rock” in rock ‘n’ roll? By tracing the historical evolution of Temple music, a deep link emerges between your local High Holy Day services and the musical acts that light up the stage today.
Exclusive JNS interviews with notable Jews from all walks of life, who reflect on their past, present and future.