I am passionate about renewing the festivals that are important to us so that we celebrate them in a way that is authentic to our unique family values and culture. I have noticed that there are many guides and articles about how Waldorf-inspired families celebrate Christian and/or Pagan festivals but very few about how others mindfully celebrate their family’s festivals and I want to change that.
It is my hope that this journal entry and many more to come will inspire others with similar belief systems to renew, recreate and celebrate this festival in their own way. I also believe it is vital that those who don’t share the same spiritual heritage acknowledge and witness the beauty and goodness in others’ traditions. There is so much to learn and enjoy about our diversity.
This Journal entry is in interview style. Jeanine Levine who writes at A Brooklyn Homeschool was generous enough to share how she and her family celebrate Yom Kippur together in New York City each year. Thank you Jeanine.
In your words, what is Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for religious Jews, a day to forgive and be forgiven.
What does Yom Kippur symbolize and mean to you and your family?
Yom Kippur, similar to Rosh Hashanah means a quiet day to spend with family. Yom Kippur begins with a festive meal, makes space for fasting for those who choose to do so and ends with a much anticipated second festive meal. In our family this second festive meal is not one associated with traditional Jewish foods such as bagels, like most Jewish families. Instead we order takeout from our favorite local pizza restaurant and relish in the delicious and familiar flavors! The hungriest member of the family will pass around the menu for everyone to make their selections and we all impatiently await for the pizza to arrive!
Can you draw a parallel between this festival and the natural world around us? Is there a connection between what is happening seasonally and what this festival symbolizes?
This holiday falls one week after Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah it is said that the “Book of Life” is written and on Yom Kippur it is said that that book is sealed. To me this means that on Rosh Hashanah you can reflect on the path of your life and use the time between the holidays to begin your new path. The famous Jewish scholar, Rabbi Hillel is quoted as saying, “If not now, then when?” Religious or not, this is something that anyone can benefit from considering. The timing of Yom Kippur, at the beginning for the new fall season and often the beginning of a new school year is a great time for this reflection and planning.
What beliefs/virtues/values do you hope to bring to light by honouring this tradition?
We hope to honor our Jewish history and culture by abstaining from work and spending time with family at home.
How do you set the scene for Yom Kippur? Is there anything you do in advance before the first day to mark or model that this time is coming? (Decor? Creating a small scene on a table?)
Similar to Rosh Hashanah I will prepare my young children to dress up if we are going to synagogue on this holiday, one of only a few days of the year they do not have full control of their outfit choice. This may sound silly, but the last thing anyone wants is a power struggle the morning of an important holiday! I learned this lesson the hard way!
How do you prepare the day before Yom Kippur? (Food? Decor? Rituals?)
The night before Yom Kippur we light candles and eat a large festive meal. At this time it is traditional to eat one of my favorite dishes called kreplach. These can best be described as Jewish dumplings!
Are there any elements of this tradition that are for adults only?
It is traditional for healthy people over the age of 12 for girls and 13 for boys to fast on Yom Kippur, abstaining from all food and drink for 24 hours.
How are children involved during Yom Kippur? What do they look forward to the most?
Children enjoy hearing the blast of the shofar, or ram’s horn, if they attend synagogue. In our family, we always choose a movie to watch together on this holiday and try to choose something family members of all ages can enjoy. Movie time is a treat in our family so this makes it more special. It is fun to come up with suggestions and hope people agree with your choice!
Anything else you would like to share about celebrating Yom Kippur with your young children?
Although this is a solemn holiday that can be very difficult if you choose to fast, it nonetheless can be a wonderful time to make meaningful connections with family.
Simple Preparations for Yom Kippur was shared by Jeanine, homeschooling mom to Ethan (5.5 years old) and Lillian (4 years old). You can find her at abrooklynhomeschool.com or on Instagram @abrooklynhomeschool