In a world marked by differences, one common thread binds us together: the desire to belong, to be part of something greater than ourselves. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, embodies this yearning for connection, reflection, and renewal.
Laura and her husband Yitz have been supporting ‘E’ for 7 years, first as foster carers and now as Shared Lives carers. We caught up with them to find out what Rosh Hashanah means in their Orthodox Jewish household.
“Rosh Hashanah, often misunderstood as a simple New Year’s celebration, holds a deeper significance for us. It’s a time for reflection and to seek forgiveness from G-d. We approach this period with a sense of solemnity and reverence.
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of ten days leading up to Yom Kippur, and one of the central themes of Rosh Hashanah is the plea to G-d to inscribe one’s name in the Book of Life for the coming year.
During Rosh Hashanah, extra prayers are offered, and the shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown a hundred times, each sound symbolising a different aspect of the occasion. It’s a call to awaken, to introspect, and to reconnect with one’s faith.
E has been fully immersing herself in the preparations for Rosh Hashanah, crafting cards with sewn motifs of honey, and baking delicious biscuits. Sweet foods and honey are a symbol of our hope for a sweet year. Traditional Rosh Hashanah food includes honey cake, and apple dipped in honey. Even the challah (bread) which is normally dipped in salt on the Sabbath table is dipped in honey.”
There are certain restrictions on activities during Rosh Hashanah, as there are on the Sabbath, since it is a time of reflection and observance. These restrictions, often referred to as “Yom Tov” or “Good Day” restrictions, include refraining from work, and not using electronic devices.
“E has a good relationship with her Mum and sister, but she won’t be able to speak to them during Rosh Hashanah because they live in London. However, she has already planned to call them in advance to wish them Shanah Tovah (which means ‘good year’).
E is one of more than 30 children that came to us through fostering, and almost all of the children that we looked after were Jewish. It’s not that we wouldn’t foster children from other backgrounds, it’s an acknowledgement that as orthodox Jews our lives can be very different. That cultural match is so important for everyone, for us and for the people we support.”
Being apart from family is something that Laura understands as much of her family lives in Israel. They recently returned from a visit to there where they celebrated the bar mitzvahs of Laura’s twin great nephews.
“This was E’s second visit to Israel with us, and we felt it was important for her to understand that it wasn’t just a holiday to another country, but somewhere that was part of our history, and a special place for Jews.
At the Western Wall, E offered her prayers, becoming part of a tradition that spans generations.”
“Rosh Hashanah is a time to try to improve ourselves, much like New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also a period of reflection. You have to want to be a better person because you aren’t just making a commitment to yourself, you’re making a commitment to G-d. There can be a real sense of relief after Yom Kippur when the slate is wiped clean, and the promise of renewal hangs in the air. That’s when you can finally look forward to the year ahead with hope and anticipation.”
Laura and Yitz support E through Persona Care and Support Shared Lives in Bury