How to Lead a Kick-Ass Rosh Hashanah


Years ago, I created an at-home Rosh Hashanah guide/playbook to add more meaning to the holiday. Even though I attend services, these readings really blew up my Rosh Hashanah celebration and made it, well… kick-ass. So, I named the tradition Kick-Ass Rosh Hashanah (KARH for short), and I’m thrilled to share it with you. Enjoy!

Here are the seven key components to prepare:


Review the Service

Take some time to review the KARH materials, and think about how they will work best at your house – especially the part about Tashlich (p. 7), the symbolic ritual of throwing one’s sins into running water. Ideally, this would be a river, but it’s perfectly OK to use your kitchen sink, and it’s a especially meaningful part of the day. You’ll see that there are various readings in the service, and you may want to assign these in advance, as well as have a game plan for who will lead the responsive readings. You can also decide to cut some of the readings or add your own. Remember – it’s your family and friends and your celebration!


Send the Homework in Advance

Trust me, the homework is often the most personal and thought-provoking part of the celebration for guests, even though some of them may be a little hesitant at first. Don’t skip it; just email the assignment to your guests two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, and explain that you are adding something new to this year’s celebration. Then, send it again three days before Rosh Hashanah to anyone who needs a gentle reminder. Tell them in the nicest of ways to bring their homework with them. Some people will forget anyway or will simply choose not to do it; don’t take it personally.


Make Kick-Ass Copies

Provide printed copies of the KARH to every guest, just as you would with the Haggadah on Passover. Also make a few copies of the homework assignment for those guests who have skipped the homework assignment (see Step 2).


Feed Your Hungry Guests

People who attend synagogue services are not always in control of when they get to your house, so they may be late, and some of your guests will show up very hungry. Put out lots of snacks, appetizers and drinks – a perfect occasion for an appletini – so people will not be ravenous and crabby. The plan that works best at my house is: 1. Have appetizers and drinks ready as soon as people get there. 2. Gather everyone together to do KARH. 3. Eat your meal.


Sit for KARH

In my home, we have done the KARH on the porch, in the living room and around the dining room table. All of them work great. Just try to find a space where everyone can sit and see and hear one another. And make sure everyone has a chair.


Be a Kick-Ass Leader

Don’t be freaked out if people don’t dive right in when you start the KARH. But set an inviting tone, and stick with it. I promise that your guests will enjoy it tremendously.


Participation is Key!

Most people love to share. Some of them have been sitting in synagogue being talked at all morning. The KARH is made to be read out loud by each of the participants. Make sure you take turns and have everyone, at the beginning especially, read one paragraph each, just like the Passover Seder.

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