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High Holidays

“Is such the fast I desire, A day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush And lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Susannah R. Cohen

After decades of celebrating Rosh HaShanah, I learned something new this year: The holiday is riddled with Hebrew puns, particularly those involving goodies like beets and dates. 

Jan Zauzmer
Doors of a polling station

The High Holidays invite us to initiate both personal and communal change.

Jenna Galper

Each day in this country, we are faced with harrowing truths about how our criminal justice system operates.

Jacob Kraus
shofar leaning on tallit

When Winter Storm Jonas hit D.C. in January, we were eagerly looking forward to the balmy, humid temperatures of the D.C. summer.

Sarah Greenberg

I enjoyed many trips to Nats Park this summer to watch the Washington Nationals play. .

Shira M. Zemel

As Jews all over the world observed the atonement rituals of Yom Kippur this week, I decided to dedicate my fast to the

When I left for college my freshman year, I was nervous about exploring a new Jewish community. However, I immediately felt at home as I walked into my university’s Hillel’s Conservative Friday night services and saw the Siddur Sim Shalom, the prayer book that I had grown up with. The siddur offered me a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise completely new setting.

Our tradition teaches us that on Rosh Hashanah, each person is judged based on their actions of the past year and on Yom Kippur, after an opportunity to reflect and repent, that judgment is sealed for the next year. Therefore, during the High Holiday season, Jews reflect on the year that has passed, confess our sins, make amends with each other and seek forgiveness from God. Our Yom Kippur service will focus on the themes of our personal repentance, confessions and sins. Yet this Yom Kippur, while we pray, fast and seek to be inscribed in the book of life, I encourage you to also reflect on our criminal justice system and the ways in which we allow those convicted of crimes to reflect, repent, and seek forgiveness.  

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, we fast as an opportunity to reflect on the year past and turn to the future. The Torah instructs the Jewish people that "the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial."(Leviticus 23:27). The fast begins with the Kol Nidre evening service through the shofar’s final Tekiah Gedolah blast at the close of the Yom Kippur afternoon service. This is one way by which Jews around the world look inward and focus on t’shuvah (repentance) and t’fillah (prayer).

Yet, there are many in this country who do not have the luxury of being able to choose when they will or will not choose to eat. 46.2 million Americans live in poverty and 47 million Americans, or 15% of the population, receive SNAP benefits.According to 2013 data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food in 2013. 15.8 million children struggled with food insecurity issues in the past year. Additionally, 50% of U.S children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before they reach the age of 20. Hunger is still taking place on a massive scale, both in the United States and around the world.