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How Jewish families will celebrate their first festival since restrictions ended

Jewish communities across Greater Manchester will be celebrating the high holidays in the coming weeks – and this year, they can celebrate together.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins on Monday night (September 6).

The festival is followed by fast days, including Yom Kippur which starts on September 15, and further celebrations throughout the month of Tishrei.

Families and friends come together to celebrate at this time of year, and many congregate in synagogues to hear the blowing of the shofar – a musical horn.

However, the festivals will feel different this year with social restrictions lifted.

Last year, while much of the country was limited to ‘the rule of six’, households in Greater Manchester and other areas were forbidden from mixing indoors.

Restrictions remained during Hanukkah – the festival of light – in December.

And in March, Jewish people celebrated Passover under lockdown for a second year in a row, stopping families coming together on seder night.

But with all social restrictions lifted since the summer, Jewish families can finally get together again for Rosh Hashanah and the high holidays this year.

How do Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the high holidays?

Festivals and fast days are observed throughout the holy month of Tishrei which starts with Rosh Hashanah – which literally means ‘head of the year’.

The Rosh Hashanah celebration, which lasts two days, starts at sundown on Monday, September 6, and ends at nightfall on Wednesday, September 8.

Families and friends typically come together to celebrate with a meal on both nights which is preceded by a ceremony involving prayers and special foods.

Apples are dipped in honey to mark a sweet and fruitful new year and pomegranates, honey cake and round challah bread are also eaten.

The first day of Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of ten holy days known as the high holidays – or the high holy days – which is a time of repentance for Jews.

Throughout this time of year, many congregate in synagogues to worship, particularly on Rosh Hashana and on the tenth day – the fast of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, involves a 25-hour fast starting at sundown on Wednesday, September 15 until nightfall on Thursday, September 16.

In synagogue, the blowing of the shofar – a ram’s horn – must be heard by congregants at the new year service as well as at the end of Yom Kippur.

How do you wish someone Happy New Year?

At Rosh Hashana, Jewish people say ‘shanah tova’, which means ‘good year’, or ‘shanah tovah u’metukah‘, which is Hebrew for ‘a good and sweet new year’.

According to the Hebrew calendar, which is based on both the moon and the sun, each new day starts at sundown and this new year will be 5782.

In his new year greetings, President of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region Russell Conn urged caution in the community.

He said: “This year like last, Covid is still swirling around the community and it is vital we remain vigilant.

“Wear masks where appropriate, especially in closely confined spaces, and social distance to at least one metre with people not in your household.

“We all hope we are inscribed for a sweet, healthy, happy and successful 5782 and the coming year should see life return to a more normal level.

“On behalf of the President, Chair, Officers and Executive of the Jewish Representative Council, we wish the Jewish Community a shana tovah um’tukah.”

Salford mayor Paul Dennett said: “I wish everyone celebrating Rosh Hashana a shanah tovah and I hope the year ahead is filled with health and happiness for everyone.

“Enjoy your celebrations, but please do take care as Covid-19 has not gone away.

“Good hand hygiene and wearing a face covering in enclosed public spaces with people you don’t regularly come into contact with are still important to help suppress the virus and keep us all well.”

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