October 3, 2022

Celebrating the High Holidays


Episode Highlights

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Robyn and Emily sit down to discuss the Jewish High Holidays. They’ll cover what the holidays are, share some of their holiday traditions, and discuss how you can support your employees and colleagues that are observing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Episode Transcript

So hi! Robyn here from Hirewell the DEI sourcing and ops lead. Here today with Emily to chat. Hi Emily. Hey, how’s it going, Robyn? Going good. Chag Same’ach. Chag Same’ach! I am really excited to be here. I know we’ve chatted about some similar topics before, but honored to be kind of your first in this series. But I guess tell the people too, what the series is so they know what they’re tuning in for.

Yeah. Jumped right ahead. I was like, let’s get into it. We’re sliding right into it. What we’re doing. No, we are going to be talking today about holidays. So we’re- Hirewell we’re going to have a few episodes of this where we talk about various holidays and Emily and I have graciously volunteered to specifically talk about the Jewish holidays, specifically the high holidays. Which as we are recording, starts next week and we’re very excited about it.

It’s the most important holiest days of the year. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that. So we’re just going to kind of go over a few things about the high holidays, how we celebrate, and what they’re all about and how to observe if you so choose or how to support people who observe. Yeah, I think that’s- I’m excited to talk about it.

I know every single year, like we always ping each other, before the high holidays, saying Chag Same’ach and how are you celebrating? So I guess firstly, we can kind of just start with like what the high holidays are. So we are both Jewish and we celebrate the high holidays. I can’t give you exact dates every year.

I think that’s confusing for some people. Yeah, Jewish holidays, we operate on the Hebrew calendar. So usually in the fall, I guess we could say. And it starts with Rosh Hashanah. Rosh actually meets head in Hebrew and the direct translation is head of the year. And it’s basically the Jewish New Year. Just like we would all celebrate on December 31st, January 1st.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. Yeah. Yeah. I actually did not know that Rosh means head so I- surprise. I’m here to drop all the knowledge. Oh, I love it. Like, I love it. I feel like we have like Venn diagrams of knowledge because I have like subs obscure knowledge, but I don’t know basic Hebrew.

It’s pretty great. We all have something wonderful to add. We do. It’s a lovely borsch of buttons of- borsch. Well, I’m curious too and we can start, we’ll get into like Yom Kippur after. Yom Kippur is kind of the second high holiday in our major festivals.

But I guess let’s start with Rosh Hashanah. So New Year, right? How do you celebrate Rosh Hashanah? So Rosh Hashanah, it’s because it’s so close to Thanksgiving, I rarely get to go home for it in recent years. But I’m very excited because this year I’m going to be spending it with my cousin. But when I’m with my family we always roast a chicken.

It’s always chicken. Yes. And then honey apples, of course, for Sweet New Year. And my aunt always makes the round hollow loaves for us. She’s always doing it and she always makes the cinnamon and raisin one for me to take back. Like when I was in college, she’d always give me one to take back to the dorm and everything.

What an aunt. The best aunt. And yeah, it’s so funny. I feel like so much of Judaism is just like about tradition and about food. Like I know for me, like you mentioned apples and honey, that’s like a very traditional thing for people to eat on Rosh Hashanah. It’s supposed to signify like a sweet New Year. I remember growing up and singing like apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah.

So yeah. Apples and honey for the sweet New Year. Whether or not you’re celebrating, you can definitely partake in that. That’s a fun tradition. We also, my family’s really big on Kugel. And Kugel is like a very Jewish dish. And every single time I bring it to other people, they’re like, what?

Yeah. And it sounds so gross when you describe it, but it is- oh my god. There’s literally nothing better. Are you not- do you not like it? Are you about to? No, I’m just remembering one time a friend made it for a holiday party that I was throwing because she like searched Jewish recipes and she called it a “sweet lasagna” is what she called it.

Honestly, it is. It’s literally like a sweet noodle casserole, but it’s made with like egg noodles. It’s honestly delicious. Like do not knock it until you try it. It’s so good. I know. And I know- I think too, it’s so nice to hear about your traditions and the way that you celebrate. But I think that’s what’s cool is there’s so many different ways

to celebrate. Yeah. And I also love that without thinking I led with food because I’m so, I’m always so excited for that because it’s not something that you get to have all the time. Exactly. But the particular way that my mom would roast chicken for this holiday is like that thing that I think of whenever I’m sad and I like, I remember the first time I tried to roast a chicken and I did not have any carving knives.

And I had like my sad Chicago apartment that like I was essentially living as if I was a frat boy. Like no bed frame, mattress on- just like mattress on the ground. Perfect. Yeah. And I roasted a full chicken for Rosh Hashanah and I tried to eat it with my roommate and we had no- we had no idea how to carp the chicken.

None at all. But we get by. That’s fun. It’s so much about tradition. We do brisket, chicken too, always great. But yeah, brisket, Kugel and of course apples and honey for that sweet New year. And that’s what’s cool. And I think I always like to share, you know, I think what’s cool about us sharing about these holidays is it’s kind of cool opportunity for number one, like people just to learn what they are if they’re not familiar.

But two, like you mentioned, learn how to support other people who are celebrating. And three, potentially like take part in some traditions, even if something isn’t within your religion. So I guess I can kind of explain the next portion and kind of the purpose of the high holidays. So there’s 10 days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And these are called the 10 Days of Atonement.

And it’s within that time that you’re supposed to be thinking about anybody that you’ve wronged in the year. Anybody that you know, maybe you just weren’t your best self to. Any, I guess, like sins you’ve committed, just mistakes you’ve made, potentially things that you just want to make right on. And you have those 10 days to reach out to those people to apologize, to basically just reflect on yourself and reflect on the past year.

And the thing is like I guess in the Torah, on Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. So you have those 10 days to like do that reflection, to reach out to anybody that you’ve potentially harmed and want to apologize to. And then we fast on Yom Kippur. Yeah. So if you’ve ever, you know, annual, you have maybe some Jewish people that you work with or that you know and they’re maybe a little grumpy on Yom Kippur,

it’s because we’re hungry. And it’s not supposed to be enjoyable, right? Like you’re atoning for your sins. And we fast and then we break the fast. So the fast starts sun down the night before and it ends at sundown on Yom Kippur. Yeah. And break the fast with a blast. I honestly love breaking the fast.

Like you’re just so hungry that you’re eating everything, but it’s like traditionally breakfast food for us. Bagels, Lox, Kugel again, because you can’t have enough Kugel. I will admit my family, like my immediate family is like really bad at fasting. It’s hard. So we don’t, we never were really particularly great at fasting, but like we always tried our best to fast. And that’s when he had the brisket because it’s slow cooked over the course of the day and you can’t eat it.

So that’s when, like if we were doing Yom Kippur together, that’s something we might have done. But usually we kind of just like end up eating whatever’s in the kitchen as soon as we get home from like the last services. That’s our usual thing. It’s just like okay, it’s over. We’re done.

Like it’s fine. Totally. And growing up we did so like, I and my family sold at services. I think it was challenging. You know, I lived in Chicago, my whole family is in LA. Kind of like finding a new community because I think a lot of people will spend all the high holidays in services from the morning to the evening.

It almost makes it easier for Yom Kippur because you’re not, like, you literally can’t eat. You’re not like sneaking snacks into the temple- unless you are, in which case, that’s savage. Nice move. But yeah. I think it’s interesting too because I think- you know I was saying before, it’s interesting to learn about different religions and figure out ways that you could potentially like support others in their celebration of these holidays. But also like I don’t know.

I’ve always shared what I’m doing around this time and my friends have kind of found it interesting and have maybe they decide they- don’t decide they’re going to fast with me. But maybe they decide like, “Hey, this year I’m going to reflect on my sins with you too” and use it as a cool opportunity to like, “Hey, what did I do last year that maybe wasn’t the best?

Like how can I improve myself? How can I reach out to people that maybe I’ve wronged?” And it’s a really cool opportunity, like whether or not you’re Jewish. I just don’t think that we pause enough in life and like reflect and reevaluate like where we are and things that we’ve done and decisions that we’ve made and how relationships are.

So I don’t know. I think Jewish or not or like whether or not you’re even celebrating the high holidays I think it’s kind of a cool opportunity to celebrate a New Year and a fresh start in the middle of the fall. Yeah. And I always think that the beginning of the fall is always a good time to kind of think about things.

I always think about the casting of the sins whenever I’m like doing- like that’s the time that I usually will think the hardest on things. I forget what the Hebrew name for it is, but we throw bits of bread into a body of water and think about, you know, go through all the different sins we have committed. Yeah.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s part of the process, part of the services and it’s always the part that I like the most. For one, you get to stand outside for a little bit and it’s always a nice, beautiful fall day whenever you’re out there and it’s like a moment to kinda be in nature, think about things and like- totally.

Uh, it’s always really great. I think that’s awesome. And I think we’re- I think we’re lucky. Like I think people set goals and resolutions sometimes like once a year, right? It’s January 1st. We’re setting those goals. So it’s just so nice to have- our lives move so quickly and there’s always so much going on that there’s not always enough time to like pause and reflect and set new goals.

It’s kind of a nice opportunity to have another, just another point in the year where you’re going to like, “Hey, I’m going to pause. I’m going to reflect how did this year go? How can I be better? What goals do I want to set?” I remember in a sermon once, like a Rabbi was talking about, we do this every year. We do this every year.

We apologize for our sins and then we commit sins again. Right? But it’s because we’re human. And I think like it’s just a good reminder to people that it’s all about progress. It’s not about like, “Hey, next year we’re going to be this like perfect thing and we’re not going to have to apologize for anything”. I just think it’s a good reminder also that it’s just, it’s all about progress.

It’s all about reflecting. It’s all about just like trying to better yourself, even knowing like you’re human and you’re going to continue to make mistakes. Right. So I think it’s cool and if anyone ever, you know, wants to learn more, ask more questions about it, we’re not experts, but 30 some odd years of celebrating and always, always happy to chat about it.

I’m curious too, what you think just because we’ve talked about this in the past with like current employers and previous employers, just about like how potentially, we’re obviously looking at this through a work lens slightly, right? Like how people in the workplace can support those who are celebrating the high holidays.

I mean, so we’ve talked before about the importance of managers supporting their employees when they want to take the time off. Mm-hmm. I don’t know about you, but I’m traveling to see my cousin for the day, so for Rosh Hashanah. So I’m going, Yeah. Did you say you’re coming to the West Coast?

I think you told me. Yeah. Yeah. A little bit different zone. I’m going up to Seattle. Seattle, yeah. Yeah. So we’re going a little north, but we are the two outliers who never get to go back to our hometown. But you’ve united. Yeah. Yeah. I’m like- I’m going to let, she’s going to cook a chicken in honey and apples.

And I was like, What? Okay. I am on board. But our grandmother actually passed away the day after Rosh Hashanah. So to us, we also have- it’s, we always joke that she wouldn’t want us to mourn for very long because if you pass away during the high holidays, your morning period gets shortened because of- it was exactly how

she wanted. Yeah. So she- we always, you know, that’s one of the things that we talk about. So we’re going to spend those days together and I’m very excited about it. Making sure

you know that like you’re like supporting people if they’re taking the day off. Mm-hmm. If somebody needs to take Yom Kippur off, because they become like the absolute meanest person ever when they fast and they’re just like not nice to anybody. Just making sure that you’re not saying like “Have a happy Yom Kippur” take a second to Google what you should say, which is “Have an easy fast”.

Yeah. And we can help you with that here too. So in terms of like supporting friends or coworkers who are celebrating the high holidays, so you can say, I mean there’s many ways to say it, Shanah Tovah, or L’shanah tovah which means Happy New Year. Yeah. For Rosh Hashanah, you can always say Chag same’ach. That really applies to any Jewish holiday.

It’s basically just like true, a celebratory like happy celebration type of situation. Yeah. And then G’mar Tov. G’mar Tov means has an, basically have an easy fast for Yom Kippur. And yeah, I think it’s hugely important. Number one, if you say like, “Happy Yom Kippur” I’d be so appreciative, right?

Like yes, of course take the time try to learn like what to say. But I think- I think it’s all about effort. Like it’s so nice for it to be acknowledged. I know we talked in our last video just about like how much of a minority Jews are. So I think it just feels really, really cool. Like we get like a week off of work around Christmas and we get a week off.

You know, we get days off of work for Easter and things like that. So it really just feels nice when things are acknowledged, at least for me. So I think if anyone’s watching this and wondering how you can support friends or support a direct report or just a colleague, any employee working for you, how you can support them during these holidays.

Like one, I just think acknowledge it. That would be so nice. Just acknowledge it. And then like you said, supporting any time off that they need. Yeah, I mean those are kind of the main ones that I can think of. You don’t- you know, if you want send me a roasted chicken or brisket or apples and honey, great.

I’ll give you my address, but I think like you said, it’s just acknowledging it. And if you want to take part in just some of the practices we’re always happy to share more and you can learn more about how you can participate. Yeah. Yeah. It’s always interesting to see all the round challahs for the year too.

So for the new year. So I love it. Yeah. Well many, many more holidays and not just Jewish holidays. I’m excited to see like what else your series has to bring. I know Rosh Hashanah starts, it’s this Sunday night. I think it’s Sunday to Monday. And then again the 10 Days of Atonement.

I love it. Well no, I think that’s the point. You can celebrate no matter what. And like you say, whether you’re saying like G’mar Tov or have an easy fast, like it all means just as much. Yep. Yeah. Well thanks for having me on your series.

I’m always happy to- I know we always joke we’re like nerding out over these topics, but it is fun to talk about. Like we said, we always appreciate when people want to learn more and to support the celebration in any way. So, appreciate you having me on. Thanks for being happy to talk.

It’s always fun to talk to you about this stuff. It’s always nice to see how the differences in celebration between us. I love it. Like you said, it’s that Venn diagram. There’s so many commonalities. And then like we said, I think a lot of Judaism and a lot of religion in general, just about tradition and it’s really cool hearing about how different people and different families create their own traditions.

Yeah. Yeah. I love it. I love it. Well, we’ll chat more soon. I’ll be back I’m sure. Yeah, definitely. Amazing. Well Chag Sameach. Thank you for joining, if you’re watching. And we’ll see you all soon.

See you soon. Alright. Bye.

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