Rosh Hashanah in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Celebrating the New Year in September

Kids learning to blow a shofar. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

The first of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, falls this year at the end of September. Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar. According to ancient texts, Rosh Hashanah marks the “birthday of the world” or the anniversary of creation.

If you grew up Jewish, as I did, you might remember that the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are big synagogue holidays. In many synagogues, there are two days of services that often run from early morning until mid-afternoon. Synagogue marathons really don’t work for me and my family; consequently, as I’ve tried to strike a balance  – spending a limited amount of quality time in synagogue, while also finding other meaningful and enjoyable ways to celebrate the high holidays, both indoors and out.

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah


One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples. (Here’s a link to my mother’s Jewish apple cake, which is on the menu every single year.)


Another symbol of the holiday is a shofar, a musical instrument made form a ram’s horn. The shofar is sounded in synagogue, but my kids love to try to blow the shofar on their own. We often forgo synagogue on the second day of the holiday in favor of a hike and a picnic. We take a shofar along and I let my kids blow it as often as they like (at least when no one else is around – it tends to sound like a dead seal in their hands.) Did you know you can buy a shofar on Amazon? They really do sell everything. This slightly silly but terrifically informative video shows how to blow the shofar.


Tashlich is a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of the holiday. The ritual involves tossing bread crumbs into a body of water to represent casting off one’s mistakes from the past year. While most synagogues organize a group tashlich gathering, it can be especially meaningful to do with your family or in a small group at a favorite watering hole. A lovely book, Tashlich at Turtle Rock, tells the story of one family taking part in their own, homemade tashlich service.

Almost every Jewish holiday includes one or more festive meals. Jewish communities all over the world have developed their own unique traditional foods, all symbolizing hopes for the upcoming year, ranging from pomegranates, to seven-vegetable couscous, to, well, the head of an animal. Here’s an article describing these traditional in detail, recipes included.

As promised last month, here’s a link to my very favorite challah recipe, from the wonderful blog, Smitten Kitchen. While most of the year, challah is prepared in a long braid, it is a Rosh Hashnah tradition to make round challahs, representing the cycle of renewal.

And now, the listings for September. I’ve divided the listings into two categories, Rosh Hashanah related events and Shabbat/Sabbath Events. But first, an event that doesn’t fit into either category (but sounds like a lot of fun!):

  • Saturday, Sept 10, from 7 -10pm in Pelham, MA.
    Come dance the night away at the Pelham Library with the Jewish dance band Klezamir to support the Pelham Library. Klezamir’s mix of traditional Jewish favorites and  classic rock ‘n’ roll will delight all tastes and all ages. Enjoy easy Jewish dance instruction plus seasonal snacks including apples, honey and challah. ($)
    Pelham Library, 2 S. Valley Rd., Pelham, MA 413-253-065

Rosh Hashanah Events and Programs (Open to All Families)

Sunday, Sept 11th at 10:30am
Apple Picking with the PJ Library
Easy Pickin’s Orchard, 46 Bailey Street, Enfield, CT.
The Orchard has dwarf trees which are makes apple picking much easier for kids. Share stories and songs as well as a snack of apples and honey. RSVP to Rachel, by Sept. 9th. There is no charge to attend the program but families can purchase the apples that they pick.

Sunday, Sept 18th
Chabad House
30 North Hadley Road. Amherst, MA.
A hands-on educational adventure that will give families lots of insights into the upcoming holiday season. Highlights include shofar making, a music workshop, Rosh Hashanah crafts, storytelling, dramatic play, holiday baking and more! This program is free. Call for time: 413-549-8749.

Sunday, Sept 18th from 3:30-5pm
Apple Picking Trip with Beit Ahavah
Outlook Farm, Route 66, Westhampton, MA.
Apple-picking for Rosh Hashanah with crafts & games, New Year singing, and make your own honey-dipper! The program is free, but families need to purchase the apples they pick. Please RSVP to Jen Gottlieb,

Thursday, Sept 29th
9:15am: Rosh Hashanah Family Service led by Anna Sobel
11am-12Noon: Teen Discussion
Beit Ahavah, 140 Pine Street, Florence, MA. 413-587-4365

Thursday, Sept 29th at 3pm
Tashlich at Mill River with Beit Ahavah
60 Federal Street Entrance, Northampton, MA. 413-587-4365

Thursday, Sept 29th from 11:30am-12:30pm
Family service for families with children in primary school and younger, no tickets are necessary.
Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main Street, Amherst, MA. 413-256-0160

Thursday, Sept 29th
Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad St., Pittsfield, MA. 413-442-5910
9am: Rosh Hashanah Family Service followed by the Congregational Service at 10:30am. Tickets are required for some services and are available through the Temple office.

Thursday, Sept 29th
Congregation Bnai Israel, 253 Prospect St., Northampton, MA. 413-584-6622
10am: Tot program led by yours truly, Amy Meltzer. Stories, songs and creative movement followed by apples and honey.
11am: Family service for grade school children and their parent, followed by apples and honey.

Friday, Sept 30th
Congregation Bnai Israel, 253 Prospect St., Northampton, MA. 413-584-6622
10am: Tot program, once again led by me, Amy Meltzer. Songs, stories and a craft activity followed by apples and honey.
11am: Junior Congregation service for grade school children. Followed by apples and honey.
4pm: Tashlich at Mill River in Northampton (60 Federal Street Entrance)

Friday, Sept 30th at 10am
Notch Visitor’s Center in Amherst, MA (Route 116 where there is construction near Atkins market, so plan accordingly)
Jewish Community of Amherst sponsored Mountain Service and Hike (weather permitting). Wear hiking shoes for this short but rigorous uphill climb – best for children 6 years old+/younger children may need to be carried. Adults may want to use a walking stick. Shofar blast and service at the top.

Shabbat Events and Programs (Open to All Families)

Rekindle Shabbat: Jewish and interfaith families in the Pioneer Valley with school-age children are invited to receive two free kosher catered Shabbat dinners to share with one or more other families. Learn more and register at the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts website.

Friday, Sept 9th at 6pm in Northampton
All-ages Shabbat service followed by a vegetarian, potluck dinner in the synagogue garden.
Congregation Bnai Israel, 253 Prospect St., Northampton, MA 413-584-6622

Friday, Sept 9th in Amherst
Shabbat Services and Potluck: an intergenerational service for families with children 7 years and older, and a Tot Shabbat for families with children 6 years old and younger. A vegetarian, nut free potluck follows services. Call for time: 413-256-0160
Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main Street, Amherst, MA.

Friday, Sept 9th from 6-7:30pm in Florence
Tot Shabbat, led by inspiring Gan Keshet Jewish preschool teacher Peggy Walker with Rabbi Riqi, followed by a healthy Kids’ Kiddush.
Beit Ahavah 140 Pine Street Florence, MA. 413-587-4365

Saturday, Sept 10th at 11am in Northampton
Tot Shabbat: Shabbat celebration through song, stories, and dance for Families with children 3-5 years old
Congregation Bnai Israel, 253 Prospect St., Northampton, MA 413-584-66222

Sunday, Sept 11th from 10am-12Noon in Amherst
Shalom Sunday Play & Learn Group Starting Sunday morning for ages 4-6.
Shalom Sunday meets once a month from 10am-12 noon and is led by veteran teacher, Melissa Zeitz. Pre-registration and small fee for the year is required. Contact Eric at 413-256-0160 or
Jewish Community of Amherst, 742 Main Street, Amherst, MA. 413-256-0160

Saturday, Sept 17th at 11am in Northampton
CBI Family Minyan: Creative interactive service for families Grade school children grades 1- and their parents.
Congregation Bnai Israel, 253 Prospect St., Northampton, MA 413-584-662


Amy Meltzer

Amy is a Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA, and the author of two children’s books, A Mezuzah on the Door, and The Shabbat Princess. She writes the blog Homeshuling for Beliefnet, and a monthly column for the Jewish parenting site Amy lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and two daughters.

5 Comments on “Rosh Hashanah in Western MA

  1. Thank you, Sam. Please encourage your Rabbi and Ed director to send me their listings each month (I e-mail them both each month to request their info!)

  2. and at Congregation Beth El in Bennington, Vermont

    Friday, September 23rd: Selichot Services 8-9pm

    Wednesday, September 28th: Erev Rosh Hashanah 7:00pm

    Thursday, September 29th: Rosh Hashanah – Day One
    Main Services 10:00 –1:00pm
    Younger Children (ages 5-8) 10:00-11:00am
    Older Children (ages 9-12) 11:00-12:00pm
    Childcare will be provided the entire morning

    Friday, September 30th: Rosh Hashanah – Day Two
    Main Services 10:00-12:30pm
    Tashlich immediately following kiddush

  3. Great posts! I was so happy to find this.
    Just to add to available events in western Mass., Temple Israel in Greenfield also is very family-friendly and has High Holiday services and vegetarian meal on the first full day of Rosh Hashanah. Newcomers are always welcome to Saturday services as well, with a friendly kiddish after.
    Their website is:

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