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Celebrating Yom Kippur in the Early Years

15th – 16th September 2021

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur (translated as “The Day of Atonement”) is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is observed on the 10th day of the Jewish calendar month, Tishri, and usually happens around September or October. In 2021, Yom Kippur will start on the evening of Wednesday the 15th and end on the evening of Thursday the 16th of September.

Jewish people believe that, on the 10th day of Tishri, the prophet Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of the Ten Commandments, written on stone tablets. The Jewish people had sinned by worshipping a golden calf idol instead of God, but Moses told them they were forgiven. Yom Kippur celebrates this event.

The day comes 10 days after the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of Jewish New Year. The first 10 days of Rosh Hashanah are called the Days of Awe. The start of this is marked by the sound of a Shofar, an instrument made out of a ram’s horn.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

What happens during Yom Kippur?

Jewish people observe Yom Kippur by reflecting on the past year and the things they have done wrong, before asking God for forgiveness. They fast from all food and drink for 25 hours, with exceptions made for children under the age of 13, pregnant people and anyone with a medical condition that may be affected by this.

Asking for forgiveness on Yom Kippur is more significant to Jewish people than on other days, as they believe that it is on this day that God decides what the next year will be like. God opens up the Book of Life on Yom Kippur and records His judgement on the Jewish people; those that have properly said sorry for things they have done wrong will have a good year ahead of them.

Spending time at the Synagogue is also very important on Yom Kippur. On the day there are five special services, and people will attend these and spend the day praying for forgiveness. The final service, called Neilah, is when God makes His judgement on what the next year will be.

At the end of Yom Kippur, the Shofar is sounded one final time.

How to celebrate Yom Kippur with your early years children:

  1. Saying sorry. Obviously, we always encourage the children in our settings to apologise when they’ve done something wrong, but it can be a good exercise in self-reflection to have children think about their past year and what they are sorry about. If there have been disputes between friends or someone has been particularly cheeky to a practitioner in the past, they might want to say sorry.
  2. Giving something up. While we wouldn’t encourage our early years to fast, they may want to try and give something up, such as sweets or playing on a game for the day. Practitioners can model this behaviour by giving something up themselves – perhaps coffee?
  3. Planning for the next year. As Jewish people look forward to the coming 12 months during Yom Kippur, you and your early years can look towards the next year together and make some plans for good behaviour and fun activities. These “plans” can be used throughout the year to remind children of their promise to learn well or behave correctly.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

How will you be marking Yom Kippur in your setting? Let us know using #ournurserylife