Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur: What to Know about the Jewish High Holidays in 2023 (aka 5784)

  • Six CSUN students and Hillel staff members stand around a kitchen island, mixing challah dough with their hands and rolling out dough on the counter.

    "In the Baram household, Rosh Hashana dinner was very similar to our Friday night dinners celebrating the Sabbath, which means there was lots of family and too much food," says Matt Baram, executive director of Hillel 818. "But besides the staples like matza ball soup, chicken, and a wide variety of side dishes and desserts, the thing I always look forward to the most is dipping a piece of challah (which is round on Rosh Hashana) in honey. Many people know that apples and honey is a traditional Rosh Hashana treat, but because the honey is already on the table, it's a perfect time for some challah dipping. Now you might ask, 'couldn't you put honey on your challah throughout the year?' And yes, I suppose we could. But most of us don't, which ultimately makes the pairing that much sweeter!" Above: CSUN students and staff at Hillel 818 prepare challah dough for Rosh Hashana meals, in fall 2022. Photo courtesy of Hillel 818.

  • A hand stirs honey in a silver, apple-shaped bowl. The bowl sits on white china plates, with a plate of sliced apples sitting nearby.

    "I have such good memories of extended multigenerational family dinners at Rosh Hashana, where we brought out our best silverware, china and tablecloths, and we ate a delicious, traditional meal of brisket, challah, roast chicken, potato kugel and, for dessert, apples and honey," says Mark Stover, dean of the University Library. "There were traditional Hebrew prayers said at the beginning of the meal, similar to the liturgical prayers said before the Sabbath, but the melodies were different and the prayers themselves adjusted for this special holiday that ushers in the New Year. Sometimes we added our own, extemporaneous thoughts and prayers — that all of us sitting around the table would have a sweet and blessed year." "We would dress up for this special meal because right afterward, we would leave for synagogue services to pray with the wider Jewish community," Stover says. "I wouldn’t say that this occasion was necessarily solemn in my family — it was really more anticipatory and joyful. We all knew that during the 10 Days of Awe (between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), there would be plenty of time for solemnity and reflection. But the Rosh Hashana dinner was more of a time for family togetherness and good food." Pictured above: preparing to dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashana 2022. Photo by Olivia Herstein.

  • A colorful bouquet of flowers in a vase, with a red pomegranate placed in front.

    "In my family, the High Holidays are a very exciting time and we host our family and friends (sometimes 30 people!!) for dinner, where we say different blessings on various foods that represent symbols for the new year," says recent grad Eden Shashoua '23, who served as vice president of Associated Students. "I love the High Holidays because they are a time of gathering, and my mom always puts together the most beautiful table. We have a dedicated set of china and special trinkets, like clay bees and glass apples and pomegranates, that we sprinkle as decoration, and I find that once the table is set, there's this wonderful feeling of warmth and buzz of excitement to welcome the holidays." Pictured above: Flowers and fresh pomegranate on Rosh Hashana 2022. Photo by Olivia Herstein.

  • A CSUN student stands on Matador Walk, hoding a paper plate with a candy sukkah built out of a pretzel sticks, marshmallows, frosting and licorice.

    A CSUN student shows off her candy sukkah — a sweet miniature of the temporary structure built as part of the Jewish fall festival of Sukkot — at a Hillel 818 program in fall 2022. Photo courtesy of Hillel 818.

As Matadors return to campus and jump into the new academic year, thousands of Jewish students, faculty and staff are preparing for another major calendar milestone: the upcoming Jewish High Holidays.

The High Holidays are known in Hebrew as the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), or simply wrapped into the term Chagim — holidays, an all-encompassing term to cover the month of observances that span from Rosh Hashana to Simchat Torah. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year — which begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 15 — is both a synagogue-centric holiday and a festive occasion for family and friends to gather for meals and celebrations at home.

This year, the fall holidays occur from mid-September through early October. Most of the holidays fall on weekends this year, kicking off with Rosh Hashana. The Jewish New Year is a one- or two-day holiday, depending on one’s denomination and level of observance. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 24. Yom Kippur, a fast day when Jews abstain from all food and water, lasts one day and is considered the holiest day of the year.

The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar and thousands of years old — this fall, Jews celebrate the start of the year 5784 — similar to those followed by Islamic, Hindu and other faiths. Thus, the dates of Jewish holidays vary slightly from year to year on our solar Gregorian calendar. In the Hebrew calendar, all dates and observances go from sundown to sundown (for example, Shabbat always starts at sundown on Friday night and ends after dark on Saturday night).

But wait, there’s more! Yom Kippur is followed by the harvest festival of Sukkot and holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah during the first week of October. However, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are by far the most observed and recognized by many Jews — especially in California. Hanukkah may be a retail juggernaut due to its (misconceived) reputation as a sort-of “Jewish Christmas,” but it’s considered a minor festival compared to the fall holidays.

Traditional foods unique to Rosh Hashana include apples dipped in honey, to represent wishes for a sweet new year, and an elaborate seder (order) of symbolic foods such as dates, pomegranates and even a fish head (to represent the “head” of the year). The symbolic foods are a tradition primarily for Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews (those who trace their lineage to Spain or the Middle East, such as the large population of Persian Jews in Los Angeles).

Hillel International has named CSUN as one of the “Top 60 Public Universities by Jewish Population” and ranked the university No. 1 in California and No. 15 nationally among public schools with the largest Jewish populations. More than 6,500 Jewish undergraduate students attend CSUN, Pierce College and Valley College, according to Hillel 818 — the center for Jewish life on campus, which serves the three campuses. That’s more than the Jewish student population at USC and UCLA combined.

Hillel 818 offers meals, programs and learning opportunities for all Jewish students on Shabbat and throughout the fall holidays. Rohr Chabad House at CSUN does the same for students and faculty. Both are located adjacent to the Northridge campus and frequently offer meals and activities for students on campus as well — at the Arbor Grill, Sierra Center and more.

The Jewish Studies Program, in CSUN’s College of Humanities, offers CSUN students of any major and background the opportunity to learn in-depth about Jewish holidays, in courses such as Jewish Religion and Culture (JS100).

For more about the Hebrew calendar, visit and

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