Rosh Hashanah is redefining our Jewish community this year

This past year has brought new meaning to the word diaspora.

celebrating rosh hashanah 2020

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and this year it starts on September 18 (the date slips and slides since the Jewish calendar is lunar). I'm as ready to turn the page on 5780 as you are on 2020, trust me.

This year feels more than different or new, it feels ridiculous. 2020 being the unstoppable ashtray of doom that it is, we fled our wildfire smoke-choked city to my parents' house in the SoCal burbs. On the downside, we might all give each other Covid, but at least we'll get to eat holiday desserts together. My kids are thrilled.

Even here in relative safety though, how can I do teshuva, the deep personal act of accounting for the ways in which I've missed the mark this year, and return to who I am... when "who I am," apparently, is running a substandard homeschool for two elementary school kids while trying to keep my career going and vacuuming wildfire ash off my houseplants?

The kids are excited about the basics of Rosh Hashanah: apples and honey, a day off from school, and very loud shofar practice around the house. Meanwhile, I'm feeling bored by the time-honored brisket recipe and wondering if the last six months of sourdough and homemade soda syrups have primed me for something more ambitious. Maybe a pomegranate pavlova? That new round challah braid I saw on Instagram? My parents are pouring cocktails fast and furious, so maybe we collab on a honey-themed drink.

That's the honest truth of where I'm at this year with the high holidays: Plotting menus with my mom while looking skeptically at the literally hundreds of truly creative, thoughtful, innovative digital media holiday options coming my way. I've been invited to stream my teshuva, tefillah and tzedakah like never before on Youtube, Zoom and Instagram... and I'm finding it hard to get excited.

See, Jewish liturgy works its magic on two tracks, the personal and the communal. This is one of the things that makes Judaism less of a faith and more of a tribe. On the High Holidays, a person examines their soul, through silent and chanted confessions and prayers. What's profound is that you can't do the work alone—you're required to do it in a communal setting and a lot of the words are written in the plural. Forgive us... We have sinned... Inscribe us in the Book of Life...

Probably the best illustration of the communal mindset of Rosh Hashanah is the commandment about the shofar, the ram's horn. There isn't a mitzvah to blow the shofar, there's a mitzvah to hear it. Someone else sounds the horn, while you focus on listening. It is a spiritual high to stand still, eyes closed, and let those blasts shatter your consciousness with cries for change and renewal.

We can't do that this year. It's not safe to gather in buildings and pray this year, and even if we stood 6 feet apart, your shofar is a really efficient way to blow COVID-19 into my airspace. Naturally, Jewish communities are working on this problem. I went to a drive-through synagogue event last week where the shofar blower, a pediatrician, had rubber banded a disposable mask onto her shofar.

We're also trying to figure out how to sing together, even though we all know how awful Zoom singing is by now. Rabbis are pre-recording their sermons and, in a true testament to the power of the human spirit to persevere through trauma, synagogue presidents are pre-recording their Yom Kippur fundraising appeals. (I can't wait to see the Youtube metrics on those.)

This year, we've all experienced the quarantine version of Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, the first day of school and, for many of us, birthdays. Each ritual has been a letdown but also, weirdly interesting—a rewriting of what we've done before that can feel necessary and new. It was my first birthday road trip to try the best ice cream in another city, and honestly, that was a sweet family celebration I'd do again any year.

Rosh Hashanah is unfolding in surprising ways as well. The holiday won't be as grandly communal as it's been in the past, but my inner circle of family and friends is tight. My 10-year-old son is learning to make babka while my 7-year-old daughter practices her shofar skills with classmates online. My mother-in-law is hosting daily "cousins' club" storytimes for kids spread over the country, and my parents are programming our synagogue-hopping Zoom schedule. A girlfriend and I collaborated on a Rosh Hashanah yoga video and for the first time in years, I managed to send out a holiday card.

Rosh Hashanah is a good teacher, asking us to look over our year and figure out how to return to our true selves. How can I show up (differently) for friends who are suffering losses and hardship? How can I be a better partner, and parent?

This past year has brought new meaning to the word diaspora, and feeling disconnected. I think the antidote to it is small, strong commitments to a smaller circle.

Shana tova u'metukah. May it be a good, sweet new year, starting from within.

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.

    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.


    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.


    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.


    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.


    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.


    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.


    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.


    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.


    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.


    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.


    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    29 last-minute family Halloween costumes you can pull together NOW

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    Here's how Halloween unfolds in most households I know: Mom spends weeks—even months—planning the perfect costumes for little ones. Then Halloween creeps up and they realize they need an outfit to coordinate with the kids' get-ups. What's a mom to do?!

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