For PJ Library mom and Ambassador, Anne Goodman, making the most of the High Holidays begins long before Rosh Hashanah. She has developed a collection of children's countdown activities for the month of Elul, to build excitement, anticipation, and deeper connections to the meaning and joy of the Jewish New Year – for herself, her children and family, and her entire community of PJ Library families.
A few years ago, Anne made her son an Elul calendar in which he could open a different door each day and find a different touchstone containing a message or activity associated with the Jewish New Year – such as a Torah scroll she fashioned from two rolls of Smarties candies.
The next year, behind the doors, she placed rocks she had painted with sayings and pictures to prompt questions and conversation relating to the High Holidays. One example is a rock with the word HEAR on the front and a picture of a shofar underneath.
Her son, now five years old – and now a big brother as well – has developed an entire vocabulary about the holidays based on Anne's Elul extravaganzas.
"I grew up Catholic, and we had an Advent calendar to help us count the days until Christmas," Anne says. "It built such a feeling of excitement that, as a mother, I wanted my Jewish children to feel about our most important holy days of the year.
I wanted a vehicle for planning activities that would prompt curiosity and questions... and not just Why do we dip apples in honey? but How are we supposed to change ourselves throughout this entire season?"
Last year, with many families social distancing during COVID, Anne created an at-home Elul Countdown Kit for her PJ Library community that families could pick up. The kits contained supplies for daily crafts, a sort of countdown in a bag.
This year, with a new baby in tow, Anne has come up with an equally creative, yet simpler way to spur the countdown and talk about the meaning of the holidays. She created a tear-off calendar from which to make a paper chain. Each of the 29 links (for the 29 days of Elul) has a word and activity of the day, such as:
- Act – and on that day, they make honeycomb greeting cards from yellow-painted bubble paper used as a stamp;
- Learn – on that day, they learn to make challah or a different type of braid for challah or why we eat round challah during the Jewish New Year;
- Forgive – on this day, they make a paper dove and talk about the dove that returned to Noah's Ark carrying an olive branch after the flood.
"Preparing our minds and hearts for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur makes the holidays that much more special in our home and, I hope, the homes of our PJ Library friends," she added. "The anticipation makes this such a special time of year and the meaning of the holidays comes alive that much more."
PJ Library Ambassadors help families with young children connect with friends and fun in the Jewish community, including through live and virtual events as well as access to educational activities just for kids. To find out about PJ Library fun and PJ Ambassadors in your neighborhood, CLICK HERE.
Not a PJ Library subscriber? Jewish Federation brings the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's PJ Library to the heart of NJ with free books and music for more than 3,200 children aged six-months to eight-years-old – as well as PJ Our Way for nine- to twelve-years-old. PJ Library books and music arrive each month and celebrate Jewish holidays, themes, and traditions. Local events extend the PJ experience, including little ones in community fun with family and friends. SUBSCRIBE