By Jan Landau Lewin

Congregation Beth Tefilah Chaya Mushka students (from left), Dvorah Addess, Sivan Livan, Mikayla Ruben, Zalman Citran, make greeting cards for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

The first-graders at Congregation Beth Tefilah’s school, Chaya Mushka, are already busy painting cards with apples and honey to represent a sweet Jewish New Year.

Starting at sundown Sept. 8, Jews all over the world will mark the Days of Awe, or holy period that starts with Rosh Hashana and culminates 10 days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

While the new year represents a time of introspection and new wishes for the future, it also brings time with family and lots of special holiday foods. Jews throughout the community are preparing their synagogues, schools, homes, children and menus for the High Holidays.

Ask first-grader Zalman Citran what it means to him, and he will tell you Rosh Hashana means “head of the year,” and it also means getting to eat fish for the holiday meal. According to Yossi New, rabbi at Beth Tefilah, Zalman knows his Hebrew, because Rosh Hashana translates exactly into “head of the year,” and not “new year.”

“The head controls the rest of the body, and this is the time to make resolutions in the head that can make a difference for the rest of the year,” said Rabbi New.

At the Weber School, a Jewish high school in Sandy Springs, Headmaster Sim Pearl blows the shofar (the ram’s horn that is blown at Rosh Hashana during services) through the halls of the school in the weeks leading up to the new year. “We blow the ram’s horn over the loudspeaker and tell the students to wake up and smell the coffee – that Rosh Hashana is coming,” smiles Pearl.

Ask the teenagers what the holiday means and you get different answers. According to Weber sophomore David Feldman of Sandy Springs, “No one is in the mood to go back to school, and the holiday brings some happiness at the beginning of the school year.”

Feldman will also tell you Rosh Hashana means family time and “borechas,” a pastry that his grandmother makes for him each year. “Food is a big part of any Jewish holiday,” Feldman said.

Tali Abrahams and Hannah Powell, both seniors at Weber, look forward to family time during the holidays. “I get to see my cousins, who I have grown up with, which is special, and we celebrate the holiday together as a Jewish community, which I like,” Powell said.

Abrahams loves challah bread with chocolate chips, and Powell looks forward to a special sesame chicken with bread crumbs and soy sauce that her mother makes.

Adam Freedman of Sandy Springs, a junior at Weber, sees Rosh Hashana as a time to start over. “It is a time to fix wrongdoings against family and friends,” says Freedman. That is something everyone can agree on this time of year.