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Supporting your team on the Jewish High Holy Days

Talia Hoffman is based in BGF’s London office, and supports our portfolio of early-stage investments across the UK. Here, Talia shares her experiences of the High Holy Days, as celebrated by Jewish communities:

Each year, as the summer holidays were winding down and the academic year dawned on us, there wasn’t such a strong sense of dread for me and my family. There was a sense of excitement and energy with the local hustle and bustle, as the High Holy Days were drawing closer.

What are the High Holy Days?

The term High Holy Days refers to Rosh Hashanah (translated as ‘Head of the Year’) which is the festival for the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur (translated as ‘Day of Atonement’) which is the day of fasting that follows.

Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish calendar is, like many religions, a Lunar calendar—in other words, it’s based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of 15 September and ends at nightfall on 17 September.

Jewish New Year isn’t in any way similar (or as much fun) as New Years Eve in the secular world; there are no fireworks on Primrose Hill, no Jaeger Bombs, and no 24-hour tubes. Instead, this festival is a time for admission of wrongdoing from the past year and looking forward to a more positive year ahead. We celebrate this with certain symbols: having apples and honey to have a sweet New Year, for example, and eating pomegranates so that one’s good deeds are as plentiful as their seeds.

Many families will have different customs and traditions based on their heritage. Ashkenazi Jews (originating from Eastern Europe) symbolise the Head of the Year with a fish head, for instance, while Sephardic Jews (originating from Spain and the Middle East) used to have a sheep’s head on their table.

Yom Kippur

The 10 days that follow Rosh Hashanah are known as the ‘10 Days of Repentance’. These are concluded with a 25-hour fast, Yom Kippur—typically a solemn day that many orthodox Jews will spend in their places of worship (Synagogues). Whilst this may not sound like an overly joyous occasion, spending quality time with your family, and away from work and the routine of daily life, is always most welcome.

How can you best support your employees during the High Holy Days?

As with all Jewish Holidays and the Jewish Sabbath, Jews are prohibited from working, travelling, spending money, and using electricity during the High Holy Days. The best support you can offer team members on these days is by helping to cover their workloads and to refrain from sending them requests until after the holiday has finished. Moreover, it’s much appreciated and inclusive to wish your colleagues a ‘Happy New Year’ or to wish them ‘well over the fast’.

Learn more about the Jewish High Holy Days and how to support your employees during this period in this employer guide.

Meet the team

Talia Hoffman

Name: Talia Hoffman

Role: Portfolio administrator

Office: London

Joined BGF in: March 2022

BGF Insights 09.07.2023
Tags BGF teams

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