Twisted traditions: 18 ways to update your Rosh Hashanah celebration

    I have always loved the High Holidays. My mother is an incredible cook and entertainer, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were two of her biggest and  best “parties” of the year. Her traditions ran deep, from the special china that she used to her homemade bite-sized sticky buns, and the parsley-adorned spread of chopped liver, herring, eggplant and gefilte fish. We never did the bagels and lox thing; instead she made a full meal, with brisket, tsimis, kasha varneshkas, and of course an apple tart for dessert (see above). I’m convinced these simchas were the cause of my pudgy childhood years.

    Today, my High Holiday traditions have become more varied and diet-conscious. I still make some of my mother’s classics, but I’ve also thrown in a bunch of new recipes and accessories to reflect my lifestyle; my kasha recipe is paleo, I make vegetarian chopped liver (with three sautéed onions, not just one), and every year I try at least one new recipe. Last year I made a 36-hour sous vide brisket — it rocked.

    No doubt there’s room to add something new into the mix at your High Holiday celebrations. So, here are a few “different” ideas for your consideration:


    Definitely NOT my mother’s brisket, this smokey sous vide version is fantastic in its own right. It make take 36 hours to cook, but it will be perfectly cooked, and clean up is a breeze. Don’t have a sous vide cooker? No worries, you can pick one up on Amazon for less that a hundred bucks. (So worth it!)

    Photo courtesy of Jamie Geller, The Joy of Kosher.

    Why make a Challah when you can buy a good one at Whole Foods? Because the joy making it from scratch makes it taste even better! Jamie Geller from The Joy of Kosher has created an awesome tutorial on YouTube that will teach you everything you need to know to make a beautiful, round, Rosh Hashanah challah. You can do it! (Just think how great your kitchen will smell while it’s baking!)

    3Rosh Hashanah Sweets

    Photo by Carolyn Cope, courtesy of Serious Eats.

    Etsy has so many wonderful options when it comes to Jewish New Year’s cards and accessories. They can be a little pricey, but the detail and style make them well worth the money.

    I like to send out e-invitations so I can track RSVPs and make it easy for people to navigate to our house. Paperless Post and Evite both have a nice selection of invites and holiday cards. They’re super easy to customize and once you enter your personal mailing list it takes almost no effort at all to send out annual New Year’s cards and more. (This feature has made me appear way more organized and together than I actually am.)

    This old-school invitation may not be all that effective in this day and age, but it sure does make a beautiful and meaningful decorative accessory. Even if you can’t blow it, you can enjoy looking at it, and maybe design a centerpiece around it.


    I think I love this because it’s the exact opposite of the apple and honey dish I grew up with — and it’s bright and crisp just like an apple. (Or maybe it’s just because it’s shiny and red.)

    From hummus to chopped liver, olives, nuts and more, these six little pomegranate bowls make a beautiful presentation.

    This platter from Beatriz Ball is my kind of serving plate. It can go from the oven to table (with a trivet underneath, of course), so you can keep food warm until it’s ready to serve. And its simple design let’s whatever food you put on it really shine! (I’m thinking knishes…)

    I’m in love with this Hamsa plate. It’s perfect for fruit (imagine each section filled with blue berries, raspberries and strawberries) and also for cookies —  my mother always serves at least five kinds of homemade cookies and they would look so pretty in this. You can also take out the sectional bowls, and just use the flat hand platter underneath. (I may have just talked myself into buying this!)


    11Israeli Music Playlists

    These Spotify playlists from our friends at The Jewish Agency for Israel are perfect for simchas of all kinds; they’re sure to bring the vibe of Israel to your celebration, and won’t get in the way of conversation.

    These sweet little bee tags come from the JewishHolidayShop on Etsy; they’re custom printed ($18 for 6). I love the execution and may even try to make a knock off version of my own this year. (craft paper, scissors, hole puncher, ribbon, and a color Sharpie to write a personal note to each guest.)

    Apples aren’t just for dipping in honey and baking in pies. Placed in the right container or tray they make a simple and elegant centerpiece. has a bunch of ideas that look fantastic and are easy to execute.

    Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to treat yourself and your guests to Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir candle. I know it’s decadent… but the fragrance is on point, and it comes in a variety of price points and sizes. (stick one in your guest bathroom)


    I typically try to buy honey at my local farmer’s market — just in case it actually helps with allergies. But this collection of Holy Land Honey is the real deal, and it’s sure to delight hostesses and guests alike.

    Succulents are all the rage these days, and since they’re really hard to kill, they make a great, living gift that will last the whole year or longer. You can pretty much find them in flower stores everywhere, and even order some nice arrangements online. Or, if you’re feeling handy, buy a pretty container, head to your local nursery, Home Depot or Lowes, and make your own little desert arrangement.

    Mrs. Prindables makes all sorts of ridiculous candied apples, including jumbo caramel apples that are as fun as they are delicious to eat. (And they’re kosher too!)

    I’m not gonna lie, I’m a recovering candy junky. When I found this Rosh Hashanah sampler I thought, “Total genius!” So Tov, right?

    Amy Katzenberg is a nice Jewish girl from New York City. She was a founding editor of, and has worked for an array of digital publications. A lifelong member of the Clean Plate Club, Amy loves to eat good food all over the world.