Hadley Freeman: Jews don't make New Year's resolutions, but here are mine

Too much shopping at Panzer's, overdosing on Seinfeld... Jews tend to welcome the annual milestone with remorse


Pomegranates, apples and honey. Rosh Hashanah celebration and autumn harvesting concept. Concrete grey background, wild flowers. Selective focus

September 14, 2023 10:08

The most Jewish thing about Jews is that we’ll complain the food is bad, and also that the portions are too small.

The second most Jewish thing about Jews is we don’t make resolutions on New Year because — as my Hebrew teacher, Mrs Cohen, once explained to me — resolutions are predictions.

Instead, we do teshuvah, ie, self-reflection and repentance. Yeah, no optimism about the future for us, just self-flagellation and regret. Happy New Year to us!

Because I truly am a woman who has it all, I do both: resolutions and regret. What else are resolutions but an attempt to rectify past regrets, or at least learn from them?

This, surely, is what the new year is supposed to be about. Well, that and standing around the radio and feeling wistful about the fast passing of time — at least that’s what Woody Allen’s Radio Days taught me.

And yet I take Mrs Cohen’s point that Rosh Hashanah in September should be treated very differently from all that goyish nonsense in December. So my Rosh Hashanah resolutions aren’t about not eating ice cream at midnight (but how else am I supposed to wash down all those 11pm cigarettes?).

They’re about specifically Jewish things that I need to change about myself. So these are my regretful resolutions for 5784.

1. Don’t have a meltdown when the kids complain about going to Hebrew school on the weekends

Specifically, don’t say, “Your great-grandparents went to Auschwitz just so you could be Jewish. So get your trainers on and stop moaning!” Partly because this tends to be counter-productive in terms of inspiring a love of Judaism. Partly because it makes me feel like my parents.

2. Stop treating Hebrew school like childcare

Maybe I could actually go to shul while my kids are learning their bets from their vets, and not always use it as a gift of three hours in which I can have brunch and a pedicure? Sometimes? Just once?

3. Don’t use the children as an excuse to only go to children’s services, just because they’re two hours shorter than the adult ones

“How nice to see you at the children’s service again, Ms Freeman. Tell me, how old are your kids now?" "32 and 28", she replies.

4. Stop doing the weekly shop at Panzer’s

Pay your mortgage or get another £10 box of crackers? Clothes for your children or a £17 box of strawberries? Whole Foods Schmole Schmoods. Up in St John’s Wood, the struggle is real.

5. Vary your evening entertainment to prevent sinking into total self-parody

I can watch literally anything in the world, thanks to the miracle of streaming. So obviously I’ll watch the “Festivus” episode of Seinfeld for the ten gazillionth time.

6. Also, try to read something other than Holocaust memoirs occasionally

If, for no other reason, you’ll probably have fewer anxiety dreams.

7. Keep the holiday foods for the holidays

Matzah is for Passover, not for a bored 4pm snack in October, slathered with butter and cheese, or hummus and olives, or peanut butter, or…

8. Also, stop using food to bribe the kids into liking the holidays

Rosh Hashanah is about more than apples and honey (allegedly).

9. Stop cheating in synagogue by reading the phonetic versions of the prayers

You spent ten years at Hebrew school, Freeman! Do you remember nothing? (No, clearly.)

10. Call your parents occasionally, like they ask

And by “occasionally” they mean at least 12 times a day.

September 14, 2023 10:08

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