How To Teach Your Class About Yom Kippur

Written by Dan

Understanding different cultures and traditions is an integral part of education. This becomes particularly important when discussing religious observances that hold significant importance in our diverse society.

Today, we will focus on one such observance – Yom Kippur, a sacred day of atonement in the Jewish faith.

But how do you go about teaching your class about Yom Kippur ? How can you explain its significance in a way that is engaging, respectful, and informative for students of all backgrounds?

Through this guide, we will walk you through various methods and resources to help you successfully introduce Yom Kippur to your students.

From explaining the role of the shofar horn to discussing the concept of Teshuva or repentance, we will provide you with practical ideas that will not only educate but also spark curiosity among your students.

So, are you ready to embark on this cultural exploration? Let’s delve into the enriching world of Yom Kippur.

Understanding Yom Kippur

Before we delve into the methods and resources for teaching Yom Kippur, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what this day represents in the Jewish faith.

Why is Yom Kippur celebrated? What’s the history behind it? Why is it considered the holiest day of the year in Judaism? Let’s explore.

Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is observed on the 10th day of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. This typically falls in September or October in the Gregorian calendar.

Its roots trace back to biblical times, specifically to the book of Leviticus (16:29-30), where God decrees a day for the cleansing of one’s sins.

The significance of Yom Kippur lies in its emphasis on repentance and atonement. It is a day when Jews seek forgiveness for their sins and make amends, both with God and with other people.

This solemn day is marked by fasting, prayer, and reflection, creating an atmosphere of deep introspection and communal connection.

Now, let’s focus on some key symbols and rituals associated with Yom Kippur. One of the most recognizable symbols of this holiday is the shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown at the end of the Yom Kippur service.

The shofar’s sound serves as a spiritual wake-up call, signalling the end of the fast and the start of a new, clean slate for the year ahead.

Another essential concept tied to Yom Kippur is Teshuva, which translates to “return” in Hebrew. Teshuva is the process of repentance that begins in the month of Elul, leading up to Yom Kippur.

It involves sincere regret for past wrongdoings, a commitment to avoid repeating them and taking steps to make amends.

Understanding these aspects of Yom Kippur provides the foundation for teaching about this important day. It’s not just about knowing what happens in Yom Kippur but understanding why and what it means to those who observe it.


Methods for Teaching Yom Kippur

Now that we have a solid understanding of Yom Kippur and its significance, how do we introduce this sacred observance to our students?

What teaching methods can we employ to ensure that students from all backgrounds gain a thorough understanding of Yom Kippur while staying engaged and interested? Let’s explore some options.

  1. Storytelling: One of the most effective ways to introduce Yom Kippur is through storytelling. Narratives about the history and traditions of Yom Kippur can make the subject matter more relatable and easier to understand. You could share stories from the Torah that highlight the origins of Yom Kippur or use children’s books that depict how Yom Kippur is observed in contemporary Jewish families.
  2. Interactive Discussions: Foster an environment of open dialogue where students can ask questions and express their thoughts about Yom Kippur. This can stimulate curiosity and promote a deeper understanding of the observance. Using guiding questions, you can help students make connections between Yom Kippur and concepts they’re familiar with, like forgiveness and reflection.
  3. Visual Aids: Use images, videos, and other visual aids to illustrate the symbols and rituals of Yom Kippur. For instance, showing a video of the shofar being blown can help students better grasp its significance. Similarly, illustrated charts or diagrams explaining the process of Teshuva can make this complex concept more accessible.
  4. Role-Playing Activities: Allow students to participate in role-playing activities that simulate Yom Kippur traditions. This could include a mock Yom Kippur service, where students take turns performing different roles. Such immersive experiences can provide invaluable insights into the emotional and spiritual aspects of Yom Kippur.
  5. Guest Speakers: If possible, invite a guest speaker from the Jewish community to share their personal experiences of Yom Kippur. Hearing from someone who observes Yom Kippur can provide a unique, first-hand perspective that enriches students’ understanding.

Remember, the goal is not just to teach about Yom Kippur but to foster an environment of respect and appreciation for cultural diversity.

By using these methods, you can create a learning experience that is both informative and engaging, sparking curiosity and promoting cultural understanding among your students.

Resources for Teaching Yom Kippur

Equipped with an understanding of Yom Kippur and some engaging teaching methods, what’s next? Well, you’ll need resources—materials that can help you bring your lessons to life.

Luckily, the digital age provides a wealth of online resources that can be invaluable in teaching about Yom Kippur. Here are some noteworthy options:

  1. My Jewish Learning: This comprehensive website offers a plethora of articles on Yom Kippur, covering everything from its history and significance to the customs and rituals associated with it. The site’s easy-to-navigate format makes it a handy tool for teachers preparing lesson plans and students seeking more information.
  2. The PJ Library: Known for its collection of Jewish children’s books, It offers a selection of age-appropriate stories about Yom Kippur. These books can serve as a great starting point for discussions and activities related to Yom Kippur.
  3. This website provides a wealth of information about Jewish traditions, including Yom Kippur. It features detailed articles, videos, and even a step-by-step guide to Yom Kippur observance. Plus, it offers a Q&A section where students can find answers to common questions about Yom Kippur.
  4. YouTube: Yes, even YouTube can be a valuable resource when teaching about Yom Kippur. From educational videos explaining the meaning of Yom Kippur to footage of actual Yom Kippur services, YouTube offers a wide range of visual content that can enhance your lessons.
  5. Torah Tots: Designed specifically for younger learners, this website uses colourful illustrations and simple language to explain Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur. It even provides printable colouring pages and games related to Yom Kippur, making it a fun resource for introducing this observance to younger students.

Each resource brings something unique to the table, and they can all play a part in creating a comprehensive, engaging learning experience. Whether using them to prepare your lesson, as a reference during class discussions, or as supplementary material for students, these resources can help ensure that your teaching about Yom Kippur is as informative and engaging as possible.

Practical Ideas for Teaching Yom Kippur

So, you’ve got the methods to teach about Yom Kippur and the resources to support your lessons. But how do you translate all this into actionable, practical ideas that genuinely engage your students?

How do you create a learning experience that’s not just informative but also respectful and thought-provoking? Let’s dive into some practical ideas:

  1. Organize a Mock Yom Kippur Observance: This immersive activity can give students a taste of what Yom Kippur is like. You could set up a classroom “synagogue,” complete with a makeshift Ark and Torah. Students can participate in a shortened service with readings, prayers, and even the blowing of a toy shofar. Of course, it’s crucial to ensure that this activity is conducted respectfully, emphasizing its educational purpose.
  2. Invite a Guest Speaker: As mentioned earlier, hearing firsthand from someone who observes Yom Kippur can be incredibly valuable. A guest speaker could be a local rabbi, a Jewish community member, or even a fellow teacher. They could share their personal experiences of Yom Kippur, answer questions, and offer insights you might not be able to provide.
  3. Create a Teshuva Bulletin Board: This interactive project can help students understand the concept of Teshuva. Students can write or draw something they wish to improve in the coming year and pin it on the bulletin board. This visual representation of Teshuva can be a constant reminder of personal growth and introspection.
  4. Host a Yom Kippur Book Club: Using books from resources like The PJ Library, you could organize a book club where students read stories related to Yom Kippur and discuss them. This activity can promote literacy skills while fostering an understanding of Yom Kippur.
  5. Create Yom Kippur Artwork: Art can be a powerful medium for understanding and expressing complex ideas. Students could create artwork inspired by Yom Kippur, using symbols associated with the holiday, such as the shofar or a book (representing the Book of Life).


Teaching about Yom Kippur, like any other religious observance, is not merely an academic exercise. It’s a chance to foster cultural understanding, respect, and appreciation in our diverse society.

By introducing students to Yom Kippur, we’re giving them a glimpse into the Jewish faith and tradition—one that goes beyond stereotypes and misconceptions.

The methods, resources, and practical ideas discussed in this guide are designed to help you navigate this journey of cultural education.

Whether it’s through storytelling, interactive discussions, visual aids, role-playing, or guest speakers, there are myriad ways to make learning about Yom Kippur engaging and meaningful.

And with a wealth of online resources at your fingertips, you’re never alone in your teaching endeavors.

Let this guide serve as a starting point, but don’t stop here. Continue exploring, learning, and teaching about the diverse cultures and traditions that make up our world. After all, education is not just about imparting knowledge—it’s about broadening horizons, promoting understanding, and building bridges between different walks of life.


Below are the sources used in the creation of this guide. They provide a wealth of further information and can be useful for both educators preparing their lessons and students seeking to delve deeper into the topic.

  1. My Jewish Learning
  2. The PJ Library
  4. YouTube
  5. Torah Tots

Remember, these references are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a world of information out there waiting to be discovered. Happy exploring!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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