Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA)

WE ARE SO EXCITED AND DELIGHTED to introduce the new Diversity and Inclusion section of the website. It is important that diversity and inclusion are practiced in every aspect of our life.

Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN
Vegetarian Nutrition Diversity Liaison

Rosh Hashanah

Written by:
Renée Hoffinger, MHSE RD
History of Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah (literally, “head of the year”), a two day holiday, is the Jewish New Year for renewal. Preceded by the month of Elul, a time of personal accounting, Rosh Hashana kicks off the High Holy Days: the first 10 “Days of Awe”, a time of personal and communal introspection and making amends culminating with Yom Kippur (“The day of At-One-Ment”), continuing through Sukkot (“Feast of the Tabernacles”), and concluding with Simchat Torah (ending and beginning the annual cycle of Torah readings). At the start of Tishrei, the seventh month of lunar Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah echoes the weekly Shabbat (“and on the seventh day G!d rested”).

Rosh Hashanah likely originated from Leviticus 23:23-25: “In the seventh month…there shall be a solemn rest for you, a sacred convocation commemorated with the blast of the ram’s horn” and evolved through captivity in Babylon, historic upheavals, and rabbinical decrees to be a time for obedience to G!d as Sovereign (i.e. no earthly boss can rule us) and a reminder that all humans are due equal respect.

Like every other day in the lunar-based Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset. This year, 5783, that falls on Sunday, September 26. People will gather in homes to light candles and share a festive meal and then go off to houses of worship. We read from a special High Holiday prayer book and the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown. The afternoon of the first day there is a Tashlikh (literally “you will cast) ceremony. Bread crumbs are thrown into a body of water to cleanse and transform our misdeeds, to cast away whatever is in the way of fulfilling your soul’s destiny.

How We Celebrate
In years past, our family was part of a small, Jewish renewal congregation. We created our own prayer book (much of it based on the work of the late Rabbi David-Wolfe Blank) and engaged with the liturgy, together with singing and movement, as an opportunity for psycho-spiritual growth. During these covid-times we do this together with dear friends via Zoom.

Traditional Rosh Hashanah foods tend to symbolize sweetness (for a sweet new year) and/or roundness (for the cycle of the year): apples dipped in honey (or maple syrup, agave, or carob syrup for the vegans) and round challahs, often baked with raisins (which can also be dipped in the sweet stuff). There are also a myriad of other traditional foods depending on one’s country of origin and oodles of Jewish veg recipes to be found on-line.

Recommendations for RDNs and NDTRs
In terms of clinical recommendations, keep in mind that Rosh Hashanah, like most holidays is a time for overindulgence. The serious issue comes up on Yom Kippur, a day of total fasting from food and drink. Aside from the obvious dangers for pregnant women, people with diabetes, renal colic, etc., reduction of fluid intake may increase the risk of thrombosis and stroke. Those whose health will be negatively impacted are, or course, totally exempt from fasting.

Renée Hoffinger, MHSE RD graduated from a Coordinated Undergraduate Program back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. She retired in 2013 after having worked in research, clinical practice, and nutrition education. The last 20 years of her career were spent at the Veterans Administration where she specialized in HIV/AIDS and substance abuse rehabilitation and helped pioneer hands-on nutrition education. She is the author of “Hands-On Nutrition Education – Teaching Healthy Eating Skills through Experiential Learning” (published by the Academy in 2017) and The Recovery Diet (2012).


Written by: Reyna Franco, MS, MBA, RDN, CSSD, FAND, CPT, DipACLM
Symbolism of Foods & How We Celebrate
Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish new year. We want it to be a sweet year, so many of the foods we have for Rosh Hashanah dinner are sweet. We begin with a round challah with raisins. It is round to signify the circle of life. The raisins are for a sweet year. We also have apples with honey - to add more sweetness to the new year. We will also have pomegranates to celebrate new and unusual experiences. My mom would traditionally serve a chicken soup to start the meal as well as a vegan soup for me and anyone else who did not eat meat. She might also make brisket and I would bring a bean dish for the non-meat eaters. Dessert will include a honey cake and I will make a vegan dessert without honey.

Recommendations for RDNs / NDTRs
My vegan/vegetarian clients are often concerned about going to another person's home for holidays since most people do not serve plant-based meals. I tell them to offer to bring a vegan entree and/or side dish. You can tell the host about your food preferences but that can also cause issues. I have had the experience of someone making something "special" just for me which I did not like. That was extremely awkward. Instead, I just bring food to share. If one cannot bring something to eat, have a substantial snack before the gathering and just eat whatever plant-based foods that are served. Some people will not eat honey. That is an easy one to pass on when they are serving apples and honey. Just enjoy the apples and pass the honey to the next person. I tell my clients not to worry if they do not get all their nutrients in during that meal. It is only one meal. Rosh Hashanah is about celebrating life and being with friends and family is the most important aspect of the gathering.

Reyna Franco, MS, MBA, RDN, CSSD, FAND, CPT, DipACLM

I am a RDN with a private practice located in New York City with a MS in nutrition and exercise. I have been providing medical nutrition therapy with a plant-forward focus for over fifteen years. I am a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a certified personal trainer, and a Diplomate of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. I volunteer with the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as their secretary/treasurer and past-president. I serve on the AND Foundation Scholarship Committee. Additionally, I am the chairperson of the RDN member interest group for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.