Jewish Holiday Guide
Throughout the year, certain Jewish holidays will affect Center hours; please refer to the atypical holiday hours schedules. All Jewish Holidays begin at sundown the night before the first day of the holiday (referred to as “Erev”). There are also Jewish holidays that may not affect Center hours but are significant and often acknowledged and celebrated. Below is a brief overview of the Jewish holidays.
|Rosh HaShanah (New Year)|
|The Jewish New Year occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah means, literally, “head of the year.” The New Year is a joyous remembrance of the creation of the world, as well as a solemn time of reconciliation and confronting the past year. Just as many Americans use January 1st as a time to make resolutions, likewise the Jewish New Year is a time of introspection, looking back at mistakes of the past year and planning changes to make in the New Year.
A popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. There is a custom of sending friends and relatives New Year’s cards with special wishes for a happy and peaceful year and the greeting, Shanah Tovah (Happy New Year).
|Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)|
|The day of Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the fall Jewish holiday period. It is traditional to fast from sunset to sundown and spend the day in quiet contemplation and prayer. It is traditional to ask for forgiveness from those one has wronged and extend the greeting G’mar Chatimah Tovah (may you be sealed in for a good year). The day ends at sundown with a festive break of the fast in the synagogue or at home.|
|Sukkot (Fall Harvest Festival)|
|This is both an agricultural and historical festival. Agriculturally, the holiday celebrates the final gathering of fruit and produce of the year. Historically, it represents the journey of the Jewish people through the desert after the exodus from Egypt, during which time people lived in sukkot (booths such as temporary shelter assembled in the picnic table area earlier this year). Meals are eaten inside this hut, which is decorated with palm branches and hanging fruit.|
|Shemini Atzeret (Rain Holiday)|
|This is a festival day at the end of Sukkot. It marks the end of the harvest season with prayers for just the right amount of rain in the coming year.|
|Simchat Torah (Rejoicing for the Torah)|
|This holiday caps off the Jewish Holiday season, when the Jewish Community ends its cycle of public Torah readings (the Torah is the Old Testament) and promptly begins again. The concluding passage retells the death of Moses in the last chapter of Deuteronomy, and is immediately followed with the first chapter of Genesis, which recounts the worlds creation. As part of the celebration, Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and accompanied by the dancing and singing of the congregants in circles around the synagogue. The cycle of readings, moving from end to beginning, is symbolic of unending Torah learning.|
|Chanukah (Festival of Lights)|
|Around 165 B.C.E., Judah the Maccabbee led a victorious revolt against the Syrian Greeks who occupied Israel. When the Maccabbees went to rededicate the temple, there was only enough oil for one day. Miraculously, it lasted for eight days. The tone of this holiday is a festive one, and the only special ritual is to kindle the lights for eight days. Foods made with oil are eaten, especially potato pancakes and doughnuts, and dreidel games are played. It is also common for gifts to be exchanged on each night.
The Barshop JCC typically celebrates Chanukah with our Hands on Chanukah celebration.
|Tu B’Shevat (New Year of the Trees)|
|Tu B’Shevat is the 15th day of Shevat on the Hebrew calendar. The celebration is known as the birthday of the trees. In Israel, it is a popular day for tree planting, while in the Diaspora (Jewish communities outside of Israel) the day is marked with festival meals with fruits and nuts, and by planting either trees or plants.|
|Purim (Feast of Lots)|
|Purim comes on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar and is the most festive of the Jewish holidays. The holiday celebrates the liberation of the Jews of Persia, as recounted in the Biblical book of Esther. The main feature of Purim is the reading and discussion of the Megillah (a special scroll of parchment), generally referred to as “The Book of Esther”. It is customary to dress in costume, give to charity, and give edible gifts to family and friends. The scroll of Esther retells the tale of a woman who, through her beauty and intelligence, captures the heart of the enemy and thereby saves her people from catastrophe. Wrong was righted and everyone joined together in jubilant celebration.|
|Passover (Springtime Festival of Freedom)|
|Passover is our Springtime Freedom Festival. At this time of year, we remember our escape (with Moses as our leader) from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel. Our celebration of Passover (Pesach) takes place in the home. The ritual dinner, which includes Matzah and other special foods, is called a “Seder”. It is a time of remembrance and thanksgiving. The traditional book that we use at the Seder is called the “Haggadah”. It tells of our history, explains the ritual of the Seder, and has fables, songs, stories and prayers. Passover is not only about the past. Many people in the world are still not free. We cherish our gift of freedom and support efforts for everyone to live in a free world.|
|Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)|
|Jews all over the world mourn the loss of six million Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust as part of Hitler’s genocidal “Final Solution.”|
|Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day)|
|On this Memorial Day, we commemorate the soldiers who have fallen fighting for Israel’s independence and defending its security. This holiday falls the day before Israel Independence Day. In this way, a day of solemn commemoration can be followed by joyous celebration and song.|
|Yom Ha’atzmut (Israel Independence Day)|
|Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on the fifth day of the month of Iyar, which is the anniversary of the Hebrew date of the formal establishment of the State of Israel. On this date in 1948, members of a provisional government signed a Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv. Israelis celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with both official ceremonies and more casual picnics and neighborhood gatherings. In the U.S., community-wide events are a way to express solidarity with Israel by having a celebration filled with Israel food, music and culture.|
|Lag B’Omer (33rd Day of the Omer)|
|This festive outdoor holiday is celebrated on the 33rd day of the “Omer” (a measure of barley) which is the period between Passover and Shavuot. Every night from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavuot, we recite a blessing and state the count of the Omer in both weeks and days. The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah.|
|Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks)|
|Shavuot is the holiday celebration of the giving of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) from God to Moses. The celebration of Shavuot is also the Festival of the First Fruits and Grains—the fulfillment of the promise of spring. The holiday is celebrated with special services in the synagogues and by partaking of dairy foods, especially blintzes. In the synagogue, the Ten Commandments and the story of Ruth are read. Many synagogues hold confirmation (graduation) ceremonies on or near Shavuot. Synagogues and Jewish institutions decorate with flowers and greenery at this time.|
|Tish B’Av (The Fast of the 9th Day of Av)|
|An important fast day in the Jewish calendar is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av. On that day in the year 586 BCE, the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, besieged the Temple in Jerusalem and burned it to the ground. On that same day 656 years later (70 CE) the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Like Yom Kippur, fasting on Tisha B’Av begins on the evening of the night before the day itself and ends at nightfall twenty-five hours later.|
|Tu B’Av (The Day of Love)|
|Held six days after the solemn fast day of Tisha B’Av comes a festival celebrating love! In ancient times, under the light of the full moon, women wishing to marry would wear white garments, (so none would know who was rich or poor) and dance outside the Jerusalem city walls. Suitors-or so it was hoped- would dance after them. Today in Israel, Tu B’Av is occasion for a popular music festival on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In the Jewish world, both in and outside of Israel, it is a day to celebrate love and friendship. This holiday marks the six week point from the Jewish year and is the last holiday of the Jewish calendar year. There is a connection between the last holiday of the year (Tu B’Av) and the first (Rosh HaShanah): Both celebrate new beginnings.|
If you are interested in more details about any celebrated (or uncelebrated) Jewish Holiday, please contact our Director of Jewish Journeys, Rachel Rustin, at 210-302-6969.