March 7, 2023 (14 of Adar 5783)
Purim (meaning lots) is a joyous holiday celebrating the events in Megillat Esther, in which Queen Esther saves the Jews from destruction. During Purim we listen to the chanting of Megillat Esther, give Mishloach manot (gifts of food); eat Hamantaschen, cookies in the shape of Haman’s hat filled with delicious jellies, and dress in costume. We also perform a parody of the story, called an Shpiel, with much congregational participation. When hearing the name of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, we use groggers (wooden or plastic noisemakers) to drown out him name.
April 6th and 7th and April 13th in the evening (15 and 16th of Nissan and 22 of Nissan)
Pesach or Passover is on of the most celebrated Jewish Holidays. The holiday commemorates the time when the people of Israel were able to flee from their Egyptian oppressors and find themselves a free people. The first two nights, we hold a Seder, in which we use a Haggadah (the telling) to present the order of certain customs and tell the story of Jewish survival. There are many new and fascinating Haggadot, which tell the story from a different perspective. The Seder’s are home holidays.
Passover lasts for 8 days and during the Holiday, Jews cannot eat anything made from wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley. Within the Eastern European community, Kinyanot were also forbidden, any kind of beans. Most Reform Jews, keep the regulation of the grains but not the beans. We are commanded to eat Matzah, unleavened bread that our ancestors carried on their back to freedom.
On the 8th night, when darkness falls, we can stop our fast and eat bread products again.
April 23, 2023 (4 Iyar 5783)
Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s National Day of Mourning of all who have been killed in the many battles. Every school has a ceremony to mark the day and they mention the names of all soldiers who graduated from the school who were killed in war. In Israel, an alarm sounds and all stop from doing what they were doing and stand in respect.
April 26, 2023 (5 of Iyar 5783)
Yom Ha’Zikaron goes right into Yom HaAtzmaut. Israelis go to parks where there are live bands, fireworks, and many festivities. It is a day of joy and celebration!
May 9, 2023 (18 0f Iyar 2023)
L’ag B’Omer is celebrated on the 33 day of the omer. The counting of the Omer begins on Pesach and ends on the 49th day, which is Shavuot, the Holiday which commemorates the giving of the Torah. Jews light bonfires as a remembrance of the light of Torah. According to different Jewish sources, this day marked the end of a plague, during Rabbi Akiva’s time. It also marks, in a mystical context, the celebration of Simeon Ben Yochai on the anniversary of his death.
May 27, 2023 (7 of Sivan, 5783)
Shavuot, called the feast of weeks, commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. In the Reform movement, Shavuot is the day where our tenth graders are confirmed. During the night of Shavuot, we hold a special service, eat dairy foods ( to mark coming into the land of milk and honey) and some synagogues sponsor an all-night study with different teachers.
July 26-26, 2023 (15th and 16th of Av 5783)
Tisha B’Av is the National Day of Mourning for the destruction of the first and second Temples, and various other tragedies that befell the Jews throughout history. It is a fast day.
August 2, 2023 (15th of Av 5783)
Israel’s valentine’s day. It is the most common day for Israelis to get engaged or married.
September 9, 2023 (23 of Elul 5783)
Selichot is the Saturday night before Rosh HaShannah. It is a night of penitential prayers, usually ending with a service at midnight where the Torah covers are changed from their usual colorful ones to ones that are pure white. We now use this time to bring in speakers or engage in discussions of repentance.
September 16, 2023 (1 of Tishrei 5784) and September 17, 2023 (2 of Tishrei 5784)
Rosh HaShannah, literally head of the year, is the Jewish new year. Rosh HaShannah begins a ten-day period of penitence culminating in Yom Kippur, as well as the harvest festivals. Rosh HaShannah begins the period where we look at who we are and make repentance, apologize to those we have hurt and let those who have hurt us know. Only when we have put in the work, can we stand before God.
On Rosh HaShannah we are commanded to hear the call of the Shofar which wakes us up to the changes and possibilities of the new year. We also eat apples and honey, which bring sweetness to the New Year.
September 24, 2023 (9 of Tishrei 5784), September 25, 2023 (10 of Tishrei)
Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is considered one of the most important holidays in the Jewish faith. According to tradition, God decides each person’s faith on Yom Kippur. We engage in communal prayers that ask for forgiveness for the ways we miss the mark. Yom Kippur is a fast day for those who do not have medical issues. Other rituals include not wearing leather, showering, wearing white and abstaining from sex.
Yom Kippur is introduced during the Torah and morphs throughout time to five prayer services, including Yizkor, a memorial service and N’ilah, the moving service at the end of the day. People can break the fast when the sun fades with easy to digest foods.
Evening of September 29, 2023 (14 of Tishrei 5784) – October 8, 2023 (23 of Tishrei 5784)
Sukkot is a harvest festival. We build and dwell in a temporary structure for a week, eating meals and shaking the lulav and smelling the etrog. The etrog is a fruit from the lemon family, that is grown in Israel. It has a sweet smell and is in the shape of the heart. The Etrog is inedible. The lulav, which is combined of four different species of plants (palm, myrtle, and willow) is shaken in all different directions as special prayers are recited. Living in a temporary hut, so soon after Yom Kippur is another reminder that life is short, and our possessions should not define us.
October 8, 2023 (23 of Tishri 5784)
Simchat Torah begins in the evening and is a time of dancing and rejoicing with the Torah. It marks the end of the reading of Deuteronomy and with one breathe we begin Bereshit again.
December 7, 2023 (18 Kislev 5784) – December 14, 2023 (2 Tevet 5784)
Chanukah is a minor 8-day festival of lights that commemorates the victory of the Maccabee’s over the Greek army. The Greek army had destroyed the Temple, spiling pigs’ blood and destroying the space. A myth states that the people Israel were able to find a very small amount of olive oil which was supposed to last for one day, but lasted for 8 days, the time needed to rededicate the Temple. We celebrate Chankuah by light a menorah, a nine branched candelabra with spaces for candles for eight nights and the special helper candle which lights all the others. There are other rituals such as eating fried food, playing the game of dreidel, and exchanging gifts.
January 23, 2024 (15 Shevat 5784)
Tu B’Shevat is the birthday of the trees. There are four separate New Years in the Jewish calendar: Rosh HaShannah, Tu B’shevat, Pesach and Shavuot. During Tu B’Shevat, we honor and discuss ways to save the planet and leave a smaller footprint. We also have a seder, eating different fruits and nuts and four cups of wine, going from deep red, to white by mixing the wines.
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