Traditional Jewish Holidays
The Jewish new year is a festive celebration during which we contemplate past, present and future actions. Traditionally, special foods are served such as a round challah and apples with honey, symbolizing wholeness and sweetness for the new year. The shofar is also sounded to symbolically call individuals to worship as we being the Ten Days of Awe, which culminate on Yom Kippur.
One of the holiest days of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement takes worshippers through fasting and prayer so they may reflect upon their relationships with others and with G-d, atoning for wrongdoings and failures to take action. The High Holy Day ends at sunset with a blast of the shofar (ram’s horn.)
A seven-day holiday commemorating the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land after forty years of wandering. Many people build a sukkah (booth), a temporary structure with a roof made of branches, modeled after the huts constructed in the desert. We also give thanks to G-d for the bounty of the Earth with prayers and a symbolic shaking of the lulav (an assemblage of palm, willow and myrtle branches) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit).
Celebrating the completion of the annual Torah-reading cycle, the Torah is joyously paraded around the synagogue once the last sentence of the chapter Devarim (Deuteronomy) is read. The Torah is completely rolled out for all to see before immediate beginning the cycle again with a reading from Bereshit (Genesis.)
This eight-day holiday celebrates the importance of religion freedom as it commemorates the ancient Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the miracle of the rededication of the Temple, when oil meant to last for one day burned for eight. Celebrated by lighting candles in a chanukiah (a nine-branched candelabrum), eating latkes (potato pancakes), playing with dreidels (spinning tops) and giving money or gifts.
Celebrating springtime renewal and growth, the traditions of this holiday include eating fruit and planting trees, oftentimes through a donation to plant a tree in Israel.
A joyous holiday commemorating the rescue of the Jews of Persia by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai from the evil Haman, their story is read aloud. When Haman is mentioned in the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, people scream and turn noisemakers called groggers to drown out his name. Traditions include parties, dances, putting on plays (shpeils), mishloach manot (gift-giving) and eating hamentashen (three-cornered, fruit-filled pastries).
Celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, this holiday stresses the value of moving from slavery to freedom for all who are oppressed or enslaved. At the seder (service and festive meal), the Haggadah (collection of texts and commentaries on the Exodus) is read and symbolic foods are eaten. In remembrance of the departure of the Israelites, who could not wait for their bread to rise before fleeing, matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten for the eight days of Passover.
Chosen by the Israeli Knesset in 1951, this holiday mourns the millions killed in the Holocaust. Their sacrifice is often commemorated with speeches by survivors and the reading of names.
Celebrates the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the spring harvest. Traditionally, Jews read the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth and eat dairy products.