The JCC will celebrate the Jewish festivals and holidays as they occur during the school year. An elementary introduction to the history of the holidays and their traditional rituals will be explored.
Yom Ha’Atzmaut — Israeli Independence Day —
This holiday marks the creation of the modern State of Israel, May 14, 1948. Your child will learn about the land of Israel, make Israeli flags, and eat Israeli food.
Rosh Hashanah — The Jewish New Year —
The Jewish New Year begins with Rosh Hashanah, which usually falls in September on the first day of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. It begins a 10-day period of repentance and prayer which ends on Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the birthday of the world. It is the day people are judged for their actions during the past year.
Purim — The Feast of Lots —
Purim is the jolliest of all holidays, commemorating how Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, saved the Jews of Persia from a plot by the king’s minister, Haman, to destroy them. On this day we eat Hamantashen (three-cornered cookies), which the children enjoy making. The children are encouraged to come to school in costume for this happy holiday.
Yom Kippur — The Day of Atonement —
Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is spent in prayer, meditation and fasting in order to start the new year with a clear conscience. At this time, we talk about forgiveness and we discuss the nice things we can do for others during the year.
Pesach — Passover —
This holiday commemorates the experiences and ordeals of slavery in Egypt, the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, and the beginning of Jewish independence. The children will celebrate Pesach with a model seder, for which they will prepare some traditional Pesach foods.
Shabbat — The Sabbath —
Shabbat commemorates God’s day of rest on the seventh day of Creation. Although the Sabbath lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, we celebrate Shabbat on Friday day. It is the last activity of the week. The classes get together, and we light the Shabbat candles and recite the blessings for the candles, wine, and bread. We drink juice and eat challah, the traditional Shabbat bread. Then we sing Shabbat songs.
Shavuot — Feast of Harvest —
Shavuot, a thanksgiving and early wheat harvest feast, also commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Also known as the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It is a custom to decorate the house with plants and flowers. The greenery recall the green mountain of Sinai where Moses received the Commandments, as well as the fruits of the ancient harvest festival.
Hanukkah — The Festival of Lights —
Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabean victory, when brave Judah Maccabee and his small band of followers saved the Jewish nation from the Syrians. For eight days each year, the Menorah, or eight-branched candelabra, is lit to recall their rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and to give thanks for the great miracles of the survival of the Jewish people. We eat potato latkes (pancakes), play with dreidles (tops), make menorahs (candelabras), and light the Hanukkah candles.
Sukkot — The Feast of Tabernacles —
Sukkot recalls the journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land when they lived in a tent or booth called a Sukkah. The harvest season is symbolized by the lulav (palm branch), Etrog (citron), the myrtle, and willow.
Tu B’Shevat — Arbor Day —
On Tu B’Shevat we celebrate the New Year of the trees and our own belief in the future of the world. The Jewish calendar, with all its holidays, is tied to the cycle of growing things. Trees are a symbol of life and a symbol of importance to the Jewish people. We will emphasize the importance of trees.
Shemini Atzeret — 8th Day of Assembly —
This holiday occurs on the eighth day of Sukkot and is considered a holiday in itself. It is a solemn day with special prayers for rain (geshem). This is the beginning of the season which determines the fertility of land in the year to come.
This holiday recalls the tragic things that have happened to the Jews in the past. Jews are especially sad over the two times their Temple was destroyed: once by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and once by the Romans in 70 CE. Both times, it is believed the Temple was destroyed on the ninth day of the Jewish month Av.
Simchat Torah — Rejoicing in the Torah —
Simchat Torah is the second day of Shemini Atzeret and emphasizes the continuity of Jewish learning. Throughout the year, passages of the Torah are read aloud in the synagogue. On Simchat Torah, the reading is completed (with the last two chapters of Deuteronomy), then immediately begun again (with Genesis). This symbolizes the fact that study of the Torah has no beginning and no end. Children also join adults in carrying specially decorated flags in a series of seven processions (Hakafot) around the synagogue. The seven processions are in honor of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.
Lag B’Omer — Thirty-third day of the Omer Counting or Holiday of Scholars —
Lag B’Omer is a day of rejoicing which marks the interruption of a period of mourning associated with the counting of the Omer, a traditional measure of grain brought to the Temple as an offering in ancient times. This holiday also recalls the struggle of the Jews to regain their independence as a Jewish nation during the second century C.E. The Romans, ruling Palestine, banned the study of the Torah and Jewish literature. Jews continued learning in secret. They studied in caves and forests under the pretense of hunting and hiking. Eventually, they organized a heroic revolt which ended in a massacre of the Jews. Today, however, the holiday celebrates Jewish survival.