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A Calendar Rich With Tradition

For want of a national soil, Jews in the Diaspora could not build national structures. So they built out of the substance of time. They took a specific day of the year, and kneaded and molded it until they fashioned it into an edifice. Thus each Jewish holiday is a whole construction."
– Bialik. q Karu. HaBoker, May 21, 1950

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Shabbat

is the most important holiday. It commemorates God's day of rest on the seventh day of Creation. Weekly, from sundown Friday, until after dark on Saturday.

Shavuot

is the Festival of Weeks. It marks the end of the counting of the Omer, which began on the second night of Passover and recalls Moses' receiving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments. The Megillah of Ruth is read. All night study of the Torah is customary. Confirmation ceremonies, dairy foods, honey and floral decorations mark this holiday. Observed by Reform Jews for one day.

Rosh Hashanah

the first day of the new year, the shofar is sounded to announce the judgment day, when humanity's deeds are remembered and assessed. Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom Teruah (Day of Shofar Sounding), Yom Hadin (Day of Judgment), or Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance).

 

Sukkot

celebrates the bounty harvest of Israel's produce: grapes, olives, pomegranates, dates, figs and their various juices. Sitting in the sukkah is commemorative of Israel's 40-year wandering in the desert after the liberation from Egypt. Sukkot is also known as Zman Simkhateinu (Season of Our Joy), or Hag Ha'asif (Bounty Harvest Time).

Yom Kippur

(Day of Atonement) is devoted to the acknowledgement of personal and communal sin and wrongdoing. During a fast that takes place from sundown to sundown, worshippers resolve, through prayer, reflection and good deeds, to renew themselves in the coming year.

 

Shemini Atzeret

is the­ Feast of Conclusion, the day people leave the sukkah and resume the holiday in their own home. Prayers for rain, psalms of thanksgiving and joy, and yizkor memorial prayers) are recited.

Purim

the Feast of Lots, recalls the rescue of Jews from annihilation in ancient Persia, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Haman cast lots to choose the day for his plot, which was failed by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai. Celebrated with festivity, costumes, and noisemakers, and the reading of the Megillah of Esther. Hamantashen (three-cornered pastries) are the traditional food. Mishloach manot (gift packages) are exchanged and gifts are given to the poor.

Hanukka

is called the Festival of Lights. It celebrates a miracle: In 165 BCE, the Maccabees led a band of Jews in battle against invading pagans who had desecrated the Temple. They found only one day's supply of oil for the Temple's eternal light. Miraculously, the supply lasted eight days, until more was procured. A menorah is lit for eight nights. Dreidle games, and food fried in oil are customary.

Pesach

­or Passover is named after the "passing over" by the almighty of the Israelites' homes during the tenth plague. Eight-day festival celebrating the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Haggadah (holiday book), recounting the story, is read at the Seder (ritual meal). Matzah (unleavened bread) commemorates the haste in which the former slaves fled Egypt. Celebrated by Reform Jews for 7 days. Begin counting the Omer on the second day of Passover.

Tu B'Shevat

one of the four Jewish new years, is also known as Jewish Arbor Day. The Lord judges the world on each of the four new years, and on Tu B'Shevat, judgment is made on the abundance of the produce of fruit trees. In Israel, children take field trips to nature reserves and plant trees. In the Diaspora, Jews stress their connection to Israel and the unity of the Jewish people.

Lag B'Omer

or the 33rd Day of the Counting of the Omer, is a day of tribute to Jewish martyrs and mystics.

Tisha B'Av

the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av.

Yom Hashoah

(Holocaust Remembrance Day) we mourn the destruction of more than a millennium of European Jewish civilization and the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators in every country in Europe, with the silent complicity of those who neither protested nor rescued.

Yom Hazikaron

Israel Memorial Day, is a day of remembrance for all those who died serving Israel. Yom Hazikaron concludes with a siren blast as stars appear in the sky and Independence Day begin.

Yom Ha'atzmaut is Israel Independence Day. It is celebrated by Jews around the world.

Yom Yerushalayim ­or Jerusalem Day is the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during Israel's 1967 Six Day War.