Jewish Living Jewish Holidays - Winter/Spring 2019 (5779) Hanukkah December 3 –December 10 Hanukkah (alternately spelled Chanukah), meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Hanukkah centers around the lighting of the hanukkiyah, a special menorah for Hanukkah; foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); and special songs and games. Tu B’Shevat January 21 Tu B’Shevat or the “New Year of the Trees” is Jewish Arbor Day. The holiday is observed on the 15th (tu) of the Hebrew month of Sh’vat. Scholars believe that originally Tu BiSh’vat was an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. In the 17th century, Kabbalists created a ritual for Tu BiSh’vat that is similar to a Passover seder. Today, many Jews hold a modern version of the Tu BiSh’vat seder each year. The holiday also has become a tree planting festival in Israel, in which Israelis and Jews around the world plant trees in honor or in memory of loved ones and friends. Purim March 21 & 22 Purim is celebrated with a public reading— usually in the synagogue—of the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther), which tells the story of the holiday. Under the rule of King Ahashverosh, Haman, the king’s prime minister, plots to exterminate all of the Jews of Persia. His plan is foiled by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai, who ultimately save the Jews of Persia from destruction. The 7 reading of the megillah typically is a rowdy affair, punctuated by booing and noisemaking when Haman’s name is read aloud. Purim is an unusual holiday in many respects. First, Esther is the only biblical book in which God is not mentioned. Second, Purim, like Hanukkah, traditionally is viewed as a minor festival, but elevated to a major holiday as a result of the Jewish historical experience. Over the centuries, Haman became the embodiment of every anti-Semite in every land where Jews were oppressed. The significance of Purim lies not so much in how it began, but in what it has become: a thankful and joyous affirmation of Jewish survival against all odds. Passover April 20 – 27 Pesach, known as Passover in English, is a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The ritual observance of this holiday centers around a special home service called the seder (meaning “order”) and a festive meal; the prohibition of chametz (leaven); and the eating of matzah (an unleavened bread). On the fifteenth day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, Jews gather with family and friends in the evening to read from a book called the haggadah, meaning “telling,” which contains the order of prayers, rituals, readings and songs for the Passover seder. Today, the holiday is a celebration of freedom and family. Yom HaShoah May 2 Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, occurs on the 27th of Nisan. Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew, refers to the Weinstein JCC | 2019 Winter - Spring Activity Guide atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II. This is a memorial day for those who died in the Shoah. The Shoah is also known as the Holocaust, from a Greek word meaning “sacrifice by fire.” Yom Ha’atzmaut May 9 Since the establishment of the State of Israel, four new holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar - Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day),and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). In Israel, these holidays are observed as national holidays. The Israeli Knesset established the day before Yom HaAtzmaut as Yom HaZikaron, a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battles. Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. It is observed on or near the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in April. Shavuot June 9 & 10 Shavuot is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. In ancient times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival during which Israelites brought crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.