The Jewish calendar pre-dates the Gregorian calendar we follow today. The Jewish calendar is lunar (it follows the stages of the moon) while the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar (it follows the stages of the sun). Because these calendars do not align perfectly, Jewish holidays do not always take place in the same month every year.
The Birthday of the Trees in Israel
The JLE celebrates Tu b’Shevat with a seder (a meal held in a certain order) of dried fruits, nuts, and grains. We also serve fresh fruit, sushi, and hot soup.
In some years Tu b’Shevat will fall in February
Commemorates the Saving of the Jewish People in Ancient Persia
The JLE observes Purim by holding a Megillah reading late in the afternoon of Purim day (at 4:30pm in most years) followed by a buffet Chinese dinner. The “Megillah” or “Book” we read from is the Book of Esther. She was the Queen of Persia at this time in our history. She kept her Jewish identity hidden. It was not until the Jews of ancient Persia were going to be annihilated that she revealed her secret identity to her husband King Ahashveirosh and saved the Jewish people.
In some years Purim will fall in February
Celebrates the Israelites’ Liberation from Slavery in Ancient Egypt
The JLE holds a Passover seder (a meal held in a certain order) every year on the first night of Passover (also known as “Pesach” in Hebrew). We re-tell the story of our difficult, bitter lives as slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt and the redemption we experienced through our leader Moses. Our seder includes traditional Passover foods such as matzo, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, hot entrees, and dessert.
Passover is one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
In some years Passover will fall in March
Celebrates the Passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
& the First Day Rabbi Akiva’s Students Ceased Dying
This is a festive day for Jews for 2 different reasons, but it is more often associated with only 1 of them: Rabbi Akiva. Very few rabbis are as famous to this day as Rabbi Akiva. He was a shepherd who could not read Hebrew until he was around age 40. He had such a knack for Torah learning afterwards that he became not just a rabbi, but a tremendously well-known and well-respected rabbi of a great yeshiva (school for Torah education). Sadly, while his students learned to read and interpret the Torah most beautifully under Rabbi Akiva’s tutelage, they failed to treat each other with the respect they should have. In 1 year, 24,000 of his students died in the weeks between Passover and Lag b’Omer. It was a tragic time in our history. Lag b’Omer was the first day the students stopped dying. As for Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the other reason why this holiday is festive, he was an exemplary student of Rabbi Akiva’s who made lasting accomplishments in his own right. He left instructions whereby, on the occasion of his death, the day should be marked with joy. Lag b’Omer is celebrated with great joy, bonfires, and music. The JLE celebrates this day with a fire pit, a BBQ, s’mores, and music.
In some years Lag b’Omer will fall in April
The Anniversary of G-d Giving the Torah to the Jews
After the Jews were liberated from slavery in Egypt over 3,330 years ago, Moses led them to Mount Sinai where they received the Torah. This is one of the most defining moments in our history, but many Jews are unfamiliar with this holiday. The JLE celebrates Shavuot with an afternoon “Dessert & Learn” gathering to hear some Torah and enjoy dessert together. Cheesecake is the most recognized component of many Shavuot desserts. The JLE also serves fresh fruit and other non-dairy dessert items.
Shavuot is one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
In some years Shavuot will fall in May
The Saddest Day on the Jewish Calendar
Tisha b’Av is a date on the Jewish calendar where multiple catastrophic events happened to the Jews in different years. Some of these events were; the destruction of the first and second holy Temples in Jerusalem followed by the exiles of the Jewish people from their homeland in the years 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively, the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the mass deportation of Jews from Warsaw during World War II in 1942, the bombing of the Jewish Community Center of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994, and so on. This is only a partial list. The JLE observes this sad day with programming that varies from year to year.
In some years Tisha b’Av will fall in July
The Jewish New Year
The Jewish calendar begins every year on Rosh Hashanah just like the Gregorian calendar begins with January 1st. Rosh Hashanah is also the birthday of humanity through Adam and Eve. On this holiday Jews go to synagogue to pray for a good year. Rosh Hashanah lasts 2 days and the JLE offers prayer services for both mornings. The JLE prayer services are shorter than what most synagogues or temples provide, but all the most important elements are included. A kiddush follows both services.
Rosh Hashanah is one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish Day of Atonement
Ten days into the new Jewish year we observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. For millennia Jews have abstained from eating and drinking on this day and channeled their energies into praying in synagogue and asking forgiveness from G-d for any sins committed in the prior year. Yom Kippur is also an important day for those with deceased parents to recite yizkor (the prayer of remembrance for those we have loved and lost). The JLE provides a prayer service on the night of Yom Kippur when it first begins (known as “Kol Nidre”) and the following day with yizkor.
Yom Kippur is one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
In some years Yom Kippur will fall in October
A Holiday of Dwelling in the Sukkah
Several days after observing the holiest holiday of Yom Kippur, the Jewish people are ready to celebrate a good judgement for the coming year. The joyful holiday of Sukkot is one where Jews gather to pray in synagogue followed by festive meals in sukkahs. A “sukkah” is an outdoor hut with 3 walls and a roof made of something that grows in nature, such as bamboo or palm fronds, as well as other types of branches or greenery. Jews eat all their meals inside a sukkah during the 7 days of Sukkot unless something as invasive as a heavy rainstorm interferes with their enjoyment. The JLE hosts dinner in a sukkah during one of the middle days of Sukkot.
Sukkot is one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
In some years Sukkot will fall in October
Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah
Special Holidays at the End of Sukkot
For Jews living outside of Israel the 7th and final day of Sukkot is merged with Shemini Atzeret and the following day is Simchat Torah. Just like all of Sukkot, these holidays are equally as jubilant. Jews again come together in communal prayer in synagogue followed by festive meals. After the spiritual peak of Sukkot, it is difficult to jump back into our year-round routines again. Shemini Atzeret lends us an extra day to hold onto the happiness. Simchat Torah is a celebration of the gift of Torah that G-d has given to the Jews. Jews worldwide read from the Torah every week on Shabbat. The entire Torah reading is completed on Simchat Torah and begun again. This is a commemorative time for Jews each year. The volunteers of the JLE open their homes and invite attendees to meals to celebrate the occasions.
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are two of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar.
In some years Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah will fall in October
Celebrates the miracle of the Jewish Maccabean army over the Syrian-Greeks
Chanukkah is one of the most well-known Jewish holidays. Jews light a menorah each night for 8 nights to remember the container of oil discovered in our desecrated Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. That vessel of oil was only enough to light the menorah for 1 night, but it lasted 8 days and 8 nights instead. There were 2 miracles for the Jews at that time. The first was the small band of Jews who overpowered the 40,000 man Syrian-Greek army to re-take the Temple. The other was the small amount of oil that fueled our menorah for much, much longer than it should have. The JLE hosts a Chanukkah party each year for Jews in all stages of life, from families with young children all the way to teenagers, singles, couples, and even grandparents.
In some years Chanukkah will begin in November