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Jewish Holidays

Jewish holidays begin at sundown the evening before the date listed

Rosh Hashanah

Jewish New Year – 1-2 Tishrei / September 25-26, 2014
Festive celebration during which individuals contemplate their past, present, and future actions. Traditional foods include round challah and apples with honey, symbolizing anticipated wholeness and sweetness for the new year. Commences the Ten Days of Awe, which culminate on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur

Day of atonement – 10 Tishrei / October 4, 2014
Holiest day of the Jewish year. Through fasting and prayer, Jews reflect upon their relationships with G-d and other people and atone for their wrongdoings. Ends with a shofar’s blast at nighttime.

Sukkot

Festival of booths – 15-21 Tishrei / October 9-15, 2014
Commemorates the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering. Many build a sukkah (plural: sukkot), a temporary structure with a roof made of branches, modeled after the huts constructed in the desert. Also celebrated with the shaking of the lulav
(assemblage of palm, willow and myrtle branches) and etrog (lemon-like fruit).

Shemini Atzeret

Eighth Day of Assembly – 22 Tishrei / October 16, 2014
Celebrated the day after Sukkot and thus sometimes considered an extension of the holiday. Marks the first time tefillat geshem (prayer for rain) is recited during services, a practice that continues until Pesach.

Simchat Torah

Rejoicing in the Torah – 23 Tishrei / October 17, 2014
Celebrates the completion of the annual Torah reading cycle. After finishing the last sentence of the chapter of Devarim (Deuteronomy), adults and children joyously parade the Torah around the synagogue seven times. The new cycle begins immediately with a reading from Beresheit (Genesis).

Chanukah

Festival of Lights – 24 Kislev-1 Tevet / December 17-24, 2014
Eight-day holiday commemorating Jewish victory over the Syrians 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 chanukiyah (a nine-branched candelabrum), eating latkes (potato pancakes), playing with dreidels (spinning tops) and giving gelt (money or gifts).

Tu B’Shevat

New Year of Trees – 15 Shevat / February 4, 2015
Biblical in origin, a holiday with environmentalist and Zionistic themes that celebrates
spring-time renewal and growth. Traditions include eating fruit and planting trees.

Purim

Feast of Lots – 14 Adar / March 5, 2015
Commemorates the rescue of the Jews by Queen Esther and her righteous uncle Mordechai from the evil Haman. When Haman is mentioned in the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, people scream and turn groggers (noisemakers) to drown out his name. Traditions include parties, mishloach manot (gift-giving), and eating hamentashen (three-cornered fruit-filled pastries). Some also fast on the day before Purim to remember the three-day fast by the Jews of Persia at Esther’s request.

Pesach

Passover – 15-22 Nisan / April 4-11, 2015
Celebrates the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the seder (traditional service and meal), the haggadah (collection of texts and commentaries on the Exodus) is read and symbolic foods are eaten. Jews refrain from eating leavened products and eat matzah (unleavened bread) for eight days to remember how the hurried Israelites could not let their bread rise before fleeing.

Yom HaShoah

Holocaust Remembrance Day – 26 Nisan / April 16, 2015
Day chosen by the Israeli Knesset in 1951 to mourn the millions killed in the Holocaust. Often commemorated with the reading of names and speeches by survivors. In Israel, a siren’s morning blast allows collective remembrance in a moment of silence.

Yom HaAtzmaut

Israel Independence Day – 4 Iyar / April 23, 2015
On May 14, 1948 (Hebrew date of 4 Iyar), Israel was declared an independent state. Many Jews celebrate with parades, festivals and donations to Jewish charities.

Lag B’Omer

Thirty-third Day of the Counting of the Omer – 18 Iyar / May 7, 2015
One-day suspension of the traditional mourning period during Sefirat HaOmer. On this day, a plague afflicting Rabbi Akiva’s students ceased. Also commemorates Bar Kochba’s recapture of Jerusalem from the Romans. Celebrated with picnics and nature outings.

Shavuot

Festival of Weeks – 6-7 Sivan / May 24-25, 2015
Celebrated the day after Sefirat HaOmer ends to commemorate 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. Religious school confirmation often takes place at this time.

Fast of Tammuz

The Seventeenth of Tammuz – 17 Tammuz / July 5, 2015
Fast from dawn until nightfall commemorating the day Moses broke the first Tablets of the Covenant because the Israelites made the Golden Calf. Also marks the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem before its destruction. Begins the “Three Weeks,” a mourning period ending at Tisha B’Av.

Tisha B’Av

The Ninth of Av – 9 Av / July 26, 2015
Day of fasting and mourning commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples, both of which took place on the Ninth of Av. The Book of Lamentations is read, and many conduct services sitting on the floor.


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