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Holidays

At SAJ, each holiday presents an opportunity to experience renewal of spirit and body, to recapture joy, and to find inspiration for our daily lives and commitments to justice. The following is an overview of the major Jewish holidays and some information on how we celebrate them at SAJ. The SAJ Calendar provides more details about holiday gatherings.

Sukkot (the Harvest Holiday of Booths)

Sukkot is “z’man simchateinu” – the season of our joy. After an invigorating and life-affirming High Holidays, we aim to elevate our joy and join together as a intergenerational community. During Sukkot, we gather for discussions, movies, holiday and Shabbat services, study, kiddush, and meals — all of us feeling the vulnerability and the joy of these sacred days. SAJ follows the Israeli calendar, with the first and seventh days considered the “haggim” (holidays).

Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the torah)

Featuring our SAJ House Band, on Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah) we dance and sing in appreciation of the gift of torah and wisdom that we are able to discern in every generation. Our intergenerational celebration is one of those special times where we become closer to the torah, unfurling the entire torah around the room as Rabbi Lauren teaches us about the meaning and history of our sacred scroll. SAJ also has the tradition of “Hattan Torah/Kallat Bereishit” in which two members of our community are honored for their service to SAJ.

Hanukkah (Festival of Lights)

On the Festival of Lights, SAJers gather to light candles and ignite the flame in their hearts. We are the light we need to see in the world! Our annual Hanukkah party features singing and spinning, raising lights and funds for an organization or issue we care about, and engaging in our annual debate “Which is Better – Latkes or Hamentashen?”

Tu Bishvat (The Festival of the Trees)

Whether it’s partnering with Hazon for a Tu Bishvat Seder, holding a Greening Shabbat with locally sourced foods, or working on greening our synagogues and homes through our annual “Compost-ition”, Tu Bishvat offers us a chance to deepen our individual and collective work of being stewards for our environment.

Purim (The Festival of Lots)

Purim recalls the story of brave women (Vashti and Queen Esther), who along with allies (Mordecai), confront Haman and secure a future for the Jewish people. In our current world which sadly resembles the chaotic reign of Achashverosh, we must take seriously Mordecai’s question to Esther: “Perhaps it was for this moment that you were born?” Perhaps each of us were born right now to confront the evils and the wrongdoing in our time. And hopefully, the ending of our story will be less vengeful than that of Esther. With a Carnival and bouncy house at our annual Purim Carnival, we offer merriment for children and the children within ourselves. With our combined megillah reading and song-filled spiel, we promise Purim at SAJ will fill you with laughter.

Pesach (Passover)

At Passover, we are obligated to see ourselves as if we personally went out of Egypt. We tell the story with words and through symbolic foods so that we experience this moment for ourselves. Passover teaches the revolutionary idea that people can come together and overthrow the forces of evil — that a small group can defeat a giant army. These lessons are taught throughout the year at SAJ, and are infused in the season leading up to Passover through special classes, workshops, and speakers. We also offer first and seventh day “haggim” (holiday) services, with an opportunity to say Yizkor prayers on the seventh day.

Shavuot

Shavuot, as it is practiced today, is an affirmation of the power of torah to guide our lives and our world for the better. Following the tradition of staying up all night to study torah, SAJ joins the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s Tikkun Leil Shavuot for an all-evening, once-in-a-lifetime experience of torah, during which Rabbi Lauren teaches a session. We also join together for “haggim” (holiday) services on Shavuot.  

Tisha B’av (9th of Av)

Tisha B’av is a time of mourning the calamities that have befallen the Jewish people. We mourn tragedies that happened in the past, along with current tragedies being brought on our people and all people. Whether mourning for immigrants in detention facing an unknown fate, or confronting the challenges in Israel and Palestine, we bring new meaning and relevance to this ancient holiday.

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