Russian-Jewish Cultural Center HERITAGE

National Holidays

calendar-zodRosh Hashanah
: Jewish New Year.

The holiday observation is held on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei that usually falls in September or October, and marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer. These ten days are referred to as a time of self-examination and repentance, which culminates on the fast day of Yom Kippur, the Days of Ave or the High Holy Days

Rosh Hashanah is a deeply religious holiday that focuses first on the elements of joy and celebration—which are reflected in the holiday’s dual emphasis—as well as its centering on happiness and humility. Special customs observed on Rosh Hashanah include the sounding of the shofar, the using of the round challah, the eating of apples and honey as well as other sweet foods for a sweet new year.


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Yom Kippur: This holiday is the Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. It is considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Fasting is the fulfillment of biblical commandment. Yom Kippur fasting also enables us to put aside our physical desires and to concentrate on our spiritual needs through prayer, repentance, and self-improvement. Our custom is in the days before Yom Kippur for Jews to seek out friends and family whom they have wronged and personally ask for their forgiveness.

    Sukkot: This is the Jewish festival for the fall harvest, and it is also a time of remembrance of our ancestors who spent forty years of Jewish wandering in the desert after Sinai. The Sukkot celebration lasts for five days after Yom Kippur on the 15th of Tishrei, and it is manifest by several distinct traditions. One tradition, which takes the commandment to “dwell in booths” literally, is to build a sukkah. The sukkah or booth is built of branches, and it is meant to symbolize that Jews are aliens living in a foreign land. Jews often erect a sukkah during this festival and it is common practice for some to eat food from the fruits of the harvest during Sukkot.

    Simchat Torah: This is the celebration of completion of the annual reading of the Torah. Simchat Torah is a joyous festival, in which we affirm our view of the Torah as a tree of life and demonstrate a living example of never-ending, lifelong study. The Torah scroll is taken from the ark and carried around synagogue seven times.

    Chanukah: This dedication refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews remember the victory of the Macabees over the armies of Syria and the subsequent liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Chanukah centers around the lighting of the chanukiah, a special menorah for Chanukah; unique foods are prepared and served, including latkes and jelly doughnuts, and special songs and games are also sung.

    Purim: It is celebrated by the reading of the Scroll of Esther. Under the rule of King Ahashuerus, Haman, the King’s prime minister, plotted to exterminate all of the Jews of Persia. Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, who ultimately saved the Jews of the land from destruction, foiled his plan. The reading of the megillah, or the Scroll of Esther, is typically a rowdy affair, which is punctuated by booing and noisemaking when Haman’s name is read aloud. Purim is an unusual holiday in many respects. Purim, like Chanukah, is viewed by tradition as a minor festival. Over the centuries, Haman became the personification of every anti-Semite in every land where Jews were exploited. The significance in Purim lies not so much in how it began, but in what it has become—a thankful and joyous pronouncement of Jewish survival against all odds.       


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Pesach: Pesach or Passover signifies the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The ceremony of observance for this holiday centers around a special home service called the Seder, which is a festive meal, the prohibition of chametz or leavened bread, instead partaking of unleavened bread, and the eating of matzah. The Pesach Seder is the only ritual meal in the Jewish calendar year for which such an order is arranged.  The Seder plate contains various symbolic foods referred to in the Seder.

    Shavuot: This Jewish festival refers to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot began as an ancient festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Shavuot was illustrious in ancient times by people bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.

    Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as signifying the “land of milk and honey.”

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