Throughout September and October, we’ll be celebrating four major Jewish holidays. These holidays begin in the evening before the date noted on most calendars because a Jewish “day” starts and ends at sunset, not midnight.
Here's a little about these holidays, when, and why they are celebrated...
Rosh Hashanah - The 26th & 27th of September marks the start of the Jewish New Year. This is a religious and festive time when family and friends gather for meals and worship. It's a time for looking forward to a new year with anticipation and reflecting on the past year to improve ourselves for the next.
Yom Kippur - On the 5th of October, we celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the most sacred day of Judaism and is often observed with 25 hours of fasting and prayer. For many, this can be considered the most solemn day of the Jewish year. A day devoted to self–examination and the chance to begin the New Year with a clean slate.
Sukkot - From the 10th- 16th of October, we celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. This week-long harvest festival commemorates the dwelling of the Israelites in temporary booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) during their 40-year sojourn in the Sinai desert. Many families build their own sukkah where it is customary to eat meals and sleep.
Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah - On the 17th and the 18th of October, we celebrate the 8th Day of Assembly and 'Rejoicing in the Torah'. The first is a day of spiritual celebration, being thankful for the harvest, and praying for rain for the coming year for the future harvest. The second marks the end of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the start of a new cycle. This joyful holiday is full of dancing, singing, and fun.
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated by nightly candle lighting, festive meals both night and day, and desisting from work. In Israel, the entire holiday is compacted into one 24-hour period.
Our engagement platform hosts a special blog feed dedicated to multicultural and other aspects of diversity. We loved one of our latest updates from Sivan Stopnitzy (pictured above), which shared what Rosh Hashanah means to her and why it's so special for her family.
Rosh Hashanah is a special time of year for me that brings family and friends together, along with memories and traditions passed down from generations before us.
When I think of this time of year, I think of all the unique traditions that make Rosh Hashanah special. From the emphasis on spending time with family, reflecting on past mistakes, and making amends with others, to the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn), which signifies the start of a new year. But the most memorable part of the festival is the Rosh Hashanah meal which holdsShana Tova from my family to yours! a religious significance, but for me personally, the coming together of family. I can still remember as a child sitting around a table surrounded by friends and family and the traditional foods that represent the Jewish new year, like honey cake, which represents our hopes for sweetness in the new year to come. I have vivid memories of all the yummy dishes my mum would prepare days before - catering for up to 15 guests most years; she was my Super Woman!
Now, I get to share these beautiful memories with my kids and family and make sure our memory of her lives on through tradition. These holidays remind us to slow down and enjoy the time we have with the people we love and, of course, feast on delicious food.
Things to know about this special time of year.
For many Jewish people, the fall is a busy time. Family get-togethers, services, dinners, traditional meals, and foods — it can feel like a lot. But it can also be a time of recentering, reflection, and joy.
Here are some things you can keep in mind to be an ally to the community throughout this time.
- It is worth checking with colleagues and clients to ensure no meetings or events are planned if you know they celebrate. For those who observe, typical labour is not allowed on these holidays.
- It is also important to note that depending on the sunset time, those who observe may need to end their work day earlier than usual.
- Mindfulness and awareness on days of fasting are especially appreciated. Fasting can lead to fatigue, headaches, and increased irritability.
Here are some of our favourite book recommendations if you'd like to learn more.
Children's Book Recommendations
Is it Rosh Hashanah yet? by Chris Barash and Alessandra Psacharopulo
This book is in the "Is it (Jewish holiday) Yet?" series, and all of the books are delightful to read. They incorporate cultural and familial traditions of each holiday, with traditional foods we eat, the season, gatherings, and more.
The Best Sukkot Pumpkin Ever by Laya Steinberg and Colleen Madden
Sukkot is coming up, and Micah and his family go to the pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkin to add to their sukkah. But then he learns that many of the pumpkins can also go to a soup kitchen to help those in need — will he keep the pumpkin he finds? It's a cute holiday story that ties in with the concept of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world.
Adult Book Recommendations
My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew by Abigail Pogrebin
Pogrebin realized that though she grew up observing holidays, she didn't know much about them: their foundations, how they're relevant today, why certain things are done, etc. She decided to spend a Jewish calendar year immersed in the holidays, researching them, observing them, and discussing them with rabbis and other Jewish thinkers.
The Color of Love: A Story of a mixed-race Jewish girl by Marra B. Gad
When Gad was three days old, she was adopted by a white Jewish couple. Her biological mother was white and Jewish, and her biological father was Black; growing up, she was never enough of anything, she felt, to fully belong anywhere. This story of reflection and choosing love is a thought-provoking read for the fall holiday season.