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Holidays and Festivals

The entire cycle of holy days and holidays is observed at Kol Ami. Both through ritual and worship, our community celebrates Jewish tradition. Simchat Torah 2010 panoramic

Our Congregation observes two days of Rosh Hashanah and of course Yom Kippur. We begin our preparations for the High Holy Days with the annual Selichot services.

Sukkot and Simchat Torah quickly follow and our Temple Sukkah, in our roof top garden, is a rallying point for these holy Days.

Chanukah is a special season at Kol Ami and we feature our annual Chanukah "sing down" service that features(almost) every Chanukah song ever written!

Kol Ami is well known for its annual Purim celebration and Megillah reading. Our annual Purim Schpiel (purim parody) is attended by over 250 people! In past years, our Purim schpiel as been on the themes of "The Wizard of OZ," "Way Down Upon the Swannee River," "South Pacific," "Cabaret," and "Oliver!" Congregants are encouraged to be a part of our annual Purim Schpiel!

Passover at Kol Ami is observed with our annual community Seder, coordinated by our Ritual committee as well as a Yizkor service on the last day.

Shavuot is always observed at Kol Ami with a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, an evening study session on Erev Shavuot.

Tisha B'av, the 9th of Av is observed with a solemn service and the reading of the book of Lamentations.

Please join us for these Holiday rituals and Festivals though out the year.  Check our events calendar for dates and information.

Learn more about Holy Days, Holidays and Festivals:

Shabbat:  For six days, we try to change the world.  The seventh day, we devote to gratitude for the world as it is.  For six days, we work to support ourselves and to create justice.  On the seventh day, we rest, study Torah, enjoy our family and friends and pray our thanks.  Shabbat is God’s gift to us as a memento of creation and our liberation from slavery.

Rosh HaShanah: The New Year, the symbolic birthday of the world. We spend the two days of Rosh HaShanah in synagogue, thanking God for creation.  We share meals with friends.  (Apples and honey, symbols of renewal and sweetness are traditional Rosh HaShanah treats.)  This holiday is also known as Yom Truah—the day of the Shofar blast.  This wake up call reminds us that the season of repentance is underway.  On Rosh Hashanah, we deepen our process of reflection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur.  Some people take the week between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur to make any neglected apologies and to repair relationships.

Yom Kippur: The day of atonement.  A day of fasting, introspection and communal prayer.  This is our opportunity to look at those things we did (or didn’t do) for which we are sorry.  We humbly ask forgiveness in the warmth of community and in the privacy of our hearts.  When the day ends, we are cleansed, ready for new beginnings.  It is customary to break the fast with family and friends.

Sukkot:  Celebrates the year’s final harvest (even after Yom Kippur, another chance to take stock of what we have sowed and reaped!)  As winter descends, we spend a week reliving our wandering in the desert.  We camp out in open booths (Sukkot)--of course, we eat together—and we recite special prayers with the lulav (a wand made of four species of tree to symbolize the various kinds of persons) and the etrog (a sweet smelling citrus fruit).  A time to appreciate the growing things of the earth and the promise of seeds growing in the darkened earth.

Simchat Torah:  The celebration of our Torah, the heart of Judaism.  The year-long reading cycle ends with people Israel about to enter the promised land.  Then it begins again with the story of creation—a chance to hear beloved stories once again with minds and hearts open to new meaning.  After the soul-searching of the High Holidays and the vulnerability of Sukkot, this is our chance to dance!  We parade and dance at least seven circles with the Torah and with one another.

Chanukah: A celebration of the miraculous and of resistance to tyranny and oppression.  We celebrate the victory of Jews who fought back and won against the Seleucid Greek empire when it outlawed our way of worship.  The story goes that when the Jews returned to the Temple and cleansed it, there was only enough oil for one night—but the oil lasted for a total of eight days until more could be obtained.  Therefore, we get to eat fried treats, like latkes and jelly doughnuts, we sing and we pray with gratitude and joy.  We light candles on each of the eight nights, beginning with one candle and ending up with a full menorah of eight.

Tu Bishvat: Happy Birthday to the trees! Tu Bishvat is the first of the spring holidays. The days are getting longer. Germination is in full swing. This is a holiday to celebrate the earth, to thank our Creator for the wonder of growing things. We celebrate Tu Bishvat with a special seder in which we eat four kinds of fruit to celebrate four kinds of people: hard on the outside but soft nourishing inside (like walnuts or almonds): soft on the outside with a tough inner core (like olives or apricots); soft through and through (like raisins or figs; and thick-skinned but soft within (like bananas or avocados). We drink from the fruit of the vine. We make concrete commitments to do our part to ensure that our planet can continue to sustain new growth and that other people have good, healthy food to eat.

Purim: Jewish Carnival!  A time for costumes and satires and raucous fun, all to celebrate the Jews’ deliverance from an attempted genocide.  The book of Esther is read in synagogue and is followed by a Purim shpiel, a retelling of Esther’s story with unexpected twists.  This is also a time to make for gift baskets for friends and shut-ins.  We eat hamentaschen, a delicious three-cornered pastry with fruit filling.

Pesach:  One of the three mandated Biblical pilgrimage holidays, Pesach, or Passover, celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  For eight days, we eat no products made with yeast or any other leavening.  Prior to Pesach, we clean our homes of all leavened products.  We are commanded to eat Matzo, the unleavened bread that reminds us of the hurried meal our ancestors ate as they fled from the pain of Egypt.  Over the Seder, the ritual Pesach meal, we retell the story of the Exodus, and each of us is to regard ourselves as having been personally freed from slavery.  This is a chance to discuss how each of us is moving from Mitzraim, the narrow place of affliction into a new, freer place.

Shavuot: One of the three mandate Biblical pilgrimage holidays.  When the Temple stood, this was the holiday of the first fruits of the harvest which were offered as sacrifices to God.  Today, Shavuot celebrates the reception of the Torah at Sinai.  Traditionally, we stay up all night and study Torah.  The Torah portion read on the first morning of Shavuot includes the reading of the Ten Commandments.  Shavuot meals are traditionally dairy meals, so it’s a great time to try out those blintzes and cheesecake recipes.


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