Festivals and Holidays
Judaism is full of holidays and festivals that help us maintain connection to the rhythm of the Jewish year. They mark time — in our lives, our community, and our history.
Festivals / Yom Tov
Biblically-based holidays — known as festivals or yom tov — celebrate our connection with divinity, the land, and the sacred. These festivals have roots in Torah times, but at JRC, we always seek new ways to make them relevant to our current lives. Observing them as a community turns them into a collective experience in which we remember liberation (Passover), experience revelation (Shavuot), and reap the communal harvest of ways we’ve grown in the last year (Sukkot).
In every festival ritual observance, we include a unique, JRC-specific version of Yizkor, where we remember loved ones in a nontraditional service that takes place in the evening. Our Yizkor service is personal and meaningful, making space for sharing stories and for grief regardless of whether our memories of our beloveds are beautiful or painful (or both).
Holidays are opportunities to be celebratory, participatory, and egalitarian. At JRC, we love to dive deep into learning, intention, spirituality, and good food! As often as possible, our holiday observances are done together as a community, involving anyone who would like to participate. We have communal learning and prayer for Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Tu B’Shvat, Purim, and Tisha B’av, and many in our community gather for Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Hashoah, Rosh Hodesh, and LGBTQ+ Pride.
What’s common in all our gathering is an honoring of the traditions we’ve inherited, a soulful examination of how they apply — or don’t — to the world in which we live, and a thirst for connection and knowledge and meaning. Join us for the next event in our Jewish year!
Passover, our people’s well-known story of the liberation from slavery in Egypt and subsequent trek across the desert, is one that is traditionally celebrated at home. JRC members often share space at their seder tables with fellow congregants and guests, but never without ample discussion beforehand. We share homemade and published haggadot (the books used to lead the traditional service at the seder), recipes, and ideas with each other every year. In 2020, we got help with our seders from resources we could use during that most unusual of Passover observances.
Are you ready to flip tradition on its head and reimagine what late-night Torah study could mean in the modern world with a giant Shavuot Block Party? JRC will gather the whole community to celebrate outside, just like our ancient ancestors gathered at Mount Sinai. Our Shavuot Block Party has every generation in mind with a choose-your-own adventure array of activities, including games, art, potluck dinner, bonfire + s’mores, ice cream truck, meditation, text study, music, author readings, ritual, and social justice, all led by JRC members and clergy.
JRC is committed to being accessible and inclusive. Our Shavuot Block Party is multi-access with festivities to enjoy inside the building, outside on the street, and via Zoom. JRC welcomes new visitors and longtime members alike to share our rich customs and traditions.
Sukkot is the Jewish harvest holiday commemorating the season in Biblical times when our ancestors built temporary booths – sukkot – to sleep in, eat in, and gather in with their community, as they harvested their bounty and celebrated. Today, an annual team of members builds our beautiful communal sukkah as a reminder of that time and as an opportunity to share food and friendship with each other together, underneath its boughs. We decorate the sukkah with fruits and vegetables of the season and artwork by JRC children.
There are several parties and gatherings for kids, teens, families, our Chibur 20’s and 30’s group, and other adults in our beloved community Sukkah each year.
In one of JRC’s most unique and beloved traditions, we usher in the beginning of a new cycle of reading Torah with our resident klezmer band, Heavy Shtetl. This party includes dancing, taffy apples, and our tradition of unfurling the torah around the room, wrapping our children in its opportunities for learning and giving every adult a chance to hold it themselves.
Our yearly Chanukah Shabbat Family Service starts with a potluck, then commences with singing, dancing and performances by our JRC Junior Choir and house Klezmer band, Heavy Shtetl. Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and other treats are provided by JRC’s Membership Committee after the service!
Our annual LatkeFest brings together dozens of JRC members to fry latkes in our community kitchen, from traditional potatoes to all sorts of fried delights!
In 2020 we discovered that online nightly candlelighting provided windows of connection into our homes and families. Every Night Lights gives us the chance to light candles together on zoom each Chanukah night, paired with readings for internal kavannot and social justice actions so everyone can have company for candlelighting every night.
Learn about the Jewish relationship to the environment in our yearly celebration of Tu B’Shvat (also known as the birthday for trees). We host a yearly all-ages Tu B’Shvat Seder featuring kids activities and special guest speakers who discuss contemporary environmental topics.
Purim, a holiday with a core story of resistance against oppression and violence, is close to the heart of JRC members. It is also the most lively holiday on the Jewish calendar, with traditions that include carnivals, parties, cookies, gifts, noisemakers and costumes. Our evening Megillah reading, Purim Shpiel (play), and “Oy Vey Cafe,” — all accompanied by our in-house rock band, the Alte Rockers — are traditions our adults enjoy every year. JRC’s Family PurimFest includes a raucus, interactive Megillah reading with JRC’s other in-house band, Heavy Shtetl, plus games, treats, and creative costumes. Our kitchen is filled with bakers of every age, creating hundreds of hamantaschen with all sorts of creative fillings, gluten and dairy free varieties, lots of sampling, and an occasional l’chayim. And since 2022, JRC’s annual Blood Drive and Tikkun Olam Task Forces have added to the festivities. Purim is a JRC favorite!
On Tisha B’Av, we observe ancient and contemporary Lamentations together. “By the Rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, there we wept…” From the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem to expulsion from Spain, many tragedies have befallen the Jewish people on the 9th day of Av. The Book of Lamentations gives voice to our grief and our loss. Rabbi Rachel Weiss leads a candlelight service on Erev Tisha B’Av to chant traditional words from the book of Eicha and add contemporary words reflecting today’s tragedies of racism, Islamophobia, immigrant injustice, and tragedy and destruction in Israel/Palestine.
Rosh Hodesh, translated as the “head of the month”, is a time to mark the start of a new month in the Jewish calendar. Historically, it is a minor holiday where women would refrain from work. Each month we gather to explore a variety of relevant topics in a creative and thought-provoking celebration. All adult JRC members (13 years and older), who identify as women, are welcome to participate.
Other holidays with historical and cultural significance include Yom haShoah, Yom haAtzma’ut, and LGBTQ+ Pride. These observances, developed over the last century, give us an opportunity to explore our Jewish connections to loss, struggle, liberation and celebration in relationship to human rights and civil rights and remembrance. Our members and larger Jewish community takes leadership in different areas of learning and ritual each year.