High Holiday Tishrei Fair
Subject: High Holidays
Target: Families with children ages 5 -12
Time Frame : 2-1/2 hours
Congregation: Congregation B’nai Amoona; United Hebrew Congregation
Contributor: Rachel Persellin-Armoza
The Tishrei Fair provides congregants with an educational and interactive morning of activities relating to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Shemini Atzeret-all the holidays that fall in the month of Tishrei. The format of the Fair allows participants to move from station to station that focus on the prayers, rituals and values and symbols of the holidays.
Some stations have activities that are more attractive to the younger participants, while other stations (such as the tzitzit-tying station and the shake-the-lulav activity) appeal to older kids and their families as well.
The activities are intended to stimulate sound, sight, smell, touch and taste in such a way that participants can internalize the spirit of the different holidays and better understand their place in the Jewish life cycle.
Aside from the activities themselves, the hope is to bring together families for a community building, spiritually enriching program that emphasizes that each congregant is an integral part of the High Holidays whether outside or inside the Sanctuary.
Stations focus on the history of each holiday, the prayers and rituals associated with them and on tzedakah. These will be listed in detail in the section on Program Activities.
This program can be adapted for all members of the community. The program at Congregation B’nai Amoona and United Hebrew Congregation was designed for parents and children ages 3-14, with the older children taking a more active part in running the booths, assisting younger kids on the Map of Biblical Israel and the Biblical petting zoo. The activities planned were intended to appeal jointly to parents, grandparents and children. The wide scope of programming, including hands-on crafts, trivia, creating a mitzvah tree, challenges, shofar-blowing contest and more, allowed fairgoers to benefit from the activities at the level that best suited their own background, previous involvement and knowledge with the Tishrei Holidays and rituals.
A large open space is ideal for the Fair, as it allows for good set-up of tents and tables, a proper distance between the live animals and the food booths, and plenty of room for singing and dancing stations and any games. This program was held outside on the grounds at B’nai Amoona. The following year, United Hebrew Congregation held its Fall Holiday Tishrei Fair both inside and on the grounds, due to wet weather.
Staff and Specialists
The success of this program depends on the hard work and planning of a good core group of lay people, who work together with the Family Education Director who coordinates the event. In addition, dozens of volunteers are needed both at the Fair and for set-up. Religious School teachers are involved with the program weeks before, preparing their classes for this event and also helping to facilitate booths. It would be useful to set up a family programming committee to organize volunteers for specific stations. This is a very effective process, since not only are people on board early for the event, they are somewhat familiar with their specific supplies and activity well before the start of the Fair.
Several months before the program, the coordinators of the Fair should put together the final list of supplies and volunteers needed for each booth. This list serves as the guideline and checklist for purchases, gathering of supplies and general organization for the Fair. Arrangements must be made for the petting zoo, complementary pony cart and free-of-charge beekeeper to arrive for the Fair.
Publicity should begin well before the event in monthly bulletins and Shabbat sheets. One month before the event, an article should be sent to the local Jewish newspaper. Send home flyers with Religious School students, and place posters around the synagogue building. In the classroom, teachers familiarize students with the basic concepts of the Fair.
The week before the Fair, gather supplies and signs for each into separate boxes. Set-up of tents, plus additional stations, can take place the day before the Fair. Early on the morning of the program, volunteers set up the stations, maintenance people checked electricity, sound system, etc.
The following stations and activities were offered at the Fairs held at Congregation B’nai Amoona and United Hebrew Congregation (some adjustments were made for the UH Tishrei Fair following recommendations and conclusions from the B’nai Amoona Fair). Some activities were held in tents others at tables. Nearly every station had a laminated display of what was learned as well as an informational take-home handout.
1. Welcome Station:
Families were welcomed, invited to sign in and make name tags, received bags and folders for handouts and had an opportunity to purchase food tickets and raffle tickets. This was also the first aid station.
2. Sweet New Year [Tent]:
Participants learned about the blessings of Rosh Hashanah. Activities included a beekeeper with his beehive, who explained the history of bees and honey, and who offered samples. Families decorated their own caramel apples. They learned about the tradition of apples and honey, and recited the blessings of the holiday.
3. Shofar-Blowing Station [Table]:
Participants learned the history of the shofar, watched and heard a demonstration of the proper shofar blowing order, and had an opportunity to practice their own shofar-blowing skills. The Shofar Band gave a short performance and there was a shofar-blowing contest.
4. Mitzvah / Caring / Yom Kippur Booth [Tent]:
There were several activities coordinated at this station – a tzedakah coin toss for younger participants, a Mitzvah Tree, where families created their own “mitzvah leaves” to hang on the Mitzvah Tree (which was later displayed inside the building), and a Tzitzit / Tallitot corner, where people practiced tying tzitzit, learned about the rituals of the tallit and tzitzit, and saw a display of tallitot created by congregants preparing for their b’nai-mitzvah ceremony.
5. Sukkot Booth [Tent plus open adjacent space]:
Activities for this station included an edible sukkah building project, using graham cracker squares, frosting, pretzel sticks, and green licorice. creating and decorating the parts of the lulav (cutouts from Israel); a demonstration on how to build a sukkah; a four-species game toss and a lulav shake demonstration. Blessings for the sukkah were displayed and distributed, as well as information on the tradition of ushpizin.
6. Simchat Torah / Books of Moses Booth [Tent and open adjacent space]:
Here participants learned about Simchat Torah and saw a display of Simchat Torah flags. Families learned about the hakafot and of dancing with the Torah – They participated in an Israeli folk dancing lesson and saw a short performance of an Israeli dance troupe. Younger participants enjoyed adding their letters and drawings to cloth banners representing the Five Books of Moses.
7. Map of Biblical Israel [on grass]:
The St. Louis community is lucky to have a giant inflatable map of Eretz Yisrael which is available to any Jewish organization for a nominal fee. Fairgoers got a guided tour through the ancient Land of Israel.
8. Pilgrimage Pony Cart [station on grass]:
Fairgoers enjoyed a “pilgrimage” ride around the Fair, where they were given a (plastic) fruit “offering” to place in the basket in “Jerusalem” - The map served as the “drop off” point for the fruit bikurim.
9. Petting Zoo [station on far corner of grass]:
Fairgoers got up close and personal with the “biblical” animals of the petting zoo. They learned about the ram and the ram’s horn used for creating the shofar.
10. Tikkun Olam Booth [Tent]:
This tent showcased the basic Jewish values of being responsible for each other and caring for the well-being and respect of all peoples. Participants created cards for the Jewish troops serving abroad, and received special V’Ahavta L’Re’echa Kamocha (Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself) stickers. At the UH Fair, participants were invited to register for and participate in the WIZO national voting process.
11. Food Station [Open station on grass]:
Here, participants purchased food and drink items and enjoyed their lunch at tables on the grass.
Additional stations: At B’nai Amoona, participants enjoyed a People of The Book station, where members of the Sisterhood displayed a wide variety of Jewish-themed books for all ages for purchase at a discounted price, with some of the proceeds going to the congregation (This station was not included at United Hebrew, since there was a Book Fair that was held around the same time as the Fair.) At United Hebrew, members of the Temple youth group set up a table to sell candy to raise money for their group functions.
The cost for the High Holiday Tishrei Fair, which was covered by a Crown Grant. This included the costs of five tents, initial supplies, security, arts and crafts, etc. Due to the positive response to the Fair, plans were made to make it -or some version of it – for example, a Torah Fair- an annual event. The cost for subsequent Fairs would be considerably less (about one-third less expensive) because the congregation already owns the tents and has considerable supplies (arts and crafts, small “prizes” for Fair activities) remaining on hand.
General response to the High Holiday Tishrei Fair was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging for both congregations. Families enjoyed the wide variety and scope of activities, and the fact that “there was something for everyone”. While the youngest participants obviously enjoyed the caramel apples and edible sukkah building, feedback from parents showed that they particularly enjoyed the interactive elements of the Fair, such as the tour of the map, the shofar-blowing activities, the lulav shake and the Israeli dancing lesson.
The evaluation process for the High Holiday Tishrei Fair at B’nai Amoona helped polish and improve the programming for the United Hebrew Fair. Based on responses received through a suggestion box, simple surveys handed out at the Fair, a “debriefing” meeting held several weeks following the Fair and informal feedback from congregants, people suggested several possible changes: They suggested that organizers do a better job of advertising and promoting the Fair – some congregants were disappointed that they did not know about the event in advance. This was especially true of congregants whose children did not attend Religious School. A request was made to find additional ways to involve the teenagers and youth group members in the planning and set-up process, as well as inviting them to help facilitate some of the stations.
In terms of conclusions and suggestions from committee members and Fair volunteers, all agreed that there was a challenge in getting enough people committed and involved in the planning and set-up stages of the Fair. The Fair coordinators found themselves doing a great deal of the leg work on their own, perhaps due to alternative plans for volunteers in the summer, or maybe due to the approach toward the planning process. Once several of the lay people took it upon themselves to be responsible for set-up and volunteers of a specific station, things began to move more smoothly.
The format for Fall Holiday Tishrei Fair at United Hebrew Congregation serves as the “blueprint” for this year’s planned Torah Fair. A similar physical layout has been prepared and, while the programming is new and unique for the Torah Fair, the ru’ach of the Torah Fair and the wide scope of interactive and multigenerational activities it will cover are based on the success of the High Holiday Tishrei Fair.
References and Resources
Possible text suggestions and websites:
The Torah, and siddurim used at each congregation
Kashrut Tefillin Tzitzit: Studies in the Purpose and Meaning of Symbolic Mitzvot Inspired by the Commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, by Stephen Bailey.
The complete story of Tishrei by Nissan Mindel, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch; (revised 1998).
A Story a Day: Volume 1, Tishrei - Cheshvan by G. Sofer
This is a resource that provides Jewish children and their families access to prayers, stories and rituals.