Journey Through Our Jewish Holidays
Subject: Enhancing Our Understanding of Traditional Jewish Holidays & Related Mitzvot
Target: The Whole Congregation
Time Frame: 2-3 hour Holiday Celebration
Congregation: Shaare Emeth
Contributor: Ronnie Brockman
Journey Through our Jewish Holidays enhances congregational celebrations and provides opportunities for the participants to learn more about the holiday traditions and mitzvot related to the holidays and new ways to celebrate in their homes.
- To expand the involvement of each sector of the congregation, from the Religious School, Preschool, and Family Education Department to the Brotherhood, Sisterhood, and Young Adult Congregation.
- To add new educational and social action components to each holiday celebration.
- To involve people of all ages in these holiday celebrations.
- To elevate the level of celebration of the different holidays within the homes.
Congregants participate in a wide range of activities from text study and discussion to hands on activities like cooking and making items for the purposes of tzedakkah.
The whole congregation is welcome.
The locations vary depending on the holiday celebration:
Courtyard – Sukkot
Auditorium, Youth Lounge and Classrooms – Chanukah, Purim, and Passover
Staff and Specialists
Each holiday celebration involves the rabbis, music, art and dance specialists. There are also other specialists like storytellers, a bee keeper, and people from the different Mitzvah agencies or organizations.
Each holiday celebration contains five main components:
- Educational Module: text study, discussion, guest speaker, etc.
- Family Activities: hands–on activities at the Temple, which are complemented by other activities that families can do at home or within the community.
- Social Action Activity: collection of items, cooking food, making items for other agencies.
- ake-home materials: Packet of information, activities, recipes, etc.
- valuation: after each holiday celebration, each family evaluates the projects, activities, discussions, etc.
The following is a summary of the programs which can be adapted.
1. Sukkot Fest
Sukkot Fest is a large community celebration with many booths of “hands on” age appropriate projects, decorating the Sukkah and singing which is held in an outdoor garden area, followed by a dinner, service and special Oneg entertainment. Families take home different items to enhance their own Sukkot celebration. The Rabbi leads an adult education workshop on Ecclesiastes. There are also activities for children and families. One year the 7th and 8th graders had a “Shul-in” with a Sukkot theme. An example of a Social Action Project is to make apple crisp for the Jewish Food Pantry.
2. Chanukah Happening
is another large congregational celebration. One example can be to focus on “The Mitzvot of Chanukah”. Families can participate in different Mitzvah projects from making dog treats for Support Dogs to making hot plates, pins and picture frames for their family members or senior citizens. A dinner, a service and a concert can follow activities after the Oneg. The senior youth group can stay after the concert and have a pizza party. Recipe cards, an educational booklet and activities are available for each family.
3. Tu B'Shevat
One Year Tu B’Shevat Seders were integrated into the Religious School and Preschool. Each classroom held a family Tu B’Shevat Seder, and then went to theannual Book Fair where educational activities for children and parents dealt with the environment and planting parsley for Passover. The Social Action Project can encourage families to plant trees or deal with other environmental concerns. Recipe Cards and educational materials and activities can be given to the families.
has three components. The celebration begins with the Purim Carnival followed by Esther’s Banquet, a Middle Eastern dinner with family activities and social action project of making Shalach Manot Bags for senior citizens and office staff of the temple. The Rabbi leads a reading and discussion of the Megillah for adults and 5th graders present a Special Shpiel.
5. Passover Institute
is offered on a Saturday late afternoon for the whole congregation. Congregants participate in different adult education classes led by Rabbis, professional staff and lay leaders. Children go to the Children’s Activity Center. Here the children and some parents participate in age-appropriate activities where they make different things for their home Seder. All participants meet in the social hall for an appetizer bar and Havdalah service in between sessions. The Social Action Project is to make Passover items (food or other Seder items) for families less fortunate, senior citizens, and our own families to use during Passover.
The Shabbat program is for families with children in Kindergarten-6th grade. The Rabbi leads adult education workshops and educational activities for the families. They make a havdalah set; children made a Shema pillow. The Social Action Projects deal with giving Tzedakah on Shabbat and making Challah to give to a senior citizens’ home or the Jewish Food Pantry.
There was a charge for each program that had a dinner. The money from the dinner helped to defray the cost of the program. The supplies for programs that did not have a dinner were absorbed by the grant.
References and Resources
Kadden, Barbara Binder and Bruce Kadden Teaching Mitzvot: Concepts, Values and Activities Alternatives in Religious Education, 2003
Goodman, Robert Teaching Jewish Holidays: History Values and Activities ARE 1997
Ross, Kathy The Jewish Holiday Craft Book Millbrook Press 1997
Brinn, Ruth Esring Jewish Holiday Crafts for Little Hands Kar-Ben
Adler, David The Kids Catalog of Jewish Holidays Jewish Publication Society