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Jewish Holidays

All Jewish holidays begin at sundown before the first day. This is referred to as “Erev”. There are also Jewish holidays that may not affect Center hours, but are significant and often acknowledged and celebrated at the LJCC. Below is a brief overview of the Jewish holidays.

Shabbat – weekly

Shabbat marks the time when G-d stopped the work of creation and rested. The giving of the 10 Commandments formalized the central role of Shabbat in the lives of the Jewish people. It is the most important holy day in our year and is a weekly reminder of our relationship with G-d. From Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown the Jewish people observe the laws of the Sabbath, which separate the every day from the sacred by restricting work and including prayer and festive meals with family and friends.

Considered our most joyous holiday, Sukkot commemorates the
protective clouds surrounding the Jewish people after leaving Egypt
and entering 40 years of wandering in the desert. The temporary
dwellings that these people lived in during this time are recreated.
This structure also honors the booths built by the ancestors of
Jewish people along the edges of the field during harvest. Leaving
the security of our houses, we put ourselves under the direct
protection of G-d.Building, decorating and spending time eating, praying and even sleeping
in the Sukkah is customary during this holiday. Special prayers include
blessings over the Lulav and Etrog, giving thanks to the harvest products
of the land of Israel.

Shemini Atzeret 
The eighth day of assembly, Shemini Atzeret, marks the last day of
Sukkot and the harvest season. It is the time to pray for the proper
amount of rain to fall during the coming months.
It is customary to read the Book of Ecclesiastes on this day.

Simchat Torah 
This holiday celebrates the completion of AND the beginning of the
reading of the Torah. The obligations of Simchat Torah are the reading
of the Torah and the celebrations that take place around this activity.
Most synagogues read the final portion of the Torah scroll, take out
all of the Torahs to carry and dance around in a procession, read the
beginning portion of the scroll and then eat a festive meal.

This holiday celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai over
3000 years ago. Shavuot comes at the end of the counting of the
Omer, after weeks of anticipation leading to the giving of the laws.
Custom is to stay up all night to study Torah. Though many
communities don’t stay up the whole night most have evening study
sessions. Traditionally, a dairy meal is served. There are many beliefs
about the reason for eating dairy. Many believe that the eating of
dairy celebrates the holiday’s tie to the harvest.

Rosh HaShanah

“May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year” begins the greeting of each person to another on the holiday of Rosh HaShanah. Creation of man and all life is celebrated, while G-d is asked to judge people favorably. On this holiday G-d reviews the status of humanity and determines the future of all for the coming year. Through repentance of past misdeeds, prayer and commitment for charity in the future one works toward a good outlook for the next year.

Celebrating both the defiance of heroes who rose up against a cruel
empire leading a people to victory and the miracle of the one day
supply of oil that lasted eight days, Chanukah is a proud and festive time.
Occurring in the year 167BCE, (before the year 0), it is a rabbinic
holiday of ancient origin. The sages of that generation decreed that
eight days should be set aside for rejoicing. We continue that celebration by
lighting a candle each night for eight nights at the entrances of our homes,
publicizing the victory and the miracle.
Other customs include the eating of foods fried in oil, such as potato
pancakes (latkes) and donuts, and the playing of the dreidel game.

This holiday is a time to appreciate our world and all those living things
created by G-d. As “Jewish Arbor Day”, it marks the beginning of the
obligation to tith the crops for the coming year.
It is customary to eat fruits from the species for which the land of
Israel is known and to eat a new fruit for the first time that year. A
more modern practice is the sedar (order) service, which celebrates
the holiday with prayer, song, and explanations of the fruits and their

The holiday of Purim is one of fun and great joy. It is at this time in
history that the Jewish people were saved by the heroism of Esther,
the Jewish wife of the king. She stood against Haman, the king’s
advisor, who hated and tried to kill all of the Jewish people in their
land.  The obligations for this holiday are to enjoy a festive Purim meal
(Seudat Purim), to send gifts to others (Mishloach Manot), to give gifts
to the poor (Matanot L’Evyonim) and most of all to hear the story of
Esther (Magillah) which is read in the evening and again in the morning.
At the reading children (and adults) dress up and the air is one of a
carnival. Everyone “boos” when they hear Haman’s name.

Tisha B’Av 
This fast day remembers the destruction of the two temples in
Jerusalem as well as other tragic events in Jewish history. Among
these events is the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The
LJCC serves no food on this day. There will be no food served and
vending machines will be turned off at the LJCC on this day.

Yom Kippur

The period of time between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are known
as the Ten Days of Repentance. People pray, ask for forgiveness and
commit to better actions in the future during these days.
The solemn holiday of Yom Kippur is when G-d seals the fate of all for
the coming year. People are judged and forgiven. On this day the life
“slate” is wiped clean and each person starts out fresh again.
Restrictions are similar to the Sabbath with the addition of a fast
observed from sundown to sundown.

The holiday celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery
in Egypt over 3000 years ago.
The name “Passover” comes from G-d passing over the doors of the
Jewish people when the 10th plague, the killing of the first born son,
was sent down on the people of Egypt by G-d. This last plague finally
convinced the Egyptian king to let the Jewish people go from his
land.  During the eight days of Passover, special dietary restrictions call
for prohibition of all bread products and food with yeast, in order to
remember that when the Jews ran from Egypt, they had no time to
let their dough rise. Matzah, a flat bread, is eaten instead. A special
part of the holiday celebration is the sedar (order). This extended
ritual meal tells the story of the exodus from Egypt and is performed
for the first two nights of the holiday.

Yom HaShoah 
Today, the only way to keep the horrors of the holocaust in our minds
and stop its repetition is to formally commemorate that time in our
history. The date chosen by Israeli leaders in the 1950’s, the 27th
of Nissan, falls in between the Warsaw Ghetto revolt and Israel’s
Independence Day.  Gatherings often include prayers, speakers and a candle lighting
ceremony for those who died, sometimes performed by local
holocaust survivors and their families.

Yom Hazikaron 
The day before Israel’s Independence Day is set aside for Israel’s
Memorial Day. It is devoted to the memory of those tens of thousands
of men and women who gave their lives in defense of the State of
Israel in all wars and acts of terror.

Yom HaAtzmaut 
This day commemorates the anniversary of the establishment of the
State of Israel.

Lag BaOmer 
The name Lag BaOmer means the 33rd day in the counting of the
Omer. The Omer is the grain offering which was brought to the Temple
when the Temple stood.The holiday is a festival day that includes family outings, picnics and
other outdoor activities.


Featured Member

Stephanie & David L.

We love being members of the J, it really is a wonderful place for the whole family!

The LJCC is funded in part by the Birmingham Jewish Federation, the Birmingham Jewish Foundation and the United Way of Central Alabama.