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Your High Holidays helper

While we’re proud to be Jewish here at The J, we’re also proud to have so many non-Jewish members — some of whom might be unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar and Jewish traditions. So we’ve compiled this brief guide to the upcoming High Holidays, so-called due to their importance in the Jewish calendar.

Foods traditionally associated with Rosh Hashanah include apples, honey, and pomegranates, plus round loaves of challah that symbolize the eternal cycle of life.

Rosh Hashanah

  • Begins at sunset on September 15 and ends at nightfall on September 17
  • The new year will be 5784 in the “lunisolar” Jewish calendar
  • Greeting: “Happy New Year” or “Wishing you a sweet year”
  • The J will be closed September 16-17

The Jewish New Year is marked by celebration and introspection as people reflect on the past year. Foods traditionally associated with the holiday include apples, honey, and pomegranates (hence the “sweet year”), plus round loaves of challah that symbolize the eternal cycle of life.

The holiday also includes blowing a shofar, or ram’s horn, as a symbolic “wake-up” call to repent. 

Yom Kippur

  • Begins at sunset on September 24 and ends at nightfall on September 25
  • Greeting: “Have an easy fast,” “Have a meaningful fast,” or (for non-fasters) “Have a meaningful holiday”
  • The J will be closed September 25

The most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, also known as The Day of Atonement, focuses on repentance. Fasting is one way that many Jews choose to temporarily separate themselves from the routines of daily life.

Sukkot

  • Begins at sunset on September 29 and ends at nightfall on October 6
  • Greeting: “Happy holiday”
  • The J will be closed September 30, and we’ll close early on October 1 at 4 p.m.

Also known as the Harvest Festival, Sukkot is named after the temporary sukkot, or booths (singular: sukkah), that people build in their yards, for example, for the week-long celebration. The structures represent the flimsy dwellings that Jews used after escaping slavery in Egypt. They must have at least three sides with a roof made of thatch or branches, and the tradition is to spend as much time in them as possible (for meals, reading, and even sleeping, for example).

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

  • Begins at sunset on October 6 and ends at nightfall on October 8
  • Greeting: “Happy holiday”
  • The J will be closed October 7

Considered to be both the eighth day of Sukkot and also an independent holiday, Shemini Atzeret includes reciting Yizkor — the memorial prayer for the departed. Observance of Simchat Torah on the following day, meanwhile, ends the annual Torah reading cycle before immediately beginning the new one. Both days include festive meals.

Learn more

Dig deeper into the meanings behind these holidays and their religious significance by visiting the My Jewish Learning and Chabad websites (and don’t miss this Lego video on Sukkot).