One of the most special aspects of belonging to a synagogue is having a built-in extended family to share the holidays with.
At Temple Judea, our "family" has our own traditions that mark each special day. We look forward with joy to each holiday, holy day, and festival in between - a chance to come together as a community to learn, pray, sing, and celebrate.
The High Holy Days start our year in early Autumn. Rosh Hashanah, the head or the beginning of the year, marks the celebration of the Jewish New Year. Then comes Tashlich, when we are encouraged to cast off, or release our wrong doings from the year that just passed. Tashlich is followed by Kol Nidre, the holiest night of the year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a time for self-reflection and self-examination. Traditionally, Jews fast on this day to symbolize cleansing and purity.
The month of Tishrei contains two more special holidays: Sukkot, or the "Festival of Booths," is one of the three pilgrimage festivals that reminds us of the fragile and temporary structures that ancient Israelites lived in in the desert. Every year we build a sukkah in our Courtyard, decorated by all of our young people. We invite all of our families to come eat, sing, and pray there. And, Simchat Torah, which takes place on the last day of Sukkot, is when the yearly cycle of Torah reading is completed and the next cycle is begun. We remove a Torah from the ark and we carry it through the synagogue seven times in a procession. Then, we unscroll it so all the children - and adults! - can see it from start to finish. We celebrate by singing songs and waving flags.
Wintertime brings with it Channukah, the Festival of Lights. The eight night celebration includes latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), games of dreidel, and the lighting of the menorah. At Temple Judea we have a tradition of walking with our religious school students from the synagogue a few blocks to the center of Tarzana, where we light a huge community menorah, sing songs, and eat traditional sweet treats.
In the spring, we celebrate Purim, Passover, and Shavuot. Purim originates in the Book of Esther, and it celebrates the victory of the Jews over their enemies and the courage of the book's heroin, Esther. Traditionally, we celebrate with festivals, feasts, and the reading of the Megillah. Each year our congregation enjoys our Purim Festival, a big carnival that's open to the community, with rides, food trucks, games and more. And who could forget TJ's annual Purim Schpiel, a raucous, hilarious, and congregant-driven musical spoof that tells the story of the Megillah. Passover is celebrated with the retelling of the story of our Exodus from Egypt, and with a family seder - a traditional meal that includes lots of symbols and rituals - all which help commemorate the coming of spring and the story of Exodus. Shavuot, the feast of weeks, is celebrated seven weeks after the second Passover seder, and it is recognized as the day when the Torah was revealed to us at Mount Sinai. To commemorate, some of us will stay up all night in a tikkun - studying Jewish texts until the sun comes up. We eat yummy dairy-inspired treats, like cheesecake and blintzes, and read the Book of Ruth.
We rejoice in the celebration and commemoration of all of these important days, and of course celebrating Shabbat every Friday evening. It is a blessing and a mitzvah to continue the traditions of our ancestors: teaching these age-old rituals to our youngest members, and coming together in community to celebrate as a family.
We invite you to join us!