October 19th, 2007

magen david

A Brief Summary of Jewish Holidays

Just to follow up the previous post, here’s some information on Jewish holidays that may be useful - or at least interesting - to some. It’s just basic info and I come at it from a point of view that recognizes variety of observance and does not view one particular branch of Judaism as more authentic than others. FWIW, I belong to an Egalitarian Conservative shul and am very happy with that. I welcome corrections to my inevitable mistakes from those who know more.


Major Jewish holidays in calendar order (the year starts with Rosh Hashanah, even though it’s the first and second day of the seventh month in our calendar – we’re weird that way ):
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A few not so major holidays:

Chanukah
Purim
Tu B'Shvat
Tisha B'Av

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A personal family note: I'm one of six siblings and my baby sister and I are the most Jewishly involved of the bunch of us (interestingly, we are the only ones who intermarried as well). Our practices are not identical, but pretty compatible, and differ sharply from those of the rest of our sibs. I'm not sure why or how that happened, but in any event it's something we each chose as adults, not something we were raised with.

Our parents were secular Jews but felt children should be raised with religion, so they joined a Conservative shul (once we left North Dakota, where we were the only Jews in a 40-mile radius) and sent us to Hebrew School. They did celebrate shabbat (Sabbath) by lighting candles and with a special meal, and they did have seders and follow some food restrictions for Pesach, but neither of them could read Hebrew and neither of them had formal religious education. So most of what I know about Judaism in general and holidays in particular was learned at school and shul and through reading and adult education over the years, not at home growing up. In fact, it mostly went the other way when I was growing up. We'd come home from Hebrew School and say "We're supposed to do X" and sometimes we'd add that to our family practice. As a result, I used to think of people who observed the "summer holidays" of Shavuot and Tisha B'Av as really religious, since Hebrew School wasn't in session :-).