Festivals and Holidays at PSJC
The Jewish calendar is structured around holidays that reflect both the time of year (light in the darkness of winter, various grain harvests), events (the giving of the Torah), and our history. In normal times we celebrate these holidays together, but in this time of Covid, we join together virtually. Regardless of the setting, we seek to celebrate the unique messages and traditions of each of these festivals and holidays. Information about the High Holy Days can be found on a dedicated page that will be available in months prior to and following the High Holy Days.
What follows is a description of festivals and holidays at PSJC during "normal" times. Please watch the Events Page for activities and times as we determine how to modify our celebrations in line with the pandemic constraints.
Sukkot Through Simchat Torah
The fall holidays are a joyous time at PSJC, from singing and eating together in our communal sukkah to dancing with our Torahs on Simchat Torah. During Sukkot, we have many opportunities to shake our lulavs and etrogs and "dwell" together in sukkahs, both at the synagogue and in our community. Every year we open our communal PSJC sukkah for use by the larger Jewish community, and organize many meals and events in our sukkah. We also hold an annual "sukkah hop," which includes a walking tour of several sukkahs in our community, with learning, singing, and (of course!) eating. Please check the Events Page for specifics.
In "normal" times, the PSJC Sukkah is open throughout the holiday for use by the Jewish community. Please be sure to bring everything you need for a dairy/vegetarian meal. In addition, please clean up after your meal and be respectful of scheduled PSJC programs.
Our Hoshana Rabah services include the ancient tradition of beating the willow branches, and we continue our celebrations the next day on Shemini Atzeret. Erev (evening) Simchat Torah services include the traditional hakafot (parading the Torahs) and dancing with the Torahs, as well as an opportunity to see an entire Torah Scroll unrolled, with many recent b'nai mitzvah youth reading various sections. On the day of Simchat Torah we once again parade around and dance with the Torahs, and then everyone present gets an aliyah (called up to the Torah), before the individuals honored as Chattan Torah (groom of the Torah) and Kallat B'reishit (Bride of Genesis) have aliyahs for the end of the last chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Genesis, as we begin the cycle of reading the Torah once again. The children attending the service add to the celebration by "tying up the Bride and Groom in Torah!"
Please check the Events Page for time and location/Zoom for communal sukkah building and decoration as well as Sukkot, Shoshana Rabah, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah services and related celebrations.
While most of the Chanukkah celebration takes place in our homes, we often come together during Chanukkah to light candles and sing songs, and party as a community! Please check the Events Page for time and location/Zoom for Chanukkah activities.
Tu B'Shvat, the "Birthday of the Trees," is an opportunity for us to reflect on the environment and the many wonders of our world. We often join together in a Tu B'Shvat Seder to celebrate and share in the seven species of fruits and nuts that are mentioned in the Torah.
Purim at PSJC is a time of great joy and festivity, both for children and adults! We read the Megillah of Esther, which tells the story of how the Jews were saved from destruction in Persia by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai. And we celebrate!
Purim traditions at PSJC include:
Pre-Purim Friday night fake "treyf banquet" potluck (vegetarian, fish, and dairy items masquerading as non-kosher foods) following services, accompanied by either the Great Hamantaschen-Latke debate or a rousing game of Purim Jeopardy!
Megillah chanting interspersed with a Purimspiel (humorous skits and parody songs)
Children's service and Purim Party
Children's costume parade
Purim Carnival (usually on the Sunday before or after the holiday)
Mishloach Manot (the traditional giving of gifts of sweets to one another)
Purim services are held on the Erev (evening) leading up to Purim and on Purim morning. Please check the Events Page for time and location/Zoom for the Megillah Readings, Purim children's activities, and the Carnival.
The Rabbi gives us guidance and inspiration in preparing for Passover/Pesach each year. Some years we host a communal Seder at PSJC, and in all years we work to arrange home hospitality so that all our members can participate in Seders.
Lag B'Omer, is celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, which starts at the end of Pesach and continues until Shavuot. At PSJC we often follow the Israeli tradition and light a bonfire in our yard (an opportunity for S'mores!) and have related programming, such as "campfire" story-telling. Please check the Events Page for the time and location/Zoom of related events.
Shavuot is one of the major Festivals of the Jewish year. Because it falls at the start of summer, it often does not get all the press of its counterparts, Passover and Sukkot. But this year is a wonderful time to bring our attention to Shavuot—The Time of the Giving of the Torah.
Tradition holds that because our ancestors were not prepared to receive the Torah at Sinai (remember the Golden Calf?), we stay up all night, learning and preparing ourselves for this moment of connection—a moment we re-experience with the Torah reading the first morning: the story of the giving of the Torah and the recitation of the Ten Commandments. To honor the tradition of study PSJC has long held a Tikkun Leil Shavuot on the eve of Shavuot, where we learn together through the night. In the past several years we have moved to join the larger Brownstone Brooklyn Jewish Community for a communal Tikkun, which includes many incredible and diverse teachers who lead various study sessions. Whether virtual or in-person, the Tikkun is always inspiring. PSJC holds morning services for Shavuot the next day. Please check the Events Page for time and location/Zoom for the Tikkun and services.
Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av) is a time of mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and the Exile of the Jewish people. The haunting melody of Eicha (the Book of Lamentations) and the kinot (songs of mourning and loss) that we sing help us “remember” these moments of destruction and loss. This time of fasting and reflection upon the repeated tragedies the Jewish people have overcome in our history is considered the nadir of the Jewish year. The Tisha B'Av service is extremely moving. We sit low or on the floor, like mourners, and listen to the chanting in a darkened room, reading by candlelight or flashlight. Please see the Events Page for time and location/Zoom for services.