High Holy Days
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (New Year’s and Day of Atonement) are the biggest gathering of the tribe each year. A time of personal discernment surrounded by family, friends, and fellow synagogue congregants. Kehilla observance traditions include rousing music, contemplative music, prayer, meditation, and dance. How do we collectively access our deepest selves surrounded and supported by our community? How do we reënergize ourselves to continue our work for justice in the world in the coming year? We rediscover the secret each year.
Sukkot is a seven-day harvest festival that commemorates the time when the Israelites dwelt in the Sinai wilderness. We celebrate by building and decorating a temporary dwelling called a Sukkah. It is customary to wave a lulav, a bouquet of four different plant species (palm, myrtle, willow, and citron), in six directions, which connects the Sukkah to the world/divine force beyond it. Kehilla offers a community Sukkah to visit during the holiday.
Simchat Torah celebrates the beginning, ending, and cycle of the Torah. On this holiday, we read from both the last parsha (portion) of Deuteronomy as well as the first parsha of Genesis, reminding us that there is joy to be found in endings and beginnings. We also celebrate that we have cycles in our lives that allow us to experience both endings and beginnings, sometimes in the same evening! Sometimes we unroll the entire Torah scroll during services on Simchat Torah, but every year Kehilla celebrates by bringing movement into the sanctuary and dancing with the Torah!
We celebrate Hanukkah at Kehilla with an annual family-friendly Hanukkah party! We light our menorahs together and enjoy a vegetarian potluck, with music and a special children’s program. Delicious latkes are provided.
On Purim, we retell the story of Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther). This story follows Esther, a courageous Jewish woman who wins the courtship of King Achashverosh (yayyy!!). She quickly learns that his adviser, Hamen (booooo!!!), is plotting against the Jews, and Esther comes up with a plan to save her people. Esther’s story is often acted out on Purim with a joyful and, traditionally, funny rendition. It is customary to wear ridiculous costumes on Purim, eat hamentashen (triangular, fruit or chocolate filled cookies), retell Esther’s amazing story, and celebrate her bravery and wit. Kehilla has a fabulous family friendly Purim Carnival for kids and their grown ups on a Sunday near Purim too!
Passover retells the story of the Jews’ escape from our enslavement in Egypt. This holiday last eight days and it is customary to have a seder (a ritual dinner that walks us through the events leading up to and our escape from Egypt) on the first three nights. At Kehilla, Passover is an opportunity to explore how oppression continues to exist in our world and asking what we can do to support other groups who are trying to part their Red Sea and find liberation. We also use Passover to not only acknowledge how we are constricted in our own lives, but try to expand our hearts, minds, and spiritual awareness to help those around the world who continue to be enslaved.
Shavuot commemorates Israelites receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai and entering into a holy covenant. We celebrate by staying up all night and studying Torah along with Jews and friends from all over the East Bay at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center.