Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, are known as the Jewish High Holy Days. Considered the holiest days of the year, the High Holy Day period is a time of introspection and prayer. At Shir Hadash, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are observed by the community coming together for worship services, which include the offering of special prayers, the reading and discussion of biblical text, and the observance of holiday rituals, such as the blowing of the shofar—ram’s horn.
Congregation Shir Hadash services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are led by the Rabbis, Cantor, and an expanded High Holy Day Choir, with services held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Saratoga. In addition to communal worship, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Congregation Shir Hadash offers adult discussion groups, meditational opportunities, and a community break-the-fast.
On both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur special educational programs are offered for school age children. Discussion groups and worship experiences designed for teenagers also take place. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur afternoons, family services are held in the Shir Hadash sanctuary. The family services, led by Shir Hadash clergy, are free and open to the public.
Sukkot, the Jewish festival of the ingathering of the harvest, is celebrated at Shir Hadash with worship and with special meals in the Sukkah. On the first eve of the holiday, our new religious school children are consecrated. This is a short ceremony that marks the formal beginning of their Jewish education. They are given gifts so that the beginning of their education will be marked by sweetness.
During Sukkot, special breakfasts, lunches and dinners are served in the Sukkah for different groups within the congregation. On alternating years we hold neighborhood gatherings in the Sukkahs at the homes of our members, and we host a sleep-over for elementary and middle school aged youth in our Sukkah.
Simchat Torah is a joyous holiday which marks the end of one year’s cycle of the reading of the Torah and the beginning of the new cycle. On the eve of Simchat Torah we honor the Congregation’s elders, all those who have reached the Biblically described age of 3 score and ten. This is also the only time in the entire year when children are invited up on the Bimah for an aliyah. Our service is accompanied by the Joel Nelson Band which encourages lively dancing as we carry the Torah scrolls around the sanctuary. It is a night for all ages. The service on Simchat Torah day includes a Yizkor memorial service.
Chanukah, the festival which commemorates the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees, is celebrated at Shir Hadash with a special service; everyone is encouraged to bring their Chanukiyah to light in the sanctuary. The lit Chanukiyahs, which are placed on tables all around the perimeter of the room, provide a warm holiday glow that illuminates our service. A Chanukah latke dinner is often held either before that service or on another day of the holiday. Candle blessings, favorite songs and other Chanukah resources are here.
Tu Bishvat is the New Year of the Trees. In conjunction with the Temple’s Green Team we have held Tu Bishvat Seders which reinforce Judaism’s message of responsibility for our world.
Purim is the holiday that recalls the Jews escape from persecution as described in the book of Esther. We celebrate this holiday at Shir Hadash by performing a special humorous shpiel (Purim play) as part of the service in which the Megillah, the story of Purim, is read. We also hold a Purim Carnival on the Sunday that is closest to the holiday. When Purim falls on a Saturday night, we have an extra large celebration including a Persian themed dinner.
Passover is a festival of freedom that celebrates the release of the Jews from their enslavement by the Pharaoh in Egypt. We celebrate this holiday in our homes and in temple with a Seder service. Because the Seder is traditionally celebrated with friends and family, at Shir Hadash we help individuals find guests or hosts for the Passover meal. We usually have a community Seder, often on the 7th night of Passover; this is the beginning of the holy day at the end of the festival, which might otherwise be overlooked.
Shavuot is the festival which marks the giving of the Ten Commandments. On the eve of the holiday, our tenth grade students celebrate their Confirmation and take a significant role in leading the service. It is also a custom to stay up all night studying Torah and to eat dairy foods. When Shavuot is on a weekday, we usually conclude our all-night study at mid-night with cheesecake.