Making the Most of the Fall Holidays

September 29, 2017

For some, it might seem that there is a different Jewish holiday each week this fall. This is for good reason, as in the months of September and October there are four separate and unique holidays.

The first is Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “the head of the new year.” This is our Jewish new year when we will turn from the Hebrew year 5777 to 5778.

Next comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is a time to stand before God to publicly and privately confess shortcomings and ask for forgiveness. Fasting helps remind us of the awesomeness and importance of the day.

After a four day break comes the holiday of Sukkot, the Festival of Booths. We erect temporary dwelling places outside to serve as a reminder that our permanent shelters are fragile and we have much for which we can be grateful.

The end of Sukkot is Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah when we turn towards Torah, the Five Books of Moses. On Simchat Torah, we finish reading the last words of the Book of Deuteronomy and quickly begin again with the first words of Genesis.

So with all of these upcoming holidays, how can we make the most of these days and create new memories with our families and friends?

• January isn’t the only time of year to make resolutions. As the school year begins, ask yourself and your children what you hope to do better this year. The JCC is a GREAT place to help make those resolutions happen!

• It’s customary to eat round challah for the Holy Days to symbolize the circle of life. Join us at Challah and Community on September 15 to learn how to make your own. We dip challah in honey for a sweet new year – Mmmm!

• Go apple picking! The fall holidays coincide with apple picking season in Wisconsin. Pick your own bushel to dip in honey or use them to bake in apple cakes, breads and pies that you can enjoy on Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot.

• Visit a synagogue. Milwaukee is blessed to have many amazing synagogues that span every denomination. Join your community to welcome in the New Year. Most also offer special family services so that people of all ages can feel connected and included.

• Hold a holiday dinner and invite friends or family over to help celebrate. Invite everyone to bring a dish that is special to them or their family and ask them to share the story behind it.

• There is a service called Tashlich, when you visit a flowing body of water and “cast off your shortcomings.” Grab some bread crumbs to toss in the water and spend some time reflecting on the past year and the year that is to come.

• Sukkot is a holiday that brings handy people out of the woodwork. Why not try building a sukkah at your house. A big sukkah too daunting? You can use graham crackers and frosting to make an edible sukkah or small pieces of wood to make a mini-sukkah. Grab lunch at Ferrante’s CAFA B Data and experience a meal inside the JCC Sukkah.

• Read a new book. PJ Library has books that describe each holiday and explain them for a variety of audiences. Children aren’t the only ones that learn from books; check out the JCC Reading Room for additional books about the holidays.

• Spend quality time with family and friends. If there is one thing that all of the Jewish holidays remind us, it’s that we need community! Host a meal, plan a play-date, share a story, grab a coffee and escape from the daily grind of life. Life is precious and so are our relationships.

We say Shanah Tovah U’Metukah – a sweet and happy new year!