The ancient rabbis expressed their great reverence for the Sabbath by stating that "More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews." Whether or not we believe this to be literally true, it is certainly true that a weekly day of rest is a Jewish gift to the world enshrined in the biblical story of creation. And thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor and foundation funding, the JCC is able to give the gift of Shabbat to the community.
R&R: Shabbat at the JCC
An antidote to our 24/7 lifestyle. A day to step out of the frantic pace of everyday life. Join us on Saturdays, 2:30 – 5:30 pm, from November 3 - March 23 (except January 26), for programs that respect all levels of observance. Come in from the ordinary and experience Shabbat. It's an ancient solution to a modern dilemma; so priceless we've made it free.
Shabbat Shabbang: Friday Night Dinners at the JCC
Thanks to the generosity of a donor, we are pleased to continue this program which was so successful last year. Each month, from September to May, the community is invited to an evening that includes Shabbat rituals, delicious dinners, and engaging programs for all levels of observance.
The holiday of Tu B'Shevat (literally the 15th day of the month of Shevat) is usually referred to as the New Year for the Trees. Compared to holidays like Rosh HaShanah and Passover, Tu B'Shevat doesn’t stand out much. There aren’t a lot of rituals or liturgy, or even many customs that surround it. But don’t let that fool you. Tu B'Shevat is in fact quite a significant holiday on the Jewish calendar and ought to be celebrated with enthusiasm and hope. In fact, Tu B'Shevat is the Jewish “Earth Day,” the time in our holiday cycle when we focus on the environment and our stewardship responsibilities. It is a time to renew our recycling efforts, to figure out ways to take fewer cabs and more public transportation, and to look for ways to save energy in our home. Like Rosh HaShanah (and our secular New Year’s Day), it is a time for resolutions. What would it look like if everyone in New York unplugged their home phone chargers while they are not in use? Or unplugged everything in their homes with an LCD light (like their clocks and cable boxes) when they went to work? What would it look like if on Tu B'Shevat we determined to use less paper, waste less electricity and gas? It would look like we cared about this earth and understood our role in protecting its future for our children and their children. It would look like we were connected deeply to the Jewish value of caring for the earth and living that value in our daily lives. So plant trees in Israel and wherever you can. Delight in wonderful Israeli products and redouble your efforts to do your part to protect our environment. In that way, we honor Tu B'Shevat and make it the meaningful holiday it deserves to be.
Purim is the Jewish version of Mardi Gras/Carnavale. It shares with such festivals around the world at this time of year an unbridled quality of celebration, costumes, parades, food, and drink. It must be something about the season since spring is in the air. Unlike Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot, which are prescribed in the Torah (along with Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), Purim is based upon the biblical book of Esther which is not part of the Five Books of Moses. The book is also called the Megillah (literally a scroll but a special one since its reading is central to the holiday) and it celebrates the rescue of the Jews of Persia by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai, who thwart the plot by Haman, courtier to the Persian King. While the book includes most elements of the holiday—merrymaking, feasting, sending gifts to friends (typically of food, including hamentaschen), and presents to the poor, Purim was not on the Jewish calendar until the ancient rabbis added it. Scholars assume Jews were already observing Purim and it would have been difficult to oppose a holiday that celebrates a Jewish victory over an enemy and includes so many ways to celebrate! The Megillah is read on the eve of Purim and the next morning with great enthusiasm and with noisemakers to drown out the name of the dreaded Haman.
Pesach was the critically important spring harvest festival in ancient times which is called Hag Aviv (literally, the spring holiday) in some places of the Torah. While the seder plate references the spring season with parsley and an egg, the holiday has become the quintessential celebration of liberation. The story of deliverance from slavery that we read in the haggadah has been a central theme in Jewish tradition and a source of inspiration for other peoples seeking freedom. For Jews, it also represents our emergence as a people destined for a homeland. And while food is an important part of Jewish celebrations, it becomes a veritable obsession before and during Passover, given the very complicated dietary rules and regulations associated with this holiday of liberation.
Visit our Passover page for ways to celebrate Passover at the JCC.
After we celebrate the liberation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and just before we celebrate the founding of the state of Israel, we remember the darkest days of Jewish history. On Holocaust Memorial Day we remember the six million Jews who perished during the Shoah. The Upper West Side community will gather to read names of those among the six million.
The Israeli national holiday is also celebrated throughout the diaspora on the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, commemorating the declaration of independence which was announced by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948, establishing the new State of Israel in what had been the British mandate of Palestine since World War I, an in ancient times, the biblical land of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Visit our Yom Ha'atzmaut page for ways to celebrate Israel at 65.
Just 49 days after Passover (the period known as the Sefira or the Counting of the Omer), the JCC will present The Paul Feig Tikkun Leil Shavuot at The JCC in Manhattan, a spectacular holiday celebration—an updated version of the ancient festival of Shavuot, when the ancient Israelites stayed awake all night at Sinai anticipating the revelation. Shavuot, coming so soon after Passover and lasting only two days, has tended to be less known of the three festivals or haggim (the fall festival of Sukkot being the third). But the JCC’s Tikkun has certainly created a buzz around Shavuot! Join more than 2,000 others for FREE study, film, music, dance, yoga, meditation, cheesecake, and more, throughout the building, throughout the night, and into the early morning. Come for an hour or seven!
The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is generously supported in memory of Paul Feig. Additional funding provided by UJA-Federation.