The Jewish year is regulated by Festivals and they are an integral part of the Religion. They help to:

¨ Forge a link between Judaism past and present

¨ Focus on the Central beliefs of the faith

¨ They are communal acts

¨ They form a pattern of celebrations

It is a lunar cycle of 12 months (354 days) – the year begins with the seventh month, TISHRI and is celebrated through out the world by Jews. For everyday purposes they follow a set calendar (i.e as per UK) but in their celebrations they follow their own calendar (LUNACH).


1. 2 days of solemn reflection, greetings are exchanged such as the simple ‘Good year’. It is a time for new beginnings & Jews dress in their best clothes.

2. Special bread in the shape of a crown or ladder is baked at home and eaten as a symbol of God’s sovereignty and link with the home.

3. In the synagogue on New Years morning a special service is held – MUSAF based on the Rosh Hashanah prayer book

¨ The story of the birth & binding of Isaac is read fromthe Torah.

¨ During the service the SHOFAR (Rams horn trumpet) is blown as a reminder of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son Isaac.

4. In the afternoon the family visit a well or river and say prayers and empty their pockets into the water as a sign of shedding sins.

5. The new year ritual centres on Creation, Judgement & Renewal. The Jews remember how God created the world, they reflect on his judgement of evil and by casting off their sins they begin the New Year by submitting to him.

1. 10 days into New Year, Jews observe the day of Atonement. It is a day of repentance – according to Jewish Law forgiveness must be obtained before Yom Kippur.

2. It is a day of fasting, for helping people in need and reciting memorial prayers to the dead.

3. The Ark is covered in white & a solemn prayer – KOL NIDREI is sung for Jews who have suffered persecution.

4. The account of the ritual in the Temple in Jerusalem is told which tells how the high priest made a sacrifice on behalf of the people on the Day of Atonement.

5. The closing service of the day is called NEILAH, and the first line of the SHEMA is recitied before the SHOFAR is blown before the Ark.


1. 14th of Adar (Feb/March) a festival of thanksgiving held to commemorate the victory of Esther over the oppressor Haman. She led her people in their struggle for freedom & independence.

2. A Purim service is held in the synagogue in the morning & the evening.

3. The story of Esther is read from the MEGILLAH (Scroll) during the service.

4. A festival meal is held which lasts several hours.

1. An autumn festival which lasts 7 days in TISHRI (Sept/Oct). Also known as the ‘Season of Rejoicing’. It is a harvest festival each day a service is held in the synagogue.

2. The service includes the waving of LULAV branches to the East, West, North & South to symbolise Gods universal blessings.

3. During the festival , Jews make a tent (SUKKAH) as a temporary home and the synagogue also has one. This is to remind Jews of their journey to the promised land. The tents are intended as a symbol of God’s provision & Care. If Jews live in them for the 7 days, seen as a blessing by God on their lives.

4. On the final day of the festival (the great Hosanna or HOSHANA RABA) a willow branch is shook till the leaves drop off and prayers are said.


1. Immediately after the festival of the Tabernacles. A Special service is held in the synagogue and the Torah scrolls are paraded around the synagogue 7 times.

2. After completing one circle the scrolls are handed to other worshippers to complete the required circles. The procession also passes under a canopy (CHUPPAH).

3. In Jerusalem, Jews also gather at the Western Wall carrying scrolls under small canopies to show solidarity with other Jews around the world.


1. The festival of weeks is a harvest festival and is held 7 weeks after the passover in SIVAN (May/June).

2. Readings in the synagogue of the giving of the 10 commandments and the book of Ruth.

3. During the festival special emphasis is placed upon the education of children.

4. In earlier times Jews used to make an offering of the first fruits to God each night between the Passover and the Feast of Weeks a measure (OMER) of barley was brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

5. Today it is connected with the land and future prosperity and productivity.


1. Held on the 25th of KISLEV (December) and for the following 7 days.

2. Central ritual is lighting lights in the home. A HANUKAH lamp is lit and placed in the window or open door.

3. It is an eight branched lamp and one lamp is lit on each night and these words are spoken:

‘These lights are holy and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to see them in order to thank your name for the wonders, the victories and the marvellous deeds.’

4. In the synagogue there are reading from Zechariah about God’s Holy Spirit.

5. The festival celebrates the Jews victory against the Greek tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes in 165BCE. He tried to get the Jews to worship the Greek Gods. They rose up against him and Judas Maccabeus led the guerilla attacks. They rededicated the Temple on the 25th Kislev in 165BCE – the dedication lasted for 8 days.

1. Commemorates the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, held on the 5th of IYAR (Apr). Parades and public gatherings are held.

2. During the parades 12 torches must be carried for the 12 tribes of Israel.

3. There is also a day to remember the Holocaust – YOM HA-SHOAH on the 27th Nisan – there are no celebrations or parades on this day.