At Congregation B’nai Israel we offer a wide variety of holiday programming. Our festival services are traditional, beautiful, and filled with music and spirituality. We offer holiday experiences for all ages and we strive to make our programming fun, interactive, and meaningful.
Holiday programming at CBI is also about community and social action. Combined with our traditional festival services and programs, we offer many ways for you and your family to get involved and give back.
HIGH HOLY DAY SEASON
Selichot (lit. “Penitential Prayers”) begins the formal High Holy Day Season, and generally falls on the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashanah. This service is one of soul-searching and reflection. It is meant to prepare us for the season of repentance and renewal. At CBI, we offer an introspective program followed by an evening service focused on the themes of purity and repentance.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, reflection, and repentance. Customs associated with the holiday include sounding the shofar (ram’s horn), eating a round challah as a symbol of the continuing cycle of years and seasons, and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year. At CBI, we hold services on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah, followed by morning services for the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we hold double services to accommodate the size of our congregation and guests who choose to join us. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we also offer Junior Congregation for our elementary-aged students as well as a special service for our pre-school aged children and their families. We also celebrate Tashlich on the first day of Rosh Hashanah by inviting our families to join us across the street from the synagogue at the canal to participate in the time-honored custom of “casting our sins (breadcrumbs) into a body of water.”
Yom Kippur (lit. “Day of Atonement”) is considered the holiest day in the Jewish year. It is traditionally observed through fasting, day-long prayer (Tefilah) focused on repentance (Teshuvah) and righteousness (Tzedakah). At CBI, our observance of Yom Kippur begins the evening before with the very moving Kol Nidre service. It continues the next day with an offering of double services, junior congregation for elementary-aged school children, pre-school family service and an afternoon service followed by Yizkor prayers and the very beautiful closing Neilah service where we invite all congregants and children to join us for the final sounding of the shofar. For those wishing to remain all day, we also offer an hour-long study program we call “Fast Talk” between our second service and the beginning of the afternoon service.
Sukkot is our Jewish festival of “Thanksgiving.” In our tradition, it marks the observance of the fall harvest. At CBI, our Brotherhood gathers prior to the festival to build our Congregational Sukkah which is located in our upper courtyard. In addition to the festival services we offer for the evening and morning of Sukkot, our Pre-school families gather prior to the evening service for a celebratory program and to decorate the Sukkah.
Sh’mini Atzeret/Simchat Torah is a fun-filled day during which we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirm Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives. At CBI, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried around the Cohen/Friedkin Sanctuary seven times during the evening service. We unroll the Torah scroll throughout the entire Sanctuary, letting our children hold it as we conclude the reading and immediately begin again. This represents the cyclical nature between the Jewish people and the study of Torah. At the conclusion of the service, we enjoy a celebratory Oneg with lots of sweets and goodies. During the morning service of Sh’mini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, we also observe Yizkor prayers.
Chanukah is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays. It is a festive eight-day celebration. The holiday brings light, joy, and warmth to our homes and communities as we celebrate with candles, food, family, and friends. Every year, our Friday night Shabbat Service in Chanukah is designated as our Service of Light and is filled with beautiful pageantry and music. Our families enjoy participating by bringing and lighting their own Chanukiot (Chanukah Menorahs), thus bringing light into our sanctuary and our world.
Purim at CBI is celebrated with costumes, Shpiels, songs, noisemakers (groggers), and gifts of food. It is a joyous holiday that affirms and celebrates Jewish survival and continuity throughout history. Purim evening at CBI rivals the attendance at High Holy Day services. Our Clergy, choir members, congregants, and staff perform a full-scale Purim Shpiel that is not to be missed! Cast members rehearse for weeks prior to the Shpiel, though, they begin working on the script and preparations a year in advance.
Passover, or Pesach as it is called in Hebrew, celebrates one of the central events of Jewish history – the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt. While all Jewish festivals and lifecycle events encourage participation in the Jewish community, Pesach serves as a powerful model for Jewish families. Pesach preparations and celebrations teach Jewish history by recreating Jewish events in the home. Many of the rituals associated with Pesach focus on the importance of perpetuating Judaism. The Pesach Seder entertains children while encouraging them to relive Jewish history. At CBI, we encourage families to join us for our community seder on the second night of Passover after celebrating their first-night seders at home. As the Reform Movement celebrates Pesach for seven days, as instructed in the Torah and as it is celebrated in Israel, we invite you to join us for services on the mornings of the first and then again on the last (seventh) day of Passover, when we also offer our Yizkor prayers.
Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, occurs on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. In Hebrew, Shoah, means “catastrophe.” It refers to the atrocities and extermination of 6 million Jews that occurred during World War II. At CBI, we commemorate Yom HaShoah through a service of lighting candles to keep alive the memories of the victims. We gather together to mark the day through worship, music, and stories from survivors.
Yom HaZikaron falls the day prior to Israel’s Independence Day. It is also known as Israel’s Memorial Day, a day to memorialize soldiers who lost their lives fighting in Israel’s War of Independence and subsequent wars. It is also a day to remember civilian victims of terrorism. At CBI, we observe this day at the closest Shabbat service with appropriate prayers and readings.
Yom HaAtzmaut is also known as Israeli Independence Day, which marks the anniversary of the establishment of the modern-day State of Israel. It is observed on or near the 5th of the Hebrew month of lyar on the Jewish calendar, which usually falls in April. At CBI, we join in community celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut and also observe the importance of this day at the closest Shabbat service with appropriate music, prayers and readings.
Lag BaOmer is a minor, festive holiday that falls on the 33rd day of the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot, a period known as Sefirat HaOmer – the Counting of the Omer. This holiday gives us a break from the semi-mourning restrictions that are customarily in place for more traditional Jewish communities during this period of time. The Omer has both agricultural and spiritual significance. It marks the spring cycle of planting and harvest as well as the freedom of our ancestors from slavery in Egypt and their journey toward Mount Sinai and the receiving of the Torah and Ten Commandments. At CBI, in remembrance of these events, we celebrate with picnics and bonfires.
Shavuot (lit. The Feast of “Weeks”) celebrates the giving of the Torah and Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt. This holiday reminds us of our obligation as individuals and as a community to embrace the teachings and laws of the Torah. Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Shavuot is generally observed through the eating of dairy foods. At CBI, we celebrate the Confirmation of our tenth-grade students on this festival, and at the morning service, we also offer Yizkor prayers.
Tisha B’Av (lit. “The Ninth of Av”) is traditionally an annual fast day in Judaism. It is a day on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E. and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in the year 70 C.E. The day is observed through prayer and the recitation of dirges in the Book of Lamentations bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Additionally, the 9th of Av marks the day upon which the expulsion of Jews took place in England in the year 1290, and in Spain in the year 1492.