The Sholem Community’s holiday observances draw from Jewish history, folk traditions, contemporary readings, and social justice themes. Our secular humanistic adaptations of Jewish holidays are creative and imbued with a sense of relevance to the concerns of our modern times.

scottUnderstanding Jewish Holidays

Origins: Most Jewish holidays pre-date religious observances. They are based on ancient customs, and are often tied to seasons or to agricultural practices. They are often rooted in early pantheistic human belief and practices – shared with many other cultures – related to seasonal changes and/or lunar phases. They sometimes involved magical rites aimed at human control of supernatural forces, such as pouring water to encourage rain or lighting fires to invigorate the sun. Early beliefs arose in the pre-agricultural period. Understanding these roots enhances an intercultural approach to holidays based on facts. It also places Jewish cultural development within an overall human context.

Ancient Historical Connections: The development of Judaism and rabbinic authority either through the Torah, the Talmud, or folklore, served to anchor primitive events and observances to the national consciousnesses of the Jewish people. Ancient holidays were adapted and molded to religious frameworks. Adopting ancient customs provided legitimacy. Co-opting them and imbuing them with religious meaning helped perpetuate them, while, at the same time, obscured their origins.

Folk Traditions: Over time, customs of observing or celebrating Jewish holidays, particularly including foods associated with the festivals, grew up independently and removed from the rites prescribed by Talmudic rabbis. They often reflected the customs of the surrounding majority peoples among whom Jews lived.

Our Secular Approach

Three holidays provide good examples of Sholem’s secular approach to Jewish holidays:

  • The New Year Festivals (Rosh Hashana, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur/Yonkiper, Sukkot/Sukis) are based on ancient beliefs about the need for self-reflection and communal re-assessment. Sholem’s observances use music, readings, and discussion relevant to our daily lives and challenges.
  • Hanukkah. This festival of lights is based on prehistoric winter rituals common to most cultures. As daylight subsides and the days grow colder, heat and light are obvious antidotes. Combined with the victory of the Maccabees—a freedom struggle of an oppressed people—Hanukkah becomes much more than the legend of a magic oil lamp: It’s a powerful holiday that celebrates freedom and reminds us of the need for light (metaphorically and literally), as well as the common themes shared by other cultures.
  • Pesakh (Passover). This originated as a springtime festival, celebrated by nomadic and later agricultural Israelites. The powerful Exodus legend imbues it with stirring reminders about liberation and freedom

Secular Humanistic Observances of Jewish Holidays

The Sholem Community’s holiday observances draw from Jewish history, folk traditions, contemporary readings, and social justice themes. Our secular humanistic adaptations of Jewish holidays are creative and imbued with a sense of relevance to the concerns of our modern times.

Rosh Hashana/yosheshone

Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 at 11:15 am-01:15 pm(PT)

Cheviot Hills Park, Picnic Area 1
2551 Motor Ave, Los Angeles 90064
(one block south of Pico, behind the Rec Center)

Welcome the Jewish New Year with stirring readings, literature, and poetry based in our Jewish heritage and our secular, progressive values.

Please bring a picnic lunch, a dessert to share, and a face mask. Apples and honey will be provided.

For more information, write to newyearfestivals2021@sholem.org

 

Kol Nidre (Erev Yom Kippur)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 at 6:30-8:30 pm (PT)

Kol Nidre, the evening that initiates Yom Kippur, is a highlight of the Sholem calendar. Informed by Jewish traditions in music and in spoken word, we reflect on our lives and the state of the world through a humanistic and progressive prism. A moving opportunity to renew ourselves for the upcoming year; to grieve our losses and enable our hopes. Get Tickets Here.

Yom Kippur/yonkiper)

Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:15-11:15 am (PT)

Join us at the park for a family-friendly discussion of ethics in our daily lives.

Cheviot Hills Park, Picnic Area 1
2551 Motor Ave, Los Angeles 90064
(one block south of Pico, behind the Rec Center)

For more information write to newyearfestivals2021@sholem.org.

Sukkot/sukis

This last holiday of the New Year festival cycle once celebrated the harvest. Today at Sholem, we focus on food justice and sustainability.

Hanukkah/khanike

Our celebration recognizes the roots of Hanukkah as a winter solstice festival. We celebrate Hanukkah in honor of the Maccabees and a freedom struggle for an oppressed people.

Tu B’Shvat

We highlight environmental awareness and celebrate the “new year for trees.”

Purim

Join Sholem families and friends for a reading of the megilla and a carnival with games, costumes, and hamantashen.

Passover/pesach/peysakh

Our model secular seder, held the week before Passover, is a celebration of spring and liberation. Check back for details and to RSVP.