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We celebrate many of the holidays in the round of the year. Of course we celebrate the most important and holiest day of the year — Shabbat — which comes around every single week! We hold services every Shabbat (usually morning services; once a month we offer Kabbalat Shabbat services instead).
At Rosh Hashanah we gather for services, Torah stories and sermons, tashlich (casting bread upon the waters — a symbolic discarding of our mistakes from the past year), challah and honey, and more.
At Yom Kippur, our observances include a “spiritual mikveh” (immersion in living waters) for our Rosh Chodesh group, wearing white, fasting and prayer, a range of services, gentle afternoon yoga, an afternoon service on the patio outside the sanctuary, and — after the closing Ne’ilah service — a break-the-fast for our whole community.
At Sukkot, we build a sukkah behind the sanctuary, and — as commanded — we rejoice in it! We hold a Friday night Sukkot potluck (weather permitting, in the sukkah itself), our Friday morning meditation group meditates there, and all who come to CBI or to services have the chance to shake the lulav and etrog.
At Simchat Torah, we dance with the Torah, read its end and its beginning, and celebrate how its stories and ours interweave. (We often celebrate Simchat Torah at Williams College with the community there.)
At Chanukah, we cherish the gleam of our chanukiyot — especially at our Chanukah Party, which is full of children and features more menorahs than most of us can imagine. (We eat latkes, too.)
At Tu BiShvat, we hold a special seder for the New Year of the Trees, featuring poems and readings and delicious fruits from many different trees, symbolizing our journey through the seasons and from body and heart to mind and soul. (Some years we have more than one seder, for different age groups.)
At Purim, we hold a Purimspiel — a merry Purim play — in which our community members retell the story of brave queen Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from the predatory Haman. Sometimes there are puppets! Always there are hamentaschen and noisemakers.
At Pesach, we host a second-night community seder. We use a specially abridged and adapted version of The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach. Often we have special Pesach crafts courtesy of our family educator Heather Levy (you should see her Ten Plagues made of felt!)
At Shavuot, we co-host a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot — a late-night (if not all-night) Torah study session — at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center along with the folks from Bennington’s Congregation Beth El. Community members and clergy alike teach lessons on aspects of Torah which we love best. And, of course, we nosh on cheesecake and espresso milkshakes!
At Tisha b’Av, we darken our sanctuary and study Lamentations and read poetry (both ancient and modern) which opens up the themes of this dark and difficult day…and come afternoon, we rejoice in our tradition’s teaching that on this darkest of days, the spark of hope and transformation is born.
And before Rosh Hashanah we gather for Selichot, the service of prayers and poems and songs which officially ushers in the High Holiday season, readying ourselves to begin the whole journey all over again!