Jewish Holidays

   photo courtesy of Chad Surmick

The following Jewish holidays, listed in chronological order as they are celebrated during the school year, are an important emphasis in our preschool curriculum. These holidays differ from year to year as we follow the lunar calendar. Jewish holidays are observed from sundown to sundown like Shabbat. View the school calendar 2014-15 for the dates of these holidays.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins the ten-day period known as the High Holidays. Rosh Hashanah is also known as the “birthday of the world,” the “day of remembrance,” and the “day of the shofar.” Rosh Hashanah celebrates the ability of people to change and grow, as it is a time for deep thought, self-examination and prayer.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiday in which the Jewish people ask for forgiveness and forgive others. Yom Kippur, the most solemn and holy day of the Jewish year, is the last day of the ten days of awe and marks the end of the ten-day period of the High Holidays.


Sukkot, is a fall harvest festival. Sukkot is also known as the “Festival of the Booths”, as it commemorates the time the Jewish people lived in temporary huts (sukkot) during their wandering and during their time of harvest in the fields. Sukkot is a time of feasting and of giving thanks for the harvest.

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah, meaning “rejoicing with the Torah”, is a happy holiday celebrated with gaiety and festivity. On Simchat Torah the last portion of the Torah in the book of Deuteronomy and the first verses of the book of Genesis are read in the same Temple service, signifying that the Torah has no beginning and no end.


Hanukkah, a joyous holiday celebrated for eight days, commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Greeks and thus Jewish independence and the right to once again, practice the Jewish religion. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple after the victory over the Greeks. Hanukkah is also called the “Festival of Lights” in remembrance of the miraculous oil that burned in the Temple menorah for eight days at the time of the rededication of the Temple.

        photo courtesy of Chad Surmick

Tu B’Shevat

Tu B’Shevat, celebrates the “Birthday of the Trees.” This Jewish holiday validates the importance of nature and stresses the need for people to care for trees, plants and objects in nature. It is customary to plant trees on Tu B’Shevat.

         photo courtesy of Erik Castro


Purim, a time of merriment and great fun, is one of the happiest of Jewish holidays. The festival of Purim derives from the biblical story of Esther and commemorates the Jewish people’s success over people who tried to destroy them.


Passover, or Pesach, celebrates the most important event in Jewish history, which is the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. This holiday recalls the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, their eventual freedom and their arrival in the Promised Land in Canaan. Pesach is celebrated for eight days with a special meal, special foods and specific traditional practices. Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot comprise the cycle of festivals spanning the Exodus story.

Yom Ha-atzmaut

Yom Ha-atzmaut, the “Day of Independence,” is the Jewish holiday celebrating Israel’s attainment of statehood. Israel’s Independence Day commemorates its establishment once again as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Lag B’Omer

Lag B’Omer, is a minor Jewish holiday that focuses on the importance of study and learning. Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of the 50 days of the counting of the “omer,” or the measure of the newly ripened barley. The Lag B’Omer holiday provided a break from this serious harvest time.


Shavuot, celebrates the day the Jews were given the Torah, the guidelines of Jewish life, on Mount Sinai. It is also a celebration of the time of harvest and the offering of the first fruits of the new harvest. On Shavuot the Jewish people decorate the synagogue with greens and flowers, wear white clothing and eat dairy dishes.

Shabbat (Sabbath)

The Jewish holiday of Shabbat is a joyous occasion celebrated every Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Shabbat commemorates the creation of the world in six days and the seventh day of rest. Shabbat is a special time for people to come together each week to be with family and friends, to rest, to think, to share, to sing and to have a good time. The observance of Shabbat begins with a traditional ritual that includes blessings while lighting candles, drinking wine and eating challah (braided egg bread).

Non-Jewish Holidays

As a school, we do not celebrate Halloween or Valentine’s Day at school. Both celebrations are related to the Christian Saint Days calendar and are not compatible with our Judaic focus or with Congregation Beth Ami as an institution.

Please support us by telling your children that our costume holiday with treats is Purim, when we dress up and distribute mishloach manot (gifts of food).

Please support us by the following:

  • Do NOT bring candy to school, in lunch or to distribute to the children (at any time but specifically) for Halloween
  • Do NOT send your child wearing a costume to school for Halloween
  • Do not bring Valentine’s Day or Halloween cards or other related items to school

As a part of multicultural focus, we welcome families with other traditions and celebrations to bring us information and materials about them. As an example, we have had parents visit classrooms during Lunar New Year to introduce the children to that holiday. Please speak to teachers about the appropriateness or desirability of activities or treats for celebrations other than Jewish holidays.

Beth Ami Community Nursery School is supported by the Jewish Community Federation (JCF) of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, as well as Jewish Learning Works and First Five Sonoma County.