According to Jewish tradition, the beginning of the year is not brought in by a countdown at midnight on January 1st. No, for the Jewish people the New Year is brought in by a series of high holidays all with specific rituals used to mark this special time. These holidays are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. There are also additional holiday traditions during this time of year. Rituals like saying Selichot prayers or hearing the shofar blast during the feast of the tabernacles. The Jewish Near Year clears the air for the community. It grounds the Jewish people in their history, dealing with the mistakes of their past, and looking ahead towards a better future. Apples and Honey for a Sweet Rosh Hashanah The holiest month of the Jewish calendar begins with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as “Head of the Year.” For two days the Jewish people honour and acknowledge God as the creator of the universe. The holiday also pays homage to God’s first human creations, Adam and Eve. In preparation for the holiday, the shofar is blown every weekday morning a month before and through the two days. Other than sounds, Rosh Hashanah is a high holiday with tons of rituals and symbols that focus on food. The food eaten during these days usually follows a sweet theme. These can be things like honey cakes, challah with raisins, and dates. However the most well known of these food traditions is dipping apples in honey. This is one of Judaism’s oldest eating rituals. Some scholars believe that the practice dates back hundreds of years. Eating the two sweet foods together acts as a wishful prayer for the sweetness in the coming year. Divine Prayers of Forgiveness for the Jewish People After flattering God as the king of the universe, the Jewish New Year continues with asking for God’s divine forgiveness. The main day to ask for this forgiveness is on Yom Kippur. However, in the days leading up to Yom Kippur (for some communities even before Rosh Hashanah) it is customary to recite selichot. Selichot are prayers for forgiveness that are recited by the Jewish people together in large gatherings. While they are usually said on fast days they can be used to bring in significant events. The prayers are taken from well-known biblical verses but are given a poetic edge. If you are in Jerusalem during the High Holiday season take a trip down to the Kotel on September 12th. You’ll see hundreds reciting selichot prayers in the plaza. There are seventeen different selichot events happening at the Kotel. They start around midnight so be sure to take a disco nap beforehand and bring a facemask! The Worst/Best Day of the Jewish New Year In order, the next official Jewish Holiday on the calendar after Rosh HaShanah is Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement is celebrated through fasting. The night before what is known as Erev Yom Kippur, Jews around the world have their last meal. They will not eat again until the end of the following day. In between meals, Jewish people around the world crowd into their local synagogue for an entire day of prayer. They directly ask God for the forgiveness of their sins or directly apologize to those they have wronged. At the end of the day the shofar blasts signal that it is time to eat, and oh, what a feast is prepared. It is traditional for many Jewish communities to serve a lot of dairy dishes for the break fast meal. Dishes like bagels with cream cheese and lox, blintzes, kugel, and tons and tons of cakes, especially cheesecake. After a day of fasting for the sins of an entire year people reward their stomachs and start the year off right with their families. The Jewish Holiday That Requires Camping The family time only gets more intense from here on out. After Rosh Hashanah, Selichot, and Yom Kippur finally comes Sukkot. This Jewish Holiday is celebrated to remember the Israelites' time in the desert after they fled Egypt. It is during the seven days of Sukkot that the Jewish people remember God’s kindness during those forty years in the desert. Christians also mark this time with an event known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of Christians flock to the Kotel every fall to hear the sound of the shofar marking the holiday. For the Jewish people, this piece of history is honoured by recreating a desert hut in every Jewish household, known as the sukkah. The Sukkah is a simple hut made of at least two walls, with a thatched roof of palm leaves or a simple tarp. It can be decorated with all sorts of plants, vines, fruits, and even the artwork of the family children. However a sukkah is not a sukkah without a sechach. This is a covering for the walls of the sukkah so that there is enough shade during the day. In Israel, almost every household has a balcony space where the sukkah is put up. During sukkot a good portion of Jerusalem eats and sleeps inside of the sukkah. Every day each family must shake the “four kinds” while reciting a prayer. The “four kinds” are a palm branch, two willows, three myrtles, and one citron, known as the etrog. From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot: Connecting to the Source The Jewish New Year is a topsy turvy time in the life of a Jewish community. It’s New Years but people are guilty, they may be hungry but still happy to fast a whole twenty-four hours. Despite the challenges and endless preparations, the High Holidays are a joyful time for family and community. They are rooted in some of Judaism’s most ancient history and beliefs. One whole month dedicated to the Jewish people building and strengthening their relationship with God and one another.
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New York, New York- a city that doesn't sleep, as Frank Sinatra calls it. The opportunities of what to do are far from few, many of which you might not have known existed! New York has many cultural Jewish gems– some obvious, some tasty, and some hidden to only the most observant and curious. Go: explore and discover the city of immigrants, food, and history. We promise you won’t be disappointed. Lower East Side Conservancy New York’s Lower East Side was once the place to be for new arrivals to America, being both its most famous immigrant neighborhood and the birthplace of the American-Jewish community. It’s a living, breathing historical and cultural Jewish gem, and still boasts an active community today. The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy is an organization which preserves, shares, and celebrates this heritage across the 32-blocks, designated as a historic district. You’ll be hard pressed not to find what you’re looking for- there are numerous synagogues, restaurants, and museums to keep everyone happy and interested. Hebrew Free Burial Association What do Mel Brooks’ grandparents and Jewish inmates of Rikers Island have in common? Both have been buried by the Hebrew Free Burial Association (HFBA). As its name suggests, the HFBA bury Jewish New Yorkers for free; it’s the largest free burial society outside of Israel. The organization is cross-denominational, working to ensure that recently deceased Jews of all persuasions are given a full Jewish burial, in line with Jewish law. The HFBA is a reflection of modern 20th-century history, burying mainly locals from the immigrant and current community. They’ve also buried Jewish victims of World War II, and the Spanish American War, shipping bodies back from as far away as Manila and New Guinea. Tenement Museum While not strictly a ‘hidden’ gem, the Tenement Museum is still a fascinating insight into Jewish new Yorker lifestyles. The action takes place on the Lower East Side (you’re beginning to see a theme here, right?), or 97 Orchard Street, to be precise, which was home to a mind-boggling 7000 working class immigrants. Visitors can go on a guided tour around the building and around the neighborhood, recreating 19th-20th-century immigrant life. There are also a range of other activities, known as ‘Tenement Talks’: free readings, discussions, performances, and screenings about New York's history, population, and culture. Congregation Ohab Zeded Known formally as ‘The First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek’, the synagogue has, like most of its congregants, schlepped to various places across the city: established on the Lower East Side, before moving to Norfolk Street, then Harlem, it has settled (and stayed put) at its current location (118 West 95th Street). Harking back to other areas of Jewish history (and entry of our blog!) it is built in a striking Spanish-Moorish style. On an important side-note, it’s also well-known for attracting large numbers of Orthodox Jewish singles. They say Orthodox Jewish dating in New York is tricky, alas here’s the solution! Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery It would be impossible to use ‘Jews’ and ‘New York’ in one breath without coming to the obvious common denominator– food! With the slogan, ‘One world. One taste. One knish. That’s it!’ and the claim to produce ‘The World’s Finest Knishes’, Yonah Schimmel’s knishes are something that you just have to try for yourself. He has perfected his knishes since opening in 1910. What are knishes you ask? They’re a fried roll of dough, stuffed with various fillings – such as meat, kasha, or potato. We recommend you discover them for yourself. Congregation Shearith Israel Although we usually associate Jewish New York with typically Ashkenazi things, such as bagels and Woody Allen, it turns out that the first Jews in New York were actually Sephardim (yes, we are being serious)! Congregation Shearith Israel (also known as ‘The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue’) is the oldest in the US, dating back to 1654. Like the Sephardim, the congregation was forced to migrate around New York, before finally settling in its present-day West 70th Street location. It’s also the official birthplace of the Orthodox Union (and the infamous OU logo). For its history and some of its famous members (including three gunsa macher Judges), this synagogue begs a visit. Triangle Fire The deadliest disaster to strike New York until the 9/11 attacks 90 years later, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster is important for many reasons. The Brown Building stands as a monument to the 146 Jewish and Italian immigrants killed by a massive fire and locked doors, and is both a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark. Most of the Jewish victims were buried in the Hebrew Free Burial Cemetery (another entry on our list) with tombstones referring to the fire. For a modern memorial, time your visit with ‘Chalk’, an annual project by local New York filmmaker Ruth Sergel, where local artists walk across the city, chalking the names and ages of the victims onto their former homes. Guss’ Pickles Much like his pickles, Guss’ backstory makes for a vibrant, and enticing read. Izzy Guss arrived from Europe over 100 years ago, selling pickles ‘old country’ style from his, now legendary, pickle stand in the Lower East Side. His pickles have become a symbol of New York itself according to the official slogan, ‘Imitated but never duplicated’. They’re one of a kind, and are indeed world famous – they’re now even available in supermarkets. For the real deal and to sample delights such as the Guss Sour, Guss Sour Tomato, or even the Guss Sauerkraut, visit the original site, for a pickle ‘prepared with love like in the good old days’. Spanish Portuguese Cemeteries Three hidden away Jewish cemeteries, one tucked behind a block of condos in the middle of Manhattan; the other two further downtown, are the legacy of North America’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel (also featured on our list). The first, in Chinatown, is the oldest Jewish cemetery in North America and hosts the final resting places of 22 American Revolution veterans and the first American-born rabbi. The second, amongst Greenwich Village townhouses, still has twenty headstones standing. The third cemetery is just off 21st and 6th Avenue, with 250 graves (some still legible), and is perhaps the most picturesque and evocative of a bygone era. Emma Lazarus plaque, Battery Park Battery Park is synonymous with New York’s immigrant past, but did you know that this impression is largely due to a plaque inscribed on Lady Liberty? Emma Lazarus, a famous American-Jewish poet, wrote her 1883 sonnet ‘The New Colossus’, to celebrate America as the land of freedom and destination for the ‘huddled masses yearning to be free’– amongst them, her fellow Jews. Part of the poem is inscribed and mounted onto the Statue of Liberty, dedicated in 1955 to New York City. As if that wasn’t Jewish enough, the plaque itself is set in a stone gifted from the State of Israel to the Sisterhood of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogues (another entry on our list).
Coming Together: The Shabbat Project, Midburn Festival, and InDNegev Jewish Spirituality in Food and Music Jewish spiritually exists outside the four walls of a synagogue found in the weekly rituals and everyday lives of the community. Every week Jews around the world come together at the Shabbat table for food, singing, and family. We are reminded of the importance of fostering good relations with one another. That it is necessary to not only feed our bodies but feed our emotional bonds. This October in Israel you can experience the full scope of Jewish spirituality through community, Shabbat food, and plenty of music. Sit down at an international Shabbat table or head out to the Negev to experience a variety of music festivals hosted in Israel’s holy desert (InDNegev & Midburn). InDNegev: Israel’s Reigning Indie Music Festival The desert has always been a place of discovery and transformation for the Jewish people. What better place than to discover the newest and brightest of Israel’s music stars. Held near the historic Mitzpe Gevulot InDNegev gives independent Israeli artists the opportunity to reach a wider audience. This festival is truly a mix of any and all upcoming and traditional Israeli genres. This year's lineup will include Jasmine Mualem, Mercedes Band, Lola Marsh, Red Axes and many more. After the pandemic year these artists are bursting at the seems to showcase the fruits of their labors. Performances are held at six different stage venues and the camping accommodations for this year have been stepped up. Festival patrons can expect a bar complex and multiple food vendors from across Israel. Music forms and strengthens a community spirit. So come together for some good times and great music at InDNegev. This three day long music experience begins on September 30th so don’t wait too long to buy your tickets! From the Desert to Dessert: The Shabbat Project The Jewish people are an international nation. For this reason you are likely to find a Shabbat dinner in any country you’ll visit. Oftentimes most Shabbat dinners are “open invite.” This contributes to the formation of new connections, making strangers into friends. The Shabbat Project is one such dinner that goes the extra mile to connect Jews from around the world with a cholent pot. Hundreds of participants gather every year (both online and in person) to dine together and share in the spiritual joy and connection of Shabbat. Whether you are alone for Shabbat, need advice on hosting your own dinner, or seek other Friday night loving people this event is all you need. This year's Israeli Shabbat Project will take place on October 22nd in Kohav Yair. However, events will be hosted both online and in person around the globe. Be sure to check out The Shabbat Project on their website for a full list of all upcoming events near you. Midburn Festival: Shabbat Spirit in the Holy Desert Community and gratitude are the twin pillars of Jewish spirituality. This is something that is practiced at the Shabbat table and also at this year’s Midburn Festival on October 25th. This five day extravaganza in the Negev was conceived around the same ten principles developed by Burning Man creator Larry Harvey in 2004. These are immediacy, leaving no trace, radical self reliance, radical inclusion, radical self expression, participation, gifting, decommodification, communal effort, and civic responsibility. This year's theme is “return” symbolizing a return to community life, creativity in numbers, and artistic participation in a post pandemic world. To its attendees, the Midburn Festival is considered to be much more than a music event in a holy desert. During those five days an entire city and culture is created out of thin air. The festival even has its own language expressed through dynamic symbols. There are no spectators or visitors in Midburn. Everyone is an equal participant in creating and maintaining the artistic joy of the city. In many ways the Midburn Festival can be compared to a spiritual pilgrimage. At the end of the journey the large wooden sculptures that adorned the desert landscape are set on fire. This honors two of the ten festival principles, to leave no trace and community participation. Sparks of Creation Spirituality is rooted in every part of creation but none more so than in food and music. As human beings we pour ourselves into our creations. When we eat a meal someone has prepared for us or listen to a piece of music they have composed we share in their spirit. These are also some of the most intimate activities we can share with others. Experiencing good food and good music together can break down the highest walls between people. So generate some spiritual sparks of creation into your life and don’t miss out on these amazing Shabbat and Israeli music festival experiences!
Looking to tantalize your taste buds? Look no further! Israel’s Top 10 Ethnic Restaurants are sure to get your appetite going, whether you are looking for meal suggestions or just want to try something new this blog has something in it for everyone. From Persian delicacies in Tel Aviv, via eastern European feasts in Haifa to Moroccan meals in Beer Sheva, we recommend you try them all! Ha’Sabich Shel Ovad, Givatayim At number 2 is Ha’Sabich Shel Ovad – or translated, THE Ovad’s Sabich. Whether the ‘The’ refers to owner Ovad or the sabich sandwich (pitta with aubergine, hard-boiled eggs, salads and tahnini), both are infamous and classically Israeli with a fresh, modern twist. Make the schlep to Givatayim and you won’t regret it; we’ll bet that this is the best sabich you’ll find across not only Israel but the middle east and the world. Kebab Emuna, Beer Sheva Since 1958, hidden away in Israel’s desert south, lies the legendary True Kebab. No, really – Kebab Emuna translated is ‘True Kebab’. Go for the Iraqi kebab; stay for the colorful and plentiful salads served alongside. And to tell people you’ve discovered the one, the only, the ‘True Kebab’. Azura, Jerusalem As the sun rises over Jerusalem, the smell of traditional Iraqi and Kurdish food escapes onto the street. If you’re craving homemade sofrita or kubbeh soup, both Iraqi-Kurdish delicacies, or just curious, this is your stop. Much like the other attractions in central Jerusalem, the food is unmissable and it’s best to arrive early to get a seat. Maayan Ha'Bira, Haifa Haifa is famous for the Baha’i gardens, Elijah’s Cave and Maayan Habira. Whether you’re after a beer and a buzzing atmosphere or some of its famous chopped liver (so what if it’s better than your mom’s? We won’t tell), it’s the place to be. Make it a Tuesday night to hear some legendary live jazz. Café Glida Yonek, Haifa Or, if you’re after rival Eastern European Haifa-based cuisine, Café Glida Yonek’s Romanian kebabs (made with a closely guarded top secret recipe) are to die for, as are their various, carefully prepared steaks. Its authentic atmosphere will be a certain trip highlight. Salimi, Tel Aviv Take a break from the Tel Aviv market at Salimi, the Persian restaurant around the corner. Off the tourist track (no flashing cameras and Hawaiian shirts here, please) you’ll eat some of the most appetizing and carefully selected gourmet grilled food. Your best bet is the Sabzi, a rich, herb-based soup, or their famous gondi dish, also known as the Iranian matzoh ball. It’s just what you need to prepare for a second round of hard bargaining. Ha'Kosem, Tel Aviv Ah, falafel – similar to other items on our list, a trigger for heated debate amongst Israelis. Tel Aviv’s Eric Rosenthal – nicknamed ‘The Magician’, he’s just that good – has made traditional Israeli fare into a highly-regarded art form, starting with his infamous gourmet falafel. Not up for it? There’s also shawarma, sabich, and shakshuka to tempt you. Chacho, Netanya In a city well-known for its large French and Russian populations, it’s strange to think that at the top of our list is Netanya’s very own, erm, Libyan restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly – for over 40 years, the Vatori family have fed the European hordes their epic North African offerings, with sumptuous stews overnight on a kerosene stove, or freshly grilled meat with a side of couscous. Don’t like what’s on offer? Come back tomorrow – the menu changes frequently, keeping wannabe patrons on their toes. Yakuta, Beer Sheva Picky eaters – here’s one for you! Well, if you like North African food, that is. If you do, then Yakuta, in Beer Sheva, will personalize your dish to just the way you want it. Our pick is the delicious, authentically-Morrocan tagine, served in an earthenware pot. There’s also a huge menu, so there’s something for even the fussiest. Morris, Jerusalem Greek and Persian food is alive and well in the heart of Jerusalem at Morris, named after the owner who personally supervises the food being offered to his customers. There’s only the best on offer here – from a quick arak with friends, to classic, family-feeding Persian charcoaled grills. Whether it’s an entrecote steak, duck liver or skewered sweetbreads you’re craving, this is fusion cuisine at its finest.