Festivals enable us to celebrate while we express our gratitude
Following Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we mark festivals and holidays with special services and celebrations. We incorporate some into Friday evening and Shabbat morning services.
High Holidays bring us together for thanks and repentance
The High Holidays fill Sherith Israel’s sanctuary with a special energy and sense of meaning as the community comes together in prayer and song.
We offer evening and daytime Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for adults, plus engaging morning Youth Services for children six to nine and lively Tot Yontif for little ones up to five and their families. Read more about High Holidays 5778/2017.
It‘s harvest time and one sukkah appears on our bimah, another in our outside play area. Decorations may include fruits and vegetables, canned foods for the hungry or student art. Our morning Yizkor (memorial) service remembers those who have departed. Congregants get to wave the lulav (palm, myrtle and willow branches) and etrog (a lemon-like citrus fruit).
We celebrate the joy of Torah and completing a year’s reading cycle. To give everyone the big picture, we take one of our hand-lettered scrolls from the ark and unroll it completely so everyone can see. Then the final verses of Deuteronomy (D’varim) and the first verses of Genesis (B’reishit) are chanted to keep the cycle unbroken.
A great miracle happened there when the Maccabees defeated the Seleucid Syrians in 164 BCE. The lamps of the menorah burned in the Temple for eight days with only one day’s supply of oil. A great celebration happens here. On Friday-night Shabbat during Chanukah, we focus on our story of freedom and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. Congregants bring their chanukiot to light and enjoy a latke dinner.
The birthday of the trees reminds us of the bounty of nature that God has provided.
Think Jewish Mardi Gras. Purim is a time of unfettered celebration—the one day of the year during which the Rabbis command us to drink until we can’t distinguish between Haman (boo!) and Mordecai (yay!). We encourage revelry, including costumes. Our celebration includes comedy, music, dancing and, of course, hamentaschen.
On the second night, following first-night Seders at home, we hold our congregational Seder in Newman Hall. Adults and children gather to read the haggadah, retelling the Passover story, and enjoy a wonderful dinner. We also hold a traditional Yizkor (memorial) service on the seventh day.
We celebrate both the first fruits of spring and the giving of the Torah on Sinai. On Erev Shavuot, we participate in Tikun Leil Shavuot along the California Street corridor. Participants begin at Sherith Israel for a light dinner and study. Then they proceed to the Jewish Community Center San Francisco, Congregation Emanu-El on Lake Street and conclude at Congregation Beth Sholom on 14th Avenue and Clement Street.