Jewish Holidays



Check out our infographic with fun facts about the High Holidays! 
For a complete list of Holidays and Closings, visit our website at

Jewish Calendar

Jewish values guide and enrich the JCC. Underlying the JCC’s vitality are core Jewish tenets transcending generations, epitomized by the story of Abraham and Sarah’s tent. In the story, Abraham so values welcoming guests that he interrupts G-d to greet three strangers, invites them in, bathes their feet and offers refreshment. The JCC strives to build a culture that incorporates this Bibilical philosophy for each person entering our facilities. Focused on what transpires every day inside our “tent,” the JCC aspires to be a center of learning, joy, growth and respect for diversity regardless of how or whether one worships.

The Jewish calendar, focused on the moon, is based on a lunar month within a solar year. There are twelve (and in a leap year, thirteen) Jewish months, each with 29 or 30 days.
Every month corresponds to one lunar cycle. The lunar cycle begins with a new moon and continues to a waxing moon, a full moon in the middle of the month, a waning moon, and then starts over with a new moon.
The secular calendar, based on twelve months of 28 to 31 days within a solar year, does not correspond to the Jewish calendar.

Contact Us

Rabbi Ron Symons, Senior Director of Jewish Life
Chris Herman, Division Director of Jewish Life Department
Hannah Kalson, Director of  Teen Engagement and Experience
Stephanie Aaronson, Director of Teen Engagement and Leadership
Ariel DiFelice, Administrative Services Associate

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Jewish Holidays

Jewish life is highlighted by the rituals and remembrances of holidays. At the JCC, the community congregates for celebrations of several holidays throughout the year.

Shabbat, a day of rest in Judaism, is observed from sundown Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. It is eagerly awaited throughout the week as a time when we can set aside our concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits. To sanctify the Sabbath, we say a blessing over wine and eat a special braided egg bread, challah. Shabbat is welcomed every Friday with celebrations by the Early Childhood Development Centers, Clubhouse and AgeWell’s Independent Adult Services department.

Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish year, is a time of to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year to come. The Jewish New Year is a time for serious introspection. According to tradition, G-d writes our name in the Book of Life and decides who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the following year. We eat apples and honey in the hope that we will have a sweet year.

Rosh Hashanah Holiday Hours 2017
Wednesday, September 20 – Close at 5PM
Thursday,September 21 – Closed
Friday, September 22 – Closed

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most important day of the Jewish calendar. Occurring 10 days after Rosh Hashanah, it is a day dedicated to fasting, reflection, prayer and penitence. Traditionally it is believed to be the last opportunity to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged during the past year.

Yom Kippur Holiday Hours 2017
Friday, September 28 – Close at 5 pm
Saturday, September 30 – Closed

Sukkot is a time to celebrate the harvest. In honor of the workers who used to live in the fields, we build a sukkah, a three-sided temporary booth that have no real roofs or doors. We decorate them with branches, fruits and vegetables. We eat, study, play and sometimes sleep in our sukkah during the holiday. We remember that when the Jewish people wandered in the desert after they were freed from slavery in Egypt, they built sukkot for shade and rest. The JCC Sukkah is built in the Levinson patio and decorated by staff and ECDC and Clubhouse children.

Sukkot Holiday Hours 2017
Wednesday, October 4 – Close at 5 pm
Thgursday, October 5 – Closed

Shemini Atzeret occurs on the day after the seven-day festival of Sukkot and is generally translated as “the eighth day of assembly.” The Talmud declares the eighth day as a separate holiday dedicated to the love of God. In ancient Israel, Shemini Atzeret coincided with the beginning of the rainy season.

Shemini Atzeret Holiday Hours 2017
Thursday, October 12 – Close at 5 pm
Friday, October 13 – Closed

Each year in the synagogue, we read the Torah from start to finish. Simchat Torah marks the day we finish reading the last section of the Torah and begin reading the first section over again.


Chanukah, an eight-day holiday, commemorates the re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple by Judah the Maccabee in the second century B.C.E., when Syrian King Antiochus used force to impose Greek religion on the people of Israel. This caused an uprising led by Judah the Maccabee and a small band of poorly armed Jews who succeeded in overcoming Antiochus’s forces. Once the Maccabees prevailed, they entered the desecrated Temple and found an untainted jar of oil sufficient to light the Temple lamp for only one day. But a miracle occurred and that small amount of oil lasted for eight days. To commemorate that miracle, we light a Chanukah menorah for eight nights and eat foods cooked in oil. Daily candle-lighting, with singing and other activities are held at the JCC.

Tu B’Shevat, which means 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is an Arbor Day that is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. This New Year of the trees marks the start of spring when the almond tree is decked with beautiful white flowers. On this day, school children in Israel plant thousands of saplings. Traditionally we eat dried fruit symbolizing the fruits of Israel. We celebrate this one-day holiday with special projects for children and families.

Purim, which derives its name from the word “Pur,” meaning lot, recalls the lots that Haman, Prime Minister of Persia, cast to determine the most favorable month and day for the execution of the Jews of Persia. This diabolical scheme was foiled by the intervention of the Persian queen, Esther, and her uncle, Mordecai, who were both Jewish. Purim is a festival of joy, and young and old dress up in costumes to celebrate. The Snyder Family Purim Carnival is held annually on a Sunday at the JCC in Squirrel Hill.

Passover commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt and the birth of an independent and free people. It is also known as Chag HaMatzot (the feast of unleavened bread) in remembrance of the time when the children of Israel left Egypt so hurriedly there was no time for the dough to rise Model seders are held by the early childhood and older adult departments annually.

Passover Holiday Hours 2017
Monday, April 10 – Close at 5 pm
Tuesday, April 11 – Closed
Sunday, April 16 – Close at 5 pm
Monday, April 17 – Closed

Thursday, April 28 – Close at 5PM
Friday, April 29 – Closed
Saturday, April 30 – Fitness Centers Open, 8AM – 6PM

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed as Israel’s national memorial day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period.

Yom Hazikaron, the day preceding Israel’s Independence Day, is a Memorial Day for those who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and for all military personnel who were killed while in active duty in Israel’s armed forces. Outside of Israel, Yom Hazikaron often is commemorated as part of Israel Independence Day observance.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, commemorates the nation’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. The JCC with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh hosts annual community celebrations of Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

Shavout, commemorates the anniversary of the day G-d gave the Torah to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago. Traditionally individuals celebrate the holiday by engaging in learning. To honor this tradition, the JCC in partnership with the Agency for Jewish Learning and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh hosts annual community-wide study sessions.

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