Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 3: Jewish Holidays

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide how you will form three or more teams and how many you will create.
  • Make a copy of Leader Resource 3 for each team, plus a copy to keep intact. Cut the team copies into strips by "Holy Day/Holiday," "Celebrates," and "Observed by." Place one set of 24 slips into each team's envelope.

Description of Activity

As part of the Jewish covenant, God expects observance of holy days. Some observances are dictated in scripture; others have grown from tradition. Some Jewish holy days and holidays may be familiar to youth.

Form teams. Give each team an envelope and ask participants to match the nine holy days and holidays with ways Jews observe them and what they celebrate or commemorate.

Allow seven minutes for teams to complete the matching. Then read the correct matches aloud.

Ask youth if they know which holy day Jews consider the most important. The answer is, the Sabbath. Jews are commanded to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. Observant Jews in modern times try to strictly follow biblical injunctions against working on the Sabbath; they will not drive a car, or turn appliances off or on in their homes. A liberal Jew might keep the Sabbath by lighting candles before dinner on Friday night or making time for restful activities together with their family on Friday evening or Saturday. A religious Jew would view strict Sabbath observance as a "must" for keeping their covenant with God; a liberal Jew might keep the Sabbath in their own way as a welcome reminder to be in regular touch with their faith and values.

Share this quote from Ahad Ha'Am, a Russian Jew writing at the turn of the 20th century:

More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.

Ask the youth how they think keeping a weekly observance might have the effect of holding a religious people together.

Now invite youth to recall observances of Jewish holy days or holidays they have participated in. Encourage volunteers to share their experiences.

Point out observances of Jewish holy days or holidays that occur at your congregation. Ask volunteers to recount how your congregation has observed Pesach (Passover), Yom Kippur, Chanukah, or another Jewish holy day or holiday. Ask:

  • What did you know about these holy days or holidays and their significance of when you celebrated them?
  • How might participation in a Jewish holiday observance at our congregation be different for a non-Jewish person than for someone who has a Jewish background or identity?
  • How does knowing a holiday's significance change feelings about the celebration?