While the world around us is struggling to come to terms with these difficult times, we hope that Pesach can bring some pleasure to us as we once again open our minds and hearts to the ancient wisdom and traditions of our religion. Despite many of us facing changed plans for their Seder night, with global travel severely limited, and at a time where some may be feeling more isolated than usual, it is comforting to feel part of something truly global, as Jews across the world at this moment sit down at their Seder tables to discuss the Exodus from Egypt.Find out more
Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar!
Happy is in fact the operative word here. The Talmud tells us that when the month of Adar begins, we increase our joy (Talmud Bavli, Ta’anit 29a). This is of course because Adar is the month during which the festival of Purim occurs, when we celebrate and remember when the Jews were miraculously saved from annihilation at the hands of Haman. Clearly, there is much to celebrate, and while there must have been much angst and trauma from the experience of uncertainty and fear for those living through the story as events unfolded, there was ultimately a happy ending that we celebrate each year.Find out more
Happy Rosh Chodesh Shvat!
The month of Shvat contains the minor festival of Tu B’Shvat. This literally means “The 15th of the month of Shvat” (ט״ו בשבט) which this year falls on the evening of February 9/day of February 10. In the Talmud (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1) this date is called the “New Year for Trees”, and was in essence a date in the agricultural tax calendar (the date when the agricultural cycle began for calculating biblical tithes). However, in more recent times it has become a day for ecological awareness, and also marks the start of spring in Israel when trees begin to bloom.
The festival of Chanukah is unique in that it spreads across two Hebrew months. It started on the 25th of Kislev (23rd December this year) and lasts for eight days, until the 2nd of Tevet (30th December this year). As Chanukah is such a popular festival, we will take the opportunity in the Tevet newsletter to explore a different aspect of the festival.Find out more
If it’s Rosh Chodesh Kislev, it must mean that we are almost there. The Jewish festival of light – Chanukah – which falls on the 25th Kislev (this year the evening of the 22nd of December) is almost upon us!
The festival of Chanukah is not quite like all other Jewish festivals. It is the least developed Jewish festival, both in terms of ritual and liturgy, and this is probably due to some ambivalence on the part of the rabbis towards the events surrounding the origins of Chanukah.Find out more
Congratulations, you made it! You made it to Cheshvan. You survived some or all of the following: selichot; shofar blowing; apples and honey (honey getting in ALL sorts of places!); too much food; no food at all; hours in synagogue; rabbi’s sermons; meals in a sukka; meals inside while watching the sukka get wet; more hours in the synagogue; quality time with friends and family and meaningful time with your community. But what now? A regular week of “routine” is but a distant memory… but here comes a month with four of them!Find out more
Shana Tova! Welcome to the first month (Tishrei) of 5780!
The month of Tishrei is packed full of festivals and we often find ourselves focusing solely on the Days of Awe at the expense of Sukkot that follows (on the 15th of Tishrei). We can learn an important idea from Sukkot that can inform the way we celebrate all festivals, and is equally relevant to the work we do in our communities.
Chodesh Tov! The month of Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and taking stock as we prepare for the upcoming Days of Awe (yomim nora’im) when tradition has us standing before God in judgement on the year that has passed with the year to come in the balance.Find out more
Chodesh tov! at Tammuz, we began the saddest period in the Jewish calendar (which commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the second temple). This period, known as “The Three Weeks”, is a period of intense mourning for the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem (the first in 586 BCE, destroyed by the Babylonians, and the second in 70 CE destroyed by the Romans).Find out more
The month of Tammuz (which begins on July 4th this year) signifies the beginning of the summer tekufa (the year is split into 4 seasons, each one called a tekufa, and named after the first month in this three-month period. So, the summer period in the Jewish calendar is called Tekufat Tammuz).Find out more
For millennia, the Jews have been known as “The People of the Book”. This way to refer to the Jews is found in the Koran, and perhaps originates in even earlier times. For Jews, literacy and education has always been a core value. H. G. Wells noted in his Outline of History that “The Jewish religion, because it was a literature-sustained religion, led to the first efforts to provide elementary education for all children in the community.” Universal compulsory education did not exist in England until 1870; it existed in Israel eighteen centuries earlier.Find out more
In this month’s newsletter we will consider the themes and values found in the biblical festivals of the month of Nisan and the contemporary festivals of Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim that are celebrated in the month of Iyar, and how they are connected. Continuing this theme, we also take a look at two interesting events that have taken place in Israel over the last few weeks – Israel’s efforts to land a spacecraft on the moon, and the elections for the 21st Knesset.Find out more
“We are trying to reach every Jewish person in France. Especially the young people. We aim to reach the ones who are not connected to any Jewish organisation. We hope to engage more people in Jewish life”. These are the words of Sandra Jerusalmi, Paris-based Jewish activist and community professional, as she speaks about the video conversations on Jewish topics that she is creating with a group of fellow activists. Through “Conversations Juives” (Jewish Conversations) this group of young Jews are creating spaces, on video and online, to talk about issues of Jewish identity, as well as subjects that are taboo in most of mainstream Jewish life in France.Find out more
Starting a new community is not easy, but it is something that Nachshon Rodrigues Pereira has learnt a lot about, and he has a successful model for how to do it. Nachshon is 32 years old, lives in Amsterdam and three and a half years ago founded a new synagogue called Bendigamos, which is the youngest and fastest-growing Jewish community in the Netherlands. Based in Amsterdam and with deep roots in the Spanish-Portugese tradition, Nachshon and a small group of friends decided to reach out to those who had left the traditional synagogues, but were looking for connection and community. Today, Bendigamos offers bi-weekly Shabbat services with Kiddush afterwards, monthly children’s services and education for all ages, including Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes, cultural activities, parties and various events.Find out more
What exactly is “Base Berlin” a “pop-up” project that Rebecca Blady and her husband Jeremy Borovitz started in 2016 in Berlin, Germany? A community meeting space? An educational hub? A model Jewish home? A pedagogical model? It’s all of these, and may also be the future of Jewish community building for the 21st Century.Find out more
Yesod was established to support the dedicated and hard-working professionals and educators of the Jewish communities of Europe. As such, one of Yesod’s core principles is that to be a Jewish community professional or educator means engaging with Jewish ideas, learning and exploring the richness of Jewish tradition, culture, religion, history and more. As you think about what 2019 will bring for you and your communities – and as we enter the month of Shevat, and prepare to celebrate Tu B’shevat (the New Year of the Trees) – consider what you can do to keep learning and enriching your own Jewish knowledge and confidence.Find out more
We hope you had an enjoyable and light-filled Chanukah, during the darkest time of the year, when the hours of daylight are shortest (at least in the northern hemisphere). It is in this context that the rabbis established the festival of Chanukah, in which we add light to the darkness and publicize an ancient miracle that symbolically, and literally, brought light into the world.Find out more
Kislev means that Chanukah is coming soon! (25th Kislev, 2nd December 2018 is the first night) We will celebrate the Maccabees and their defeat of the Syrian-Greeks who had destroyed the Temple, as well as the miracle of the single jar of oil that burned for eight days. The story of Chanukah can be seen as a model of how Jews have experienced destruction but always come back with greater energy to rebuild from the ashes and rededicate their institutions for the future. That is a message that European communities know well!Find out more
Chodesh tov to the month of MarCheshvan. After a busy Tishrei, this is the only Jewish month with no festivals or fast days in it. Some say that it is MarCheshvan because mar is Hebrew for bitter (how sad we don’t have any special days!). And while it is sad not to have more celebrations, it is also a good time to rest, take a time out and appreciate the quiet. In that spirit, this month’s newsletter focuses on the value of rest. In Jewish terms we call that “Shabbat”.Find out more
To get us thinking about our first brave new steps into the new year we’ll focus on the Jewish concept of Lech Lecha. Literally these words mean “Go Forth” or “Take yourself and go”.
Lech Lecha (Go Forth)
Take the Next Step: The Jewish approach promotes living life as a journey, not a destination. Take action and move forward – toward a place you don’t yet know, but will discover.
In last month’s newsletter we learnt from Colin Bulka, Director of JDC Hungary, who shared some of his ideas about why it is so important to plan well and set clear goals for your activities and programs. Colin also gave some practical suggestions of how to do this.
Now we are going to take these ideas one step further. Once you have set goals, how do you know if you have achieved them? That is where measurement comes in. In Colin’s second short podcast, he emphasizes how important it is to think carefully about measuring the impact of your programs.Find out more
Shalom, and Chodesh Tov from the relatively quiet month of Tammuz. This month we build on last month’s theme of mission and vision, by going one step further to discuss how our big mission and vision is translated into helpful aims and objectives. Whatever inspiring mission we are involved in, the critical phase is how it is realized in the daily work that we do and that requires us to think and plan carefully.Find out more
The Hebrew month of Sivan is here and very soon we celebrate Shavuot which commemorates the Giving of the Torah. Customs include going to synagogue, reading Megillat Ruth, staying up all night learning Torah, and eating cheesecake and other dairy foods.Find out more
This is a packed month of Jewish events. It’s a rollercoaster ride of moving from the memory of the Holocaust and Israel’s fallen soldiers to the highlight of the creation of the State of Israel, reflecting our ability to be a free people in a free land. 2018 is, of course, the 70th year since Israel’s founding so this will be a special celebration.Find out more
On Seder night we make the powerful declaration, “Let all who are hungry, come and eat!” This statement of radical inclusivity and welcoming is a particularly important value for Pesach, and so we are dedicating this month’s newsletter to the value of inclusivity – welcoming people all backgrounds and abilities to our Jewish communities.Find out more
This month we celebrate the most happy and fun of all the festivals – Purim! (which starts on Wednesday night February 28th). But you don’t have to wait until Purim for the fun and games to begin! A Jewish teaching states “When [the Jewish month of] Adar starts, happiness increases”. So start thinking about happiness right now for you and your colleagues!Find out more
This month we are inspired by that diversity to reflect on the diversity of people, personalities and opinions that we often deal with in our work in Jewish communities. Working with all kinds of people and ideas can sometimes be challenging, especially when people disagree. The Jewish concept of Elu v’Elu (“both these and those”) helps us thrive in a world where not everyone has the same opinion.Find out more
As the New Year approaches, and many people are making New Year’s resolutions, at Yesod we are thinking more about the Jewish value of questions. Whereas resolutions fix actions in a particular direction, questions open us to multiple and new ways of thinking. Since G-d’s first question to humankind, “Ayeka – Where are you?” relating t Adan and Eve (see below), Jews have thought critically about the choices they make and the life they lead. Asking questions does not mean we find all the answers, but it does mean we will be on the path to becoming wiser.Find out more
As Kislev begins our thoughts turn to Chanukah: the Festival of Lights. While Chanukah is probably best known for its twinkling candles in the Chanukiah, the name of the holiday itself has nothing to say about candles, the miracle of the oil or the menorah!Find out more
The last few weeks have been a perfect time to see Jews functioning as a People; gathering together to pray, to celebrate, and to be together as families and communities. Some came for the spiritual dimension, others in order to feel belonging and connection, and yet others for the food, the singing and the cultural traditions. This is really Jewish Peoplehood in action!Find out more
The central symbol of Rosh Hashanah is definitely the shofar – the ram’s horn that we blow during the prayers on both days of Rosh Hashanah. The loud, haunting cries of the shofar gather us together as a community and encourage us to reflect on the past and the future.Find out more
The Jewish year is drawing to a close again and with Rosh Chodesh we enter the month of Elul, the month of preparation for the holiday period of the High Holy days and Sukkot. Elul is traditionally considered the month of “teshuva”, which in English we often translate as “repentance”. The concept of “teshuva” reflects the idea that people can change. Jewish tradition offers us the opportunity to reflect on our lives and not be limited by our current situation. On the contrary, we have the option to look at ourselves in the mirror and make change. How does this process happen?Find out more
This month we are inspired by the little-known minor festival in the month of Av known as “Tu B’Av”, or literally, the 15th day of Av. Tu B’Av is usually overshadowed by the much more familiar day Tisha B’Av (see more resources below), so this month we thought we’d concentrate on Tu B’Av, and the idea of Love.
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As Jewish community professionals and educators, we tend to be focused on the future. We plan programmes that will have impact in the future, we teach our young people so that they will take over from us when they grow up, and we think about what might be next. If we are lucky we see some results immediately, but often the most important results will be further off in the future, and we may never see them.Find out more
Last month we focused on the holiday of Shavuot, which falls on the 6th and 7th Sivan (this year, 31st May-1st June), and discussed the idea that within the Torah (which, traditionally, we celebrate receiving on Shavuot) are always multiple opinions and approaches, which we call machloket.Find out more
Welcome to the month of Iyar! After all the excitement of Pesach, Iyar is traditionally a month of transitions; it is a month of counting. During Iyar we literally count our way through the period known as the Omer, marking the 49 days from the Exodus from Egypt to the Giving of the Torah. Every evening we say a blessing and declare which day we have reached. For more information on Counting the Omer and its meanings, see the resources below.Find out more
It’s Spring! This means that Pesach (Passover) is just around the corner! One of the names for Pesach is “Chag HaAviv”, “The Festival of Spring” and it makes sense that we celebrate our rebirth as a free nation at the same time as we experience rebirth in the natural world (at least in the northern hemisphere).Find out more
Welcome to the month of Adar and one of the busiest and most exciting periods of the Jewish year. Not only will be celebrating Purim soon (this year on March 12th), with all the food, noisy celebration and partying that goes with that holiday, but as soon as it is over we will have Passover (Pesach) – just four more weeks after that. And that brings lots of action – cleaning, learning, and preparing for the Seder and more.Find out more
Chodesh Tov! Even in the depths of winter, there is the promise of Spring. According to one opinion in Jewish tradition, we celebrate the New Year for the Trees – Tu B’shevat – on the 15th day of Shevat because that is when, deep inside the trees, the new life begins.Find out more
One of the things we most appreciate about the Jewish calendar is the way that the cycle of the holidays captures and drives our energy on a collective and individual level. Over the course of the year the calendar creates a flow of reflection, celebration, mourning and renewal.Find out more