Jewish Holidays

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and begins a 10-day period of atonement where we focus on prayer, self-introspection and repentance.

Customs associated with the holiday include sounding the shofar, eating a round challah, and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year.


The meaning of Rosh Hashana

By Ebrahim D. Nonoo

Rosh Hashana is an exciting time of year as we reflect on the past year and focus on goals for the coming year. Some may be interested to learn that on Rosh Hashana, we pass by Hashem (blessed be his name) in single file line, and in a matter of minutes our hearts are scanned by our Creator to decide our fate for the year ahead. What is decided for us may include both good and bad, depending upon our heart’s performance in dealing with those around us.

Whatever Hashem has in store for us in the year ahead will ultimately be for our benefit, and this is the crux of our faith, that no matter what hardship we encounter, the consequences of our actions are a testament to our ability to choose the path that we take. It is not enough to say that we can make any choice that pleases us, we must use a rationale that walks in the way of our Lord.

The purpose of the New Year is to be wiser and more considerate in the year ahead, so that blessings can be bestowed upon us.

Once Hashem decides what is in store for us in the year ahead, we then go through the process of the day of atonement (Yom Kippur). During this holiday, the events of the year ahead are rubber stamped or altered, depending on your repentance on Yom Kippur. Asking for forgiveness for your actions is measured by how much you mean it in your heart. We cannot hide from Hashem. Once the rubber stamp is applied, our fate is sealed.

I have always believed that acceptance of what happens to us is the key to a happy life. Whether our fate is sealed with something good or bad, we must have faith in Hashem that this is what is intended for us.  Those who accept their fate are the real winners, because they end up not fearing their fate.

Ebrahim D. Nonoo is the president of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities.

Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance. It is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “huts,” refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mount Sinai. Sukkot is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur and is marked by several distinct traditions. We build a Sukkah where we eat, entertain and some sleep during the seven-day festival.
Shemini Atzeret - Simchat Torah
Immediately following Sukkot, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, where we complete the annual reading of the Torah. As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times.
Chanukah is a joyous eight-day celebration where we celebrate the victory of the Maccabees.

During the holiday, we eat foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) to remember how there was only enough oil for one day but it lasted eight days.

Tu B'Shevat
Tu B’Shevat or the “New Year of the Trees” is Jewish Arbor Day.
Under the rule of King Ahashverosh, Haman, the king’s prime minister, plotted to kill the local Jewish community. The heroine of the story, Queen Esther, thwarts his plan and saves the Jews.

We read the megillah – the Book of Esther – twice during the holiday, which tells the story of the holiday. We exchange gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), donate to charity (mattanot l’evyonim), and have a celebratory meal (seudat Purim).


Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The ritual observance of this holiday centers around a special home service called the seder (meaning “order”) and a festive meal; the prohibition of chametz (leaven); and the eating of matzah (an unleavened bread). 

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Shavuot is the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. In ancient times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival during which Jews brought crop offerings to the Temple. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.
Tish'a B'av

Tish’a B’Ab is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, as it mostly commemorates events that occurred centuries and millennia after the Torah was written.

The Talmud mentions that Five Tragedies occurred to our ancestors on the 9th day of Ab throughout the ages.

Please click here to download our Tish’a B’av information pack.