Jewish holidays

Don’t schedule important events on major Jewish holidays

A lot of things get scheduled on major Jewish holidays, in a way that prevents Jews from being able to participate. This needs to stop. 

If you’re in charge of scheduling things like:

  • Protests
  • Conferences
  • Public school orientations
  • College orientations
  • Exam schedules
  • Field trips
  • Other important events

Please avoid scheduling on major Jewish holidays. The most important ones to avoid are:

  • Rosh Hashana
  • Yom Kippur
  • The first two nights of Passover 

These holidays are at slightly different times each year, because the Jewish calendar is lunar. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are in the fall, Passover is in the Spring. You can check when they are at hebcal.com, and hebcal.com also has a calendar you can subscribe to that says when the holidays are.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the times at which Jews who don’t go to synagogue at any other time of year go. (In the same way that some Christians only go to church on Easter and Christmas). They are also major family holidays, even for people who are otherwise secular. Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast (from both food and water) and most people who observe it are pretty wiped out immediately afterwards. 

The first two nights of Passover are when Jewish families hold Passover seders. It’s a major family holiday, even for people who do not consider themselves religious and never go to synagogue at all. Nearly all Jewish families have some sort of seder. 

It is considerate to also avoid scheduling important events that would require travel on the day before and after these major holidays. It is critical to avoid scheduling events on the holidays themselves.

There are other Jewish holidays that will create conflicts for some Jews, but they’re not as important to most Jewish people. 

tl;dr: If you value Jewish participation and solidarity with Jews, it is critically important to avoid scheduling important events on on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the first two nights of Passover.

when a seder is overloading

thelimpingdoctor replied to your post: Passover asks?

How do you deal with sensory overload in a situation where you can’t leave?

realsocialskills said:

Based on context, I think you’re probably asking about being overloaded at a large noisy seder.

There might be more options for leaving and taking a break than you might realize. I’m going to discuss those, then some thoughts on how to deal with it if leaving isn’t an option. 

Some options for taking breaks:

Helping in the kitchen

  • At seders, there are often (not always) things going on in the kitchen that people would welcome help with
  • If you find doing stuff in the kitchen less overloading than being at the table, excusing yourself to go help might be a socially acceptable way to take a break
  • Some examples of things people might welcome help with:
  • Cutting vegetables
  • Serving soup
  • Bringing out other things 
  • Washing dishes

Playing with the kids:

  • At a lot of seders, there are little kids who kind of run in and out
  • If these are kids you know, or they’re related to you, it may be socially acceptable for you to take breaks and play with the kids
  • This depends on the culture of your family or community; it’s fairly common for it to be socially acceptable, but it’s not universal

Pretending you have to go to the bathroom:

  • At a long seder, most people will excuse themselves to use the bathroom at least once
  • If you take a break for about that amount of time, that’s what people will assume you were doing
  • (You can also actually go to the bathroom even if you don’t need to use it - bathrooms can sometimes be a good place to take a break from sensory overload since people will usually leave you alone for a few minutes if you’re in the bathroom)

Options if you can’t take breaks or taking breaks doesn’t help enough:

Get oriented:

  • Sometimes sensory overload is caused as much by disorientation as by sensations
  • One way to become more oriented is to think through in advance what’s likely to happen
  • If you feel like stuff is more predictable, it’s likely to be less overwhelming and sensory stuff might be easier to manage
  • If this is a seder you’ve been to before, it might help think about what usually happens. Who will be there? How do they usually act? Who will ask the four questions?
  • It also might be a good idea to look through the hagaddah. Here’s one online.
  • If you’re feeling overloaded during the seder, it’s worth considering the possibility that you have become disoriented
  • If you look through the haggadah, figure out where you are in the seder, and how much is left, it might help you to become more oriented and less overloaded
  • It may also help to use a visual schedule, which shows you at a glance what to expect and in what order. Here’s one you can print, organized by cup.

Using solid objects to ground yourself:

  • If you’ve become really overloaded or disoriented, sometimes grabbing hold of something solid can help a lot
  • If you’re at a seder, the most readily available solid thing is likely to be the table
  • If there’s someone present you trust who is ok with it, holding someone’s hand can help a lot too in ramping down overload

Sit in a less overloading place in the room:

  • Sitting on the edge of the room is likely to be less overloading than sitting in the middle
  • Sitting on the end or near the end of a table is likely to be less overloading than sitting between several people
  • Sitting near the door is likely to be less overloading (especially if you get overloaded from feeling trapped)
  • If there are florescent lights in the room, it helps to pay attention to whether one of them is flickering
  • If you’re already overwhelmed going into the room, you might not notice right away, even though it will bother you later. If flickering lights bother you, it’s worth making a point of checking to see if the light is flickering when you decide where to sit
  • If the room is likely to be very loud, you might be more comfortable if you use ear plugs. You can get disposable ones for cheap at a pharmacy

Stimming:

  • Some people can stop overload by moving in certain ways
  • Most people can at least mitigate it a little
  • Rocking back and forth can help a lot (and it’s not that weird in a lot of Jewish settings, particularly if there are a lot of religious people present.)
  • If you have stim toys that usually work for you, it might be a good idea to bring them
  • If you’re worried about stigma, it might work better to use different things
  • (That said, if a room is crowded and noisy and overloading, it’s very likely that no one is actually looking at you)
  • If you wear rings or bracelets, you can play with them
  • You can also play with the silverware if the seder isn’t extremely formal. You probably won’t be the only one.
  • You can also stim with the haggadah. (by holding it in your hands, flipping the pages, looking through it, or even reading it.)
  • If you have a water bottle with a stem you can chew the stem
  • (You can also eat stuff as a way of getting to chew to reduce overload. If you do that with stuff like celery rather than stuff like chicken it’s less likely to make you uncomfortably full)
  • You might be able to bring seder-themed stim toys to use, particularly if you bring enough to share. (For instance, if you bring out plastic frogs for the ten plagues, probably no one will think twice about you continuing to play with them)

Participating actively also might help to handle overload:

  • Sometimes it can be less overloading to participate in something than to be passively present while something is happening
  • This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for a lot of people
  • For instance, if people are singing loud songs and it’s overloading, you might be more physically comfortable if you sing the songs too
  • (This doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for some people)
  • If it’s a big seder and people are going on and on and you’re overloaded, ignoring what’s going on and reading the haggadah might work. (In that setting, you’re probably not going to be the only one doing that.)
  • Asking questions and arguing might be less overloading than being in the room while other people are doing that

Talking to people might also be an option:

tl;dr Passover seders can be really overloading. Scroll up for some ideas about how to deal with that.

Short summary of Hanukkah

There’s an old joke about how to summarize every Jewish holiday: They tried to kill us. We overcame. Let’s eat.

That’s not actually an accurate description of every holiday, but it’s pretty accurate for Hanukkah (And Passover/Pesach. And Purim.) We talk about fighting oppression, and winning by a bare thread. Then we eat some symbolic food.

The particulars of the Hanukkah story are along the lines of: The Greek empire was antisemitic and banned Judaism. They tried to make all the Jews assimilate. They destroyed the Temple (in ancient times, the Israelites had a centralized worship system centered around a Temple in Jerusalem; this is no longer the case and hasn’t been for centuries) and sacrificed pigs in it to desecrate it. Then the Maccabees revolted. They won and got the Temple back. They wanted to rededicate it, and they needed to light the Temple’s light. Unfortunately, there was only enough ritually pure oil to last one day (and it takes several days to make more). They lighted the lamp anyway, and the oil miraculously lasted eight days, long enough to make more pure oil.

Lighting the menorah for Hanukkah is considered a way of publicizing the miracle. Jews light one candle to symbolize each night, and another candle just to be a candle. Some people focus on the miracle as the oil lasting longer than it naturally should have. Others focus on the miracle as surviving and maintaining Jewish culture in the face of oppression.

(Digression about the word “menorah”: The original meaning of the word “menorah” was a seven-branched lamp in the Temple in Jerusalem. That’s the thing the Maccabees needed to light. In Modern Hebrew, “menorah” usually just means lamp, and it never refers to the nine-branch thing Jews light on Hanukkah. The Modern Hebrew word for that is hanukiah. In English, “menorah” means the Hanukkah thing (except when people are translating the Bible or something). Some people might try to tell you that menorah is an incorrect word. They’re right in Hebrew, but wrong in English. In English, “menorah” is a correct word.)

There is also a custom of eating fried foods because the miracle involved oil. Two particularly popular foods to use for this are latkes and donuts. 

tl;dr Hanukkah is about celebrating Jewish physical and cultural survival in the face of oppression. It’s also about an ancient miracle involving oil. Two things people do to celebrate Hanukkah are light candles and eat fried foods such as latkes and donuts.

How to find out when Jewish holidays are

Jewish holidays (eg: Hanukkah) follow the Jewish calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle (with an occasional leap-month to keep the months/holidays synced up with the seasons.)

This means that Jewish holidays fall on a different date each year on the secular calendar. 

If you want to know when the holidays are, HebCal.com is a really good resource. It has a list of when all the holidays are, and a lot of other information. It also has a calendar generator that can be exported to most calendar software including Google Calendar to make your regular calendar know when the Jewish holidays are. 

Is it a Jewish Holiday Today? is a website that tells you whether today is a Jewish holiday, and if so, which one. It’s only useful for telling you if it’s a holiday right now when you look; hebcal.com is much better for planning ahead.