The High Holydays of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) are the busiest time of the synagogue year, when Jews ‘return home’ for teshuvah (repentance). You can read our High Holyday booklet here, and further details are available from the office.
We welcome the New Year on Erev Rosh Hashanah with a service beginning at 6.30pm. The following morning we run two concurrent services: the first at 9.15am aimed at families with pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah children, followed by a second service at 11.15am in a more traditional style. In between we share apples and honey.
Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur
As the fast begins, we start our Kol Nidre service at 7.30pm. On the day of Yom Kippur we have a family service at 10:15am followed by the start of the main service at 11:15am. We end in the evening with Havdalah, breaking the fast together, and placing the first nail in the sukkah. During the day there are traditional and family services, with a mid-afternoon break when we offer a reflective discussion on a relevant theme.
FPS has a semi-permanent sukkah which we decorate together each year. As well as the festival services, at this time of year we plan events around the theme of sanctuary and the plight of the homeless. We also ask members to bring donations for our local food bank.
At end of Sukkot we celebrate the Rejoicing of the Torah, known as Simchat Torah, when two members who have made significant contributions to synagogue life are chosen to end (Chatan Torah) and to begin again (Kallat Bereshit) the cycle of Torah readings. All our Scrolls are paraded around the sanctuary, while we dance, sing, drink and rejoice!
The darkest part of the winter glows with the lights of the chanukiot which we light every night at a series of community events, in different parts of the community - eating doughnuts and latkes together. We also discuss ways of dealing with the ‘December Dilemma’ (Chanukah or Christmas?) with our mixed heritage families.
Tu B’Shevat, the “new year” for trees, marks the time when the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. The weather may still be cold in England, but at FPS we celebrate with a communal Tu B’shevat “Seder”, at the end of the nearest Shabbat morning service. We taste a wide range of fruits, reflect on our connection to the Land of Israel and renew our commitment to a sustainable future (Project Noah).
This playful festival has made a comeback after years of neglect by early Liberal Judaism. The Book of Esther (Megillat Ester) is read as the congregation celebrates in fancy dress. There is always a spiel (humorous play) created every year with the involvement of members of all ages.
Pesach’s themes of liberation and freedom are central to Judaism. Generally celebrated at home with family and friends, we always help to find a Seder place for anyone who needs one. On the second night of the festival we host a communal Seder led by our Rabbi, a lively and popular event every year. There are also morning services on the first and last day of Pesach.
Yom Ha-Shoah, Yom Ha-Zikaron and Yom Ha-Atzmaut
Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, falls on the 27th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. We hold an event to remember the destruction of our people, pay tribute to the survivors and reflect on the lessons of this tragedy.
Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) is a modern holiday celebrating the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. It is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron, the Memorial Day for Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in the War of Independence. For details of FPS events at these times, please check the calendar.