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Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!


by Liz Paige, Director of Ethics and Community


As we prepare to bid adieu to summer, there are so many reasons we look forward to fall -- cooling temperatures, leaves changing colors, and college football games. We also love the energy which fills the halls of McGillis as students return to a new school year and the classrooms, reacquainting with old friends, meeting new friends, and reigniting their learning journey.


The fall also rings in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A time to reflect on the year behind and set goals for the year ahead.


This year, the Jewish holidays are early on our secular calendar. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, which causes the Jewish holidays to fall on different dates on the Gregorian calendar each year. Thanks to a leap month (Adar II) that is added seven times in a 19-year cycle, the Jewish holidays are kept in their seasons. The Jewish calendar is an ancient one; this year will be 5782, but thanks to Google calendar, you can keep track of it with modern convenience. Keep in mind that a day on the Jewish calendar begins in the evening and continues to the next night. Therefore, Jewish holidays begin in the evening and continue until dark on the final day.


At McGillis, the Jewish holidays create a rhythm for our year. Each of the fall holidays provides us with annual life lessons that aid us in being our best selves.


The Jewish fall holidays begin with Rosh Hashanah (September 6-8), a two-day New Year's celebration. We focus on what we can learn from the year behind us and set goals for the year to come. Nine days later, the holiest of the Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur (September 15-16), is celebrated. This is a day focused on reconciling with oneself and with loved ones and friends by making apologies and forgiving. We do not hold classes on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur as they are the High Holidays in Judaism, the holiest days of the year.


Five days after Yom Kippur, we celebrate the fall's harvest through the eight-day celebration of Sukkot (September 20-27). This holiday teaches us to be grateful for the season's bounty, to remember how fragile we all are in the world, and to welcome all to our tables so that we can together create a shelter of peace (a Sukkah) for one another. At School, students will learn about harvest festivals from around the world and older students will hopefully have the opportunity (depending on COVID requirements) to do service in our community related to the harvest, welcome newcomers, and feed those in need. We will hold an All-School food drive to support the food pantry at Jewish Family Service, a not-for-profit that provides food to people of all faiths and cultures.


At the end of Sukkot, we celebrate Simchat Torah (September 28-29), a holiday on which the annual cycle of reading the Torah begins anew. This holiday celebrates the stories, teachings, and values that bind the Jewish people together. Each year at McGillis, we focus on a world religion and the stories and traditions that bind that global community together. This year, we will focus on the teachings and traditions of Buddhism. Our guest community speakers will be Diane Musho Hamilton and Michael Mugaku Zimmerman, co-founders of Two Arrows Zen and McGillis grandparents.


The beginning of every school year is a time to celebrate. We are so excited to return to the school year and wish you and your families all the best in this new year.


L’Shanah Tova to a sweet New Year!