Your Shabbat Guest
Celebrating Jewish holidays in a small community can be challenging. Contrary to life in the “big city,” Jewish employees are often at odds with how much time to take off for Yom Tov – not wishing to raise the ire of their bosses or co-workers. The youth of these communities are often in schools with very few Jewish friends, so their absence from school during anything but Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur is rare.
It is against this backdrop that our Kehillah (community) in Bakersfield celebrated the Holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
On the Sunday following Yom Kippur, many in the community assembled at Congregation Bnai Jacob for Sukkah building, a sumptuous brunch, and a class on the background and traditions of Sukkot. The day was great -- the Sukkah was built (and gorgeous!). Its decorations were beautiful.
On the Friday night of Sukkot, our community enjoyed a lovely dinner in the Sukkah, followed by an inspirational “Shabbat Under the Stars” Kaballat Shabbat service. The singing, praying, and learning were outstanding!
Our Bnai Jacob community continued its Sukkot celebration on Shabbat morning with a spirited Shabbat morning service and Kiddush lunch in the Sukkah.
Perhaps the “capper” of the Holidays was the Bnai Jacob Simchat Torah celebrations. On Thursday evening, a lively community of more than 25 gathered for Hakafot (dancing with the Torah scrolls) … and dance and sing we did!
One of the profound angles of worship and celebration in a small community is that everyone who comes to services has a role. Simchat Torah was no exception. Those who did not hold Torahs, marched and danced with the Torah Crowns – using them as percussion instruments. It was amazing – both in the evening service and the following morning!
Simchat Torah is a holiday of completions and beginnings. We complete the reading of the Torah – and in the very next breath, begin the reading of the Torah over again. This seamless activity is a reflection of the dynamism of Jewish life. This dynamism was not lost on our Bakersfield Kehillah!
Now that the holidays are over, we continue with “regular” weekends – building and learning as a Kehillah – singing and chanting together – and striving to make Bnai Jacob a vital and exciting center of Jewish life in the greater Bakersfield area!