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Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions. In celebration of Passover, families can connect to Jewish culture or personal Jewish heritage by speaking Yiddish!

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! We are continuing to offer tickets to Dean’s Beans Music from Around the World monthly concert series at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. For June we have two pairs of tickets to giveaway to see Zvuloon Dub System, Israel’s leading World-Reggae band, at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA on Wednesday, June 11th at 8:30pm. Win a pair of tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. These concerts are also a great opportunity to expose older children with audience skills to music from around the world.

Purim in Western MA Jewish heroines in the Bible are few and far between. The upcoming holiday of Purim is unique amongst Jewish holidays in that two strong, independent women are at the heart of its story. Indeed, one of them saves the entire Jewish people from imminent destruction. The story of Purim comes from the Bible, and is set in ancient Persia. Haman, an evil and egotistical minister of the King,… Read More

Chanukah Celebrations & Performances Celebrate and learn about Chanukah with the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst!  On Sunday, December 9th, the Center is hosting a day full of music, dance, theater, and art, all centered around teaching and learning about the story of Chanukah and the traditions that accompany the holiday.  The most exciting part of the event, however, is that participants in the day’s workshops will learn songs, dances, and maybe… Read More

Shavuot: Celebrating the First Harvest The holiday of Shavuot celebrates two seemingly unrelated events – the gathering of the first harvest of the year, and divine revelation – the day the Hebrews received the gift of Torah at Mount Sinai. Most contemporary Jewish practices focus primarily on the latter theme, honoring the day by publicly reading the Ten Commandments as part of their worship services, and holding all-night Torah study sessions for… Read More

Passover: A Celebration of Freedom The central story of the Torah, the Hebrew bible, is the the long and sometimes arduous journey of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Moses, an Israelite raised in the palace by Pharoah’s daughter is called by God to lead the slaves out of bondage. He and his brother Aharon plead with Pharoah to release their people. When Pharoah refuses, God sends a series of… Read More

Purim in Western MA Jewish heroines in the Bible are few and far between. The upcoming holiday of Purim is unique amongst Jewish holidays in that strong, independent women are at the core of the story – one of them even saves the entire Jewish people from imminent destruction. The story of Purim comes from the Bible, and takes place in ancient Persia. An evil minister of King Achasverosh concocts a plan… Read More

Tu B’Shevat: A Birthday Celebration for the Trees Last month, I wrote about the Hebrew calendar and the lunar months that make up the Jewish year. The month of Shevat began with the last crescent moon, and features one of my favorite holidays of the entire year – Tu B’Shevat (which means, literally, the 15th of Shevat.) Tu B’shevat is best known as the New Year of the Trees, or the Birthday… Read More

A Marvelous Night for a Moondance Have you ever wondered why the Jewish holidays seem to wander all over the calendar? By way of example – this year, Hanukkah coincided with Christmas, while in 2013 we’ll be lighting candles on the menorah the week after Thanksgiving. There’s a reason for this seemingly random placement of the major festivals. Most of the world follows the Gregorian solar calendar. The Jewish, or Hebrew, calendar,… Read More

Watch a Little Dreydl Spin! December is such an exciting time of year as folks prepare for holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. For those who are celebrating Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, there are goodies to prepare, a menorah to light with it’s eight special candles, relatives to greet and a wonderful little game to play based on a top that spins, called the dreydl (or dreidel). So why… Read More

Mama Doni Brings The Heart of Chanukah to the Hilltown Family Variety Show On Saturday, Dec 17th, 9-10am Hot on the heels of a tremendously successful summer tour, the fall/winter Mama Doni National Tour has begun! Parents’ Choice Award winner, Mama Doni is thrilled to come home for the holidays, highlighting the Chanukah season with a number of festive concerts in December, and she’ll also be “Guest DJ” for a  special “Heart… Read More

Hanukkah in Western MA If you aren’t Jewish, Hanukkah may be the only Jewish holiday you’ve ever heard of. But in fact, it’s a relatively minor holiday. It falls into the surprisingly large category of Jewish holidays which can be neatly summarized as follows: someone tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat. In this case, the “someone” refers to  Antiochus, a ruler in ancient Israel who prohibited the practice of Judaism…. Read More

Sukkot: The Backyard Harvest Festival October is the month for harvest festivals in Western Massachusetts. It seems that every weekend there are numerous joyful celebrations of the bounty that our local farms produce. It’s one of the many reasons that I love Autumn in our region. And, of course, the changing leaves, the cool crisp nights and the much awaited departure of the mosquitoes (they will depart, right?) It’s also the time… Read More

Celebrating the New Year in September The first of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, falls this year at the end of September. Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar. According to ancient texts, Rosh Hashanah marks the “birthday of the world” or the anniversary of creation. If you grew up Jewish, as I did, you might remember that… Read More

Shabbat: Friday Night Dinner I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore. At 17, I left for college in New England. I eagerly traded sprawl for small town centers, malls for main street, and never once looked back. Other than family, what could I possibly miss? The answer caught me by surprise. I was raised in a Jewish family, and almost everyone I knew in Pikesville, Maryland celebrated the same holidays, observed… Read More

Passover 2009 In 2009, Passover is observed from sundown April 8 to sundown April 15. Annually, Passover starts at sundown on the 15th day of the Jewish lunar month Nissan, which typically falls in March or April. The year 2009 translates to the year 5769 on the Jewish calendar. Passover is an eight-day religious celebration symbolizing the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery and exile in Egypt in 1300 BCE. It is a… Read More

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