this post was originally published May 30, 2017. It has been edited and updated.
Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks marks 7 weeks since the conclusion of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, when the Torah and the Ten Commandments were received at Mount Sinai. There are a number of customs associated with the celebration of Shavuot, which can be enumerated using the mneumonic of the Hebrew word acharit (אחרית, “last”). These include the reading of a liturgical poem and from the Book of Ruth, the consumption of dairy foods (like cheesecake, blintzes, and kreplach), the decoration of homes with flowers or greenery, and all-night Torah study. Read more about the meaning of Shavuot and its traditions.
This year, Shavuot begins at sunset on Sunday, May 16 and ends at sundown on Tuesday, May 18. Touro Libraries will be closed Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18, and will resume their normal schedule on Wednesday, May 19.
This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.
The observation of Purim begins the evening of February 25th
Purim is a holiday that represents a tangible victory over an enemy. Many things are done to commemorate this victory. The Book of Esther is read, people go around in costume to show their happiness, a festive meal is eaten, and charity is given to help those who otherwise couldn’t celebrate this occasion. People give out packages of food to friends (usually in the form of a dessert) to celebrate camaraderie.
This post was originally published on February 8, 2016and has been updated
Our enthusiasm for opportunities to start fresh has frequently made its way onto the blog, from the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), to the civil New Year, to the start of a new semester.
This week marks another calendrical reset: the Lunar New Year. Commonly known as the Chinese New Year for its largest group of celebrants, it’s the start of a calendar determined in part by the phases of the moon, rather than the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. Because of this, the civil date of the holiday varies from late January to mid-February.
According to former Touro Library Cataloger, Liping Wang, observations of the holiday often include cleaning the home, families gathering for a home-cooked meal on New Year’s Eve, fireworks, and “luck money” given from the older generations to the younger in red envelopes. In New York, you can normally participate in parades and other celebrations held in Chinatown, in Manhattan, and in Flushing, Queens. NYC public schools recognize the Lunar New Year as an official holiday, meaning no school for students. Alas, Touro classes are all still in session, but we wish you all a happy Lunar New Year!
2020 was a challenging year, but as we look to 2021, there are many reasons to be hopeful. We are thankful to have been a part of your year and look forward to supporting your success in the new one, too, through research support, online and print resources, and more. Make it your resolution to come visit us — online or in-person — and see all that we have to offer you.
The Touro College Libraries wish you and your families a happy and healthy new year!
This post was originally published on the Touro College Library blog in 2015
When I was a college student living in the dormitory, one of my favorite times of the year was Chanukah. Starting from the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, over one-hundred girls who called the dorm home came down to the front lounge, where long, foil-covered tables were set up in full view of the street, to light Chanukah lecht (candles or lights).
For eight nights the front lounge was softly lit with the light from hundreds of Chanukah lights. It did not matter if that light came from a sturdy iron menorah you brought with you from home that used olive oil and wicks or a cheap aluminum menorah you purchased in the dorm’s convenience store with a box of multicolored candles. Saying the blessings and watching the lights burn together, remembering the miracles that occurred in Jewish history during that time, that was what counted. Everyone was friendlier and more cheerful by candlelight, even if finals were around the corner and assignments were due the next day. Girls brought their dreidels downstairs to play around the low tables and ate sufganiyot, traditional jelly doughnuts fried in oil, provided by the school.
We sang Chanukah songs and discussed the story of how a small group of Jews called the Maccabees (incidentally, our school sports teams and acapella group were named for these famous warriors) rose up from the oppression of the Syrian-Greeks during the time of the second Temple. Antiochus, their king, had issued restrictive edicts punishable by death preventing Jews from practicing their religion, including outlawing the Jewish Sabbath and most importantly, installing and worshiping idols in the Holy Temple. Judah Maccabee and his followers fought back, winning the battle against the massive Syrian-Greek army with their small band of soldiers.
After the fight, when Judah went to re-dedicate the Temple after its desecration and light the great Temple menorah, he could not find any of the special oil used. All bottles appeared to have been smashed during the desecration. After a thorough search, a tiny bottle of oil that would only be enough for one day was found still sealed. That oil burned for exactly eight days and nights, the amount of time required to produce a new batch of oil. To remember this miracle, Jews eat foods fried in olive oil, such as the aforementioned sufganiyot and potato pancakes called latkes. The dreidel has the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hay, and shin on each of its sides, which stands for ”neis gadol hayah sham,” or “a great miracle happened there”. Though I am not in the dorm this year, I will make time to pass by, look through the front windows at the long table of lights, and remember.
This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Thursday, December 10th and ends at sundown Friday, December 18th.
This post was contributed by Toby Krausz, Judaica Librarian, Midtown
Thanksgiving is a special time when Americans gather with their families to reflect on what they have to be thankful for. This year especially, we have learned that each and every one of our blessings is special.
Books play a special role in many American’s Thanksgivings experiences. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, three-fourths of Americans will read at least one book, newspaper, or magazine. And, on the busiest travel of the year, over half of Americans will be taking something to read as they travel. According to a Barnes & Noble survey, more than a quarter of Americans are taking a book as a means of getting out of those awkward conversations we often find ourselves in over the holiday.
Whatever the reason, Americans turn to books to make their Thanksgiving extra special. Check out a book from your campus library or find an eBook to download before Thanksgiving to make your holiday a little more special.
From our Touro Libraries family to you and yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
This post was contributed by Michael Kahn, Librarian, Touro College School for Lifelong Education
Celebrated on October 29th in the U.S., and on August 8th in Canada, National Cat Day is a holiday that was created to raise awareness about cat adoption and rescue. Established in 2005, National Cat Day is also a day for cat owners and cat lovers to laud the cats in their lives and to acknowledge all of the joy that they bring.
Cats are the most popular household pet in the U.S.: around 34% of homes having one or more cats. In addition to the cute and cuddly factors, cats and other household pets provide social, emotional, and physical health benefits to their humans. These benefits include decreased cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, decreased blood pressure, and decreased feelings of loneliness.
According to the CDC, “Research has shown that cats can provide emotional support, improve moods, and contribute to the overall morale of their owners. Cats are also credited with promoting socialization among older individuals and physically or mentally disabled people.”
Here are some “paw-some” ways (Would it really be National Cat Day if we didn’t stick at least one cat pun in here?) to celebrate this cat-centric day!
Adopt A Cat
There are millions of cats nationwide in need of a loving home. If you are in the position to take in a cat or two, why not share your home and add a new member to the family! Not only will you be changing that cat’s life forever in a positive way, you’ll be improving yours, too.
Donate To A Local Shelter
Many animal shelters are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that rely heavily on the generosity of donors. Medical care, food costs, housing, and taking in animals on a continuous basis gets expensive. If you are able to give to a shelter to help them pay the bills, you’d be playing a key part in keeping that organization open and functional.
Volunteer Your Time & Skills
For those unable to donate monetarily, a great way to help out local shelters is to volunteer! Clean up after the animals, feed them, administer medications, and help socialize them. Allergic to cats? Unable to volunteer in-person? Why not donate skills that you have! These organizations often need help with other aspects of their operation like fundraising, organization of collection drives, social media promotion, and more
Spend Some Extra Time With Your Cats
Who better to spend quality time with on National Day Cat Day than your own feline friends! Snuggle up and take a cat nap together, unleash their frisky side by playing with their favorite toys, spoil them with treats, and snap some photos of your companion.
Unwind Watching Cat Videos
We live in a stressful world, so take a break from studying and watching the news to let loose with some laughter, cry happy tears, or gush over kittens. YouTube and other video streaming websites are rife with funny, heartfelt, and adorable cat videos. No matter what your mood is, there’s a cat video for that.
This is a happy time of the year, when booths that were built to house the Jews during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, from the time when they were brought out of Egypt until they entered the Land of Canaan. These days, the Festival is spent partially in prayer and partially in the Sukkah, which is primarily used for meals. The palm branch and the esrog are shaken every day except for the Sabbath.
G-d Almighty wanted to keep the Jews for one more day, much as a father would when the children have visited and are going home, and with that, the Festival ends. The next day is called Simchat Torah, which is when we finish the reading of the Old Testament and then start all over again reading the weekly portions over the next year.
This post was contributed by Edward Schabes, Library Assistant, Midtown
A third link explores both in Powerpoint form related to the guide on the Jewish arts as the last slides are fine art representations of this event in Genesis 22, and a written sketch of the akedat yitchak known as the “Binding of Isaac” which is chanted on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, raises the question of Providence (hashgahah pratit) vs. free will (behira) and G-d’s foreknowledge (yediah) and is the topic of midrashim found in the Cairo Geniza.
The fifth set of resources relate to the book of Koheleth chanted on the festival of Sukkot, which raises the important question of the nature of time in all its dimensions. One link shows that striving to dwell poetically in time is the essence of being in the sukkah, whose construction requires that the roof (sakh) allow one to see the stars causing wonder, expressed in King David’s Psalm eight. Other links examine Koheleth themes in the afterlife, and further ideas of Nachmanides knowledge of shemitah ha-olamot.
This post was contributed by David Levy, Chief Librarian, Lander College for Women
The Jewish people have been called the “People of the Book.” Books take on additional significance at this of year with the Talmud describing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as a time during which G-d inscribes the virtuous in “the Book of Life.” Indeed, across the world, during this season, Jews wish for each other to be written and signed in G-d’s Book of Life.
Jewish tradition tells us that G-d does not put away this book once Rosh Hashanah has ended. Even those who did not merit being inscribed in this Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah may still be written in the Book of Life if they change their ways through repentance prior to Yom Kippur. Hence the solemnness of the High Holiday period as a season of personal reflection.
The Touro College Libraries have many books related to Rosh Hashanah and the High Holiday period.
This machzor contains a facsimile of Maḥzor Rosh ha-Shanah hand-written by from memory in Wolfsberg labor camp. When reading this machzor, one can only be awed by the dedication of the Jewish people to their faith under the most trying circumstances.
This book provides readers with an understanding of the many aspects of Rosh Hashanah that they may wonder about.
As librarians, we have a special appreciation for books. But at this time of year, it is fitting that we pause and reflect on how we live our lives so that we may be inscribed in the book that counts most: the book G-d opens on Rosh Hashanah.
From the Libraries to the entire Touro Community, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life!
This post was contributed by Michael Kahn, Librarian, Touro College School for Lifelong Education