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Shemini Atzeret in the Jewish Calendar
Shemini Atzeret immediately follows the Sukkot period. It is marked on the 22nd day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. It falls into September or October in the Gregorian calendar.
Is Shemini Atzeret a Public Holiday?
No, Shemini Atzeret is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. However, Jewish businesses, organizations, and schools are usually closed on this and the following day.
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are among the most joyful occasions of the Jewish calendar year. Both days are Yom Tov, special holidays when Jewish people are prohibited from working and a range of additional restrictions apply.
Dancing the Hakafot
In some Jewish communities in the UK, the Hakafot is performed, usually both on the eve of Shemini Atzeret and on the day itself. This event, which is otherwise primarily associated with Simchat Torah, involves people dancing and singing while carrying the Torah scrolls. It usually involves the whole family, including children.
Praying for Rain
Since Shemini Atzeret is celebrated at the beginning of the rainy season around the Mediterranean Sea, the morning service on this day traditionally involves a prayer for rain and a good harvest, known as the Tefilat Geshem.
Is Shemini Atzeret Part of Sukkot?
Literally meaning “eighth day” in Hebrew, Shemini Atzeret is celebrated on the eighth day after the beginning of the Sukkot period. As such, it is explicitly linked to and considered as a spiritual culmination of Sukkot.
At the same time, Jewish people are careful to treat Shemini Atzeret as a holiday in its own right by following its unique customs and making sure to cleanly separate the traditions associated with Sukkot from those attributed to Shemini Atzeret. For example, while some Jewish people still use the sukkah, it is frowned upon to prepare for Shemini Atzeret on the last day of Sukkot or to perform the ritual of the Four Kinds on Shemini Atzeret.
Why Is Shemini Atzeret Celebrated?
Shemini Atzeret is an occasion to rejoice in God's love and his acceptance of the Israelites' repentance after having committed the sin of worshipping a golden calf, as told in the Book of Exodus.
Who Celebrates Shemini Atzeret in the UK?
The United Kingdom is estimated to have the 5th largest Jewish population in the world, with just under 300,000 people practicing the Jewish faith in the country. By far the largest British Jewish community is found in London, followed by those in Manchester and Leeds.
History of Jews in the UK
Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century.
Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England, with large numbers staying at London's East End during that time. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).
About Shemini Atzeret in other countriesRead more about Shemini Atzeret.
Shemini Atzeret Observances
Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.
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