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Simchat Torah in the United Kingdom

Jewish communities in the UK celebrate Simchat Torah on the day after Shemini Atzeret to conclude the annual cycle of Torah reading and immediately begin the next cycle.

On Simchat Torah, the annual cycle of Torah readings concludes.
Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of the next.
©iStockphoto.com/webking

Simchat Torah in the Jewish Calendar

Simchat Torah immediately follows Shemini Atzeret and the Sukkot festival. In the United Kingdom and all other countries outside of Israel, it is marked on the 23rd day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. It falls in September or October in the Gregorian calendar.

In Israel, Simchat Torah is observed on the 22nd of Tishrei, on the same day as Shemini Atzeret.

Is Simchat Torah a Public Holiday?

Both Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are Yom Tov, special holidays when Jewish people are prohibited from working and a range of additional restrictions apply. While neither of them is a bank holiday in the UK, Jewish businesses, organizations, and schools are usually closed.

End and Beginning of Yearly Torah Reading Cycle

Literally translated as “Joy of the Torah,” Simchat Torah is a day to rejoice and celebrate the Torah, which is the central body of Jewish Holy Scripture. The occasion centers around the conclusion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings, and the beginning of the next cycle. In practice, the last portion of the Book of Deuteronomy is read during the morning service, which is immediately followed by the beginning of the Book of Genesis.

Many synagogues in the UK hold parties or celebratory events after the Simchat Torah service.

Hakafot and the Torah's Feet

The Hakafot, usually held on both the eve and the morning of Simchat Torah, is the highlight of the day. During this event, people dance and sing while carrying the Torah scrolls. It usually involves the whole family, including children.

In some Jewish denominations, the person holding the Torah during the Hakafot is thought to act as the feet of the Torah, taking it where it wishes to go, just like the feet transport a person's head. According to this interpretation, this act symbolizes both a person's submission to God and the Torah and the joy afforded by following the Jewish faith.

Who Celebrates Simchat Torah 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 Simchat Torah in other countries

Read more about Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010FriOct 1Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2011FriOct 21Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2012TueOct 9Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2013FriSep 27Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2014FriOct 17Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2015TueOct 6Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2016TueOct 25Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2017FriOct 13Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2018TueOct 2Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2019TueOct 22Simchat TorahJewish holiday 
2020SunOct 11Simchat TorahJewish holiday 

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