The Fall Holiday Journey, taking place Sept. 13 at the JCC of Greater Baltimore’s Owings Mills location, provides an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish autumnal holidays in a socially distanced way.
The event is being organized by the JCC, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Macks Center for Jewish Education, as well as several other groups.
Participants will arrive in their cars to the JCC parking lot and then drive to a series of pit stops, each one themed around one of the upcoming Jewish holidays, according to Ellie Batkhan, the JCC’s director of Jewish family engagement. Holidays featured in the event will include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and Shabbat.
“This event is an opportunity for families of children of all ages to get a little taste of all the Jewish holidays that happen in the fall time of year,” Batkhan said.
Each of the different pit stops are being organized by a different partner agency or Jewish organization, Batkhan said. For instance, the Rosh Hashanah pit stop is being organized by Jewish Community Services, while the one for Sukkot is being helmed by the Pearlstone Center. These arrangements were subject to change, she said.
Batkhan estimated that about 20 staff members from across the participating organizations would be taking part in the event. She also stated that some 30 families had signed up to participate, and she was hopeful that as many 100 families might come.
In between the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur pit stops, representing the Days of Awe, will be entertaining performances by jugglers and stilt walkers, Batkhan said.
At each pit stop, participants will receive special crafts or take-home activities. For instance, the Sukkot table will feature a “create your own lulav” activity, Batkhan said.
Each car will pull up to a pit stop one at a time, have a brief interaction with the staff for around two minutes, and will be given the station’s activity and wished a happy holiday, Batkhan said. The staff at each pit stop will be wearing gloves and masks, and the person receiving the activities is required to wear a mask as well. Participants are asked to remain in their vehicles throughout the event.
The event was designed for families who do not plan to be in synagogue or to be with their extended families this year, or who are not planning to enroll their children in in-person Jewish schools, Batkhan said.
“It’s a moment of being able to feel connected to Jewish ritual and customs and calendar while also being safe,” she said. “It’s another way for people to feel a part of a bigger community without having to get out of their car or feel unsafe outside of their bubble, so that they can have a sense of belongingness.”
Batkhan added that the Fall Holiday Journey was a part of the JCC’s My Tribe program, an “experiential family opportunity to tap into the rhythm of the Jewish calendar,” she said, and that “this Fall Holiday Journey is the beginning of many other journeys we’ll have” as part of the My Tribe program.