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Celebrating Jewish Holidays in B.C. and A.C. (Before COVID, After COVID)

By September 8, 2021January 3rd, 2022Connections, Cross-Cultural Committee

The October 2020 issue of Connections featured stories of “Homebound Holidays” from Issaquah Highlands residents who shared how they planned to celebrate various fall holidays while facing the challenges and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we asked the same residents for an update on their holiday traditions and plans.

In October 2020, resident Lynne Varner wrote a story about her neighbor, Dena Kernish, in “Homebound Holidays: Remembering Jewish Traditions at Home.” Dena provides an update below.

Update from Fall 2021: This year forward, like so many aspects of our lives now, the holidays we celebrate will have a “B.C.” (before COVID) and an “A.C.” (after COVID). Last year was year zero because we had to do everything over Zoom and our holiday table included only immediate family within our household. This year, 1 A.C., we will be masked but together with our community at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at my synagogue. I am cautiously optimistic because my family is all vaccinated. While we still might Zoom with our relatives on the East Coast, it will be only to see their faces light up when we wish them a “sweet new year.”

Kernish Sukkot 2020

Last year, the Kernish’s sukkah was for immediate family only.

In 1 A.C., we will welcome guests to our backyard sukkah, outside by necessity and tradition. We will build a temporary shelter, just as our ancestors did. We will eat and work from home in our sukkah, with evergreen branches on the roof. Many of the customs for this holiday would seem very Pacific Northwest if one did not know it originated with the ancient Israelites thousands of miles away in long ago B.C.

In 1 A.C., we will parade around with a Torah scroll, which contains the first five books of the Bible. On the holiday of Simchat Torah, we will joyously celebrate another completed cycle of study and growth. It will be especially sweet this year, following on the heels of our daughter Anna’s bat mitzvah in August. That day, the Torah scroll was in our living room, and most of our guests attended the bat mitzvah via Zoom. As we shepped nachas (“derived pride” in Yiddish) when our daughter led the service and chanted from the Torah, it all felt very “B.C.”

Kernish Bat Mitzvah Sign

The Kernish’s surprised their daughter Anna with a large yard sign for her bat mizvah in August 2021.

Photo (top): The Kernish’s celebrate their daughter’s bat mitzvah with family via Zoom. In this photo, the family hugs after daughter Anna finishes the main honors.  

Dena Kernish is an Issaquah Highlands resident. Photos provided by Dena Kernish. 

Click here to read all stories in the “Homebound Holidays” series >>