Shavuot: BAJC marks Jewish holiday and Gay Pride Month in Brattleboro


BRATTLEBORO -- Brattleboro Area Jewish Community will offer a fun evening of study on Tuesday, June 3, from 7 p.m. to midnight, for the holiday of Shavuot and to mark June as Gay Pride Month in Brattleboro. Spiritual Leader Kate and talented BAJC member/teachers Janet Athens, Andi Waisman, David Arfa, and Kate Tarlow-Morgan, will conduct a creative Shavuot night of study (Tikkun Leyl Shavuot) with art, singing, story, movement, and text study, and a chance to enjoy some traditional dairy sweets.

Shavuot is a festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It began, like so many other Jewish holidays, as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. The holiday’s name means "Weeks." The Torah tells people it took precisely 49 days (seven weeks) for the Israelites to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai where they were to receive the Torah.

Shavuot symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey begun on Passover when Israelites were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; seven weeks later, on Shavuot, they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.

On Shavuot is it customary to stay up all night to study Jewish texts. One text we read at Shavuot is the Book of Ruth, from the Hebrew Bible. This text will be our primary study this year, as we delve into the rich themes of "Difference" found in this story. In honor of Gay Pride month in Brattleboro, we will study the contemporary midrashic (interpretive) reading of this text as a story of lesbian love and commitment between Ruth and Naomi. We will also consider Naomi as a stranger in a foreign land, Ruth as a convert, and Ruth and Naomi as powerful women who use gender relations to their advantage. In this year that BAJC is focussing on expanding our relationship with the beautiful piece of land on which our synagogue sits, we will also explore Jewish ideas around land and agriculture as expressed in the Book of Ruth.

No art, movement, or music experience are required to attend this fun evening. Those attending do not need a background in Jewish text and they do not need to be Jewish. Bring a spirit of play and exploration, and a desire to deepen your relationship with this major Jewish holiday and with the wonderful story of Ruth and Naomi.

Participants can feel free to drop in for any part or all of the evening. This evening is designed for adults and teens (The Book of Ruth contains some mature subject matter). The event is free to BAJC members -- for others a donation of $18 to $36 is requested. For more information about the sequence of events, contact Kate Judd at

BAJC will also offer a Mincha and Yizkor service for Shavuot on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. A light dairy supper will be provided after the service.

Yizkor, a special memorial prayer for the departed, is recited in the synagogue four times a year -- on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot.

Yizkor, in Hebrew, means "Remember." In this prayer, we implore God to remember the souls of our relatives and friends that have passed on. In addition to reciting Yizkor for one’s parents, one may recite Yizkor for any Jew who has passed on, including relatives and friends, and for those who died in the Holocaust. When we recite Yizkor, we renew and strengthen the connection between us and our loved ones.

Contact Faith Schuster at 802-464-2632,, so organizers can be assured of a minyan and can prepare enough food for the supper.


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