Alexandra Leichter Esq.: Jewish Holiday Guide For Custody/Visitation Schedule

About Alexandra Leichter:

ALEXANDRA LEICHTER is a California Bar Certified Family Law Specialist, and a Certified Family Law Arbitrator, certified by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She currently serves as a Private Adjudicator, performing services as a Private Judge, Arbitrator, Settlement Conference Mediator, and Family Law Consultant, and also handles traditional client representation in complex property issues, high income support cases, and high conflict custody/visitation issues. Her office is located in Beverly Hills, California. CutureCounts welcomes Ms. Leichter to the Amicus Brief.

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JEWISH HOLIDAY GUIDE FOR CUSTODY/VISITATION SCHEDULES

By: Alexandra Leichter

Revised Jan. 2010 [ Prior versions of this article were printed in the L.A. County Bar Association Family Law News & Review, Vol. XX, No.2, Spring 1999, and in the Family Law News, Official Publication of the State Bar of California Family Law Section, Vol 29, No.2, 2007.]

Most family law attorneys shy away from religious holiday scheduling because they incorrectly assume that the courts are Constitutionally prohibited from allocating religious holidays. But the case law often cited [i] does not prevent the court from considering religious practices and observances in devising appropriate time-share arrangements. Those cases merely preclude, absent a showing of “harm”, the court from restraining either party from allowing their children’s participation in various religious activities or observances.

Indeed, most appropriately crafted custody and visitation orders apportion Christian and legal holidays in a manner that best suits the parties and the children. There is no reason the same cannot be done with Jewish (or other religious) holidays. However, Jewish holidays are not easily ascertainable from the Gregorian calendar.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar one, with the Jewish New Year corresponding to a day in September or October on the Gregorian calendar, the months have 28 or 29 days, and during leap years an entire month is added to the calendar. Additionally, there are a number of Jewish holidays, which, varying with the degree of religious observance, may or may not be important to the parties.

Conflicts in the “level” of holiday observance between parents, or conflicts of Jewish holiday observance between inter-faith couples, makes it imperative to learn some basic Jewish holiday issues.

Religiously affiliated Jews in the United States are generally members of one of four branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist.  The Orthodox, being most traditional, observe every holiday to the maximum extent prescribed by Jewish law. The Conservative and Reconstructioninst branches have more liberal observance practices, while the Reform branch tends to observe the holidays in a less traditional manner, often adjusting observance to their particular secular lifestyle.

Nevertheless, there is unanimous concurrence, among all four branches, of the existence of each of the holidays. By way of example, Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, always occurs on the first day of the first Jewish calendar month (corresponding to either September or October on the Gregorian calendar). However, while Orthodox and Conservative Jews celebrate two days of Rosh Hashana, many (though not all) Reform and Reconstructionist celebrate only the first day.

Further, on the Sabbath and on most major holidays, Orthodox Jews refrain from engaging in most daily activities, such as working, traveling in a vehicle, turning on lights, answering the telephone, handling money, carrying objects outside the home, etc. Many Conservative Jews, interpret the “no work” on the Sabbath in a more liberal manner, and they may answer the telephone, turn on lights, drive a car, etc. While Reform Jews attend synagogue, and may have celebratory meals on the Sabbath and the holidays, they observe very few of the other restrictions on the Sabbath and on most major holidays.

One of the key issues in assigning appropriate holiday schedules in custody/visitation matters, is to learn each parent’s mode of holiday observance. For example, Orthodox parents not living within walking distance of each other, cannot split a two-day major Jewish holiday because the children cannot “travel” during those two days. Similarly, assigning each parent one of the two Seder evenings on Passover is meaningless if both parents are Reform Jews because they celebrate only one Seder night.

Another important consideration is the fact that a major two-day Jewish holiday occurring on a Thursday/Friday, or on a Sunday/Monday, extends that weekend for Orthodox Jews into three days, because travel and work is prohibited on Saturday as well.

In interfaith marriages, consider that Christmas and Hannukah often conflict, as do Passover and Easter. To alleviate this possible problem, and provide a guideline to the holidays, I have set forth below a description and importance of the major Jewish holidays, as well as a fifteen-year Jewish calendar, corresponding to the Gregorian calendar. The dates for the other, less important, Jewish holidays can be extrapolated from the information provided.

With some limited exceptions, Jewish holidays, as well as the Sabbath, begin at sunset the evening before the holiday, and end one hour after sunset on the last day of the holiday or Sabbath.

In addition, many Jewish holidays are “fast days” which require abstention from all food and liquid. Jewish females over the age of 12 and Jewish males over the age of 13 are considered “adults” and are required to fast. With the exception of Yom Kippur, if a fast day is on Sabbath, the fasting will take place on the Sunday following it.


[i]. In re Marriage of Murga (1980) 103 CA3d 49; In re Marriage of Mentry (1983) 142 CA3d 260; In re Marriage of Weiss (1996) 42 CA4th106

LIST OF HOLIDAYS:

(1) Rosh Hashana– This is the Jewish New Year. The holiday normally occurs during the month of September, but may occasionally occur in October. Rosh Hashana is celebrated by attendance at evening and morning synagogue services, and celebratory meals that include eating new fruit, as well as eating apple and challah (special bread) dipped in honey. The holiday requires abstention from all work and other normal activities. Rosh Hashana is celebrated as a two day holiday, although Reform Jews generally celebrate only the first day.

(2) Fast of Gedaliah –This is a fast day occurring on the day following the second day of Rosh Hashana. Fasting begins at sunrise and ends one hour after sunset. The fast day does not require abstention from work or other normal activities.

(3) Yom Kippur –This is considered the most important and holiest day of the year. It normally occurs during the month of September or October, exactly ten days after Rosh Hashana Eve. Yom Kippur celebration consists of fasting from sunset on the eve before Yom Kippur and ends an hour after sunset on Yom Kippur. It lasts one day, and requires the abstention from all work and other normal activities.

(4) Succoth & Simchat Torah–This is a nine day holiday which begins five days after Yom Kippur. Commencement is on the eve before the first day of Sukkoth and ends nine days later, an hour after sunset. Celebration involves the building and decorating an outdoor hut (a “sukkah“) which is used during the first seven days of the holiday for all meals. Additionally a “lulav” (palm branch) and an “etrog” (a special citrus fruit) are used during morning prayers on the first eight days except Saturdays. The first two days and last two days of the holiday are “special days” in which the observance of the holiday requires abstention from work and other normal activities. The “interim days” of Succoth are considered “half holidays” during which time the observances of eating in the sukkah, making prayers over the lulav and etrog are observed, but work and normal daily activities are generally allowed (except on the Sabbath). Orthodox and most Conservative Jews observe the nine days as outlined above. Reform Jews (and those Orthodox Jews whose domicile is in Israel), observe only the first day and the 8th day of the holiday as “special days”, and their observance of the entire holiday period ends on the eighth day.

(5) Hannukah–This is an eight day holiday that normally occurs in December, but could occur in late November. The celebration consists of eight days of lighting candles, starting with one candle on the first night, and adding an additional candle each evening, so that on the eighth evening, eight candles are lit in an eight-branch candelabra, called a “menorah”. The first night of lighting occurs at sunset on the evening before the first day of Hannukah. Additional celebration takes the form of special card and “dreidel” (a spinning top)games for the children, and special foods such as “latkes” (potato pancakes). Gift giving is not a necessary part of the holiday, although it has become customary among many Jews to give gifts to the children (this practice developed in recent history, especially in the U.S., to reduce Christmas-envy: Jewish children can boast of eight night of gifts, versus only one night for the Christian children). The holiday does not require abstention from work or other normal activities.

(6) Asarah B’Tevet–The Fast of the tenth day of Tevet is a fast day that begins at sunrise on the day of the fast and ends an hour after sunset. The fast occurs seven days after the last day of Hannukah, thus it would normally occur in December or January. This fast day does not require abstention from work or other normal activities, except abstention from food and drink.

(7) Tu B’shvat–This minor holiday celebrates the first fruits of the year. It normally occurs in January or early February. Synagogues and Hebrew schools have special celebrations for the children, involving the new fruits. No abstention from work or other normal activities is required.

(8) Fast of Esther–This is a fast day occurring the day before Purim, normally in late February or March, begins at sunrise and ends an hour after sunset. Before the fast ends, special synagogue services require the chanting of the “Megillah” (The Scroll containing the Book of Esther). No abstention from work or other normal activities, other than abstention from food and drink, is required.

(9) Purim–This is a very joyous holiday usually occurring in late February or March, thirty days before Passover. It is normally celebrated with a costume party, a special meal in the afternoon, and the delivery of baskets of food to friends, to relatives and to the poor. Most synagogues and Hebrew schools have Purim carnivals for children during this period of time.

(10) Passover–This holiday is also known as the holiday of the “Matzah” (unleavened bread). It is an eight day holiday that occurs in late March or in April, and often coincides with Easter (For those who have forgotten their Bible, the “Last Supper” was the Seder on the first night of Passover–and yes, Jesus was Jewish). The holiday begins at sunset on the eve before the first day of Passover. For Orthodox Jews, the first two evenings are celebrated with a “Seder” (a special ritualized meal, involving drinking four cups of wine, eating a requisite amount of matzah, bitter herbs, a walnut/fruit/wine concoction symbolizing mortar used by Jewish slaves in Egypt, and eating other special foods. In the realm of holiday food consumption, Passover definitely wins the prize for most varied, most symbolic, and most interesting food consumption). Reform Jews, and Jews whose domicile is in Israel, celebrate only one “Seder“. For Orthodox Jews, the first two days and the last two days of Passover (first day and seventh day for Reform and Israeli Jews) are considered major holidays that require abstention from work and other normal activities. The interim days do not require abstention from work. However, all eight days require the abstention from leavened bread and other grains.

(11) Yom Hashoah–This is the Holocaust Remembrance day; it usually occurs in April or May, 12 days after the first day of Passover. Memorial services are conducted by various synagogues. The holiday does not require abstention from work or other normal activities.

(12) Yom Ha’atzmaut–Israel Independence Day, occurs eight days after Yom Hashoah, normally in May, but sometimes in April. The holiday involves festive activities throughout various Jewish centers but does not require abstention from work or other normal activities.

(13) Lag B’Omer–The 34th day following the first day of Passover, usually occurs in May, but sometimes in June. While it is a joyous holiday, it does not require abstention from work or other normal activities.

(14) Shavuot–occurs usually in May or June, and on the 50th day following the first day of Passover. It is a two-day holiday for Orthodox Jews and one-day holiday for Reform Jews and for Jews whose domicile is Israel. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah; The holiday requires abstention from work and other normal activities.

(15) Shiv’Asar B’Tammuz–is a fast day of the l7th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, and it usually occurs in 6 July or August, 41 days following the first days of Shavuot. It begins at sunrise and ends an hour after sunset. This fast day does not require abstention from work or other normal activities except food and drink.

(16) Tisha B’Av–is a major fast day occurring in either July or August, exactly three weeks after Shiv’Asar B’Tammuz and begins at sunset on the eve before the Fast day and ends an hour after sunset on the day of the Fast. It does not require abstention from work or other normal activities except food and drink.

TEN YEAR CALENDAR OF THE MORE IMPORTANT JEWISH HOLIDAYS:

(Note: All of these holidays begin at sundown the prior evening)

2010:

Purim Sunday March 10

Passover (First Two Days)

Tuesday/Wednesday March 30-31

Passover (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday April 5-6

Shavuot Wednesday/Thursday May 19-20

Rosh Hashana Thursday/Friday September 9-10

Yom Kippur Saturday September 18

Sukkot (First Two Days) Thursday/Friday September 23-24

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Thursday/Friday September 30 – October 1

Hannukah Thursday-Thursday December 2-9

2011:

Purim Sunday March 20

Passover (First Two Days)

Tuesday/Wednesday April 19-20

Passover (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday April 25-26

Shavuot Wednesday/Thursday June 8-9

Rosh Hashana Thursday/Friday September 29-30

Yom Kippur Saturday October 8

Sukkot (First Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 13-14

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 20-21

Hannukah Wednesday-Wednesday December 21-28

2012:

Purim Thursday March 8

Passover (First Two Days)

Saturday/Sunday April 7-8

Passover (Last Two Days) Friday/Saturday April 13-14

Shavuot Sunday/Monday May 27-28

Rosh Hashana Monday/Tuesday September 17-18

Yom Kippur Wednesday September 26

Sukkot (First Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 1-2

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 22-23

Hannukah Sunday-Sunday December 9-16

2013:

Purim Sunday February 24

Passover (First Two Days)

Tuesday/Wednesday March 26-27

Passover (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday April 1-2

Shavuot Wednesday/Thursday May 15-16

Rosh Hashana Thursday/Friday September 5-6

Yom Kippur Saturday September 14

Sukkot (First Two Days) Thursday/Friday September 19-20

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Thursday/Friday September 26-27

Hannukah Thursday-Thursday November 28 -December 5

2014:

Purim Sunday March 16

Passover (First Two Days)

Tuesday/Wednesday April 15-16

Passover (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday April 21-22

Shavuot Wednesday/Thursday May 4-5

Rosh Hashana Thursday/Friday September 25-26

Yom Kippur Saturday October 4

Sukkot (First Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 9-10

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 16-17

Hannukah Wednesday-Wednesday December 17-24

2015:

Purim Thursday March 5

Passover (First Two Days)

Saturday/Sunday April 4-5

Passover (Last Two Days) Friday/Saturday April 10-11

Shavuot Sunday/Monday May 24-25

Rosh Hashana Monday/Tuesday September 14-15

Yom Kippur Wednesday September 23

Sukkot (First Two Days) Monday/Tuesday September 28-29

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 5-6

Hannukah Monday December 7-14

2016:

Purim Thursday March 24

Passover (First Two Days)

Saturday/Sunday April 23-24

Passover (Last Two Days) Friday/Saturday April 29-30

Shavuot Sunday/Monday June 12-13

Rosh Hashana Monday/Tuesday October 3-4

Yom Kippur Wednesday October 12

Sukkot (First Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 17-18

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 24-25

Hannukah Sunday-Sunday December 25 – January 1

2017:

Purim Sunday March 12

Passover (First Two Days)

Tuesday/Wednesday April 11-12

Passover (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday April 17-18

Shavuot Wednesday/Thursday May 31 – June 1

Rosh Hashana Thursday/Friday September 21-22

Yom Kippur Saturday September 30

Sukkot (First Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 5-6

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Thursday/Friday October 22-23

Hannukah Wednesday-Wednesday December 13-20

2018:

Purim Thursday March 1

Passover (First Two Days)

Saturday/Sunday March 31 – April 1

Passover (Last Two Days) Friday/Saturday April 6-7

Shavuot Sunday/Monday May 20-21

Rosh Hashana Monday/Tuesday September 10-11

Yom Kippur Wednesday September 19

Sukkot (First Two Days) Monday/Tuesday September 24-25

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Monday/Tuesday October 1-2

Hannukah Monday December 3-10

2019:

Purim Thursday March 21

Passover (First Two Days)

Saturday/Sunday April 20-21

Passover (Last Two Days) Friday/Saturday April 26-27

Shavuot Sunday/Monday June 9-10

Rosh Hashana Monday/Tuesday September 30 – October 1

Yom Kippur Wednesday October 9

Sukkot (First Two Days) Sunday/Monday October 14-15

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Sunday/Monday October 21-22

Hannukah Monday-Monday December 23-30

2020:

Purim Tuesday March 10

Passover (First Two Days)

Thursday/Friday April 9-10

Passover (Last Two Days) Wednesday/Thursday April 15-16

Shavuot Friday/Saturday May 29-30

Rosh Hashana Saturday/Sunday September 19-20

Yom Kippur Monday September 28

Sukkot (First Two Days) Saturday/Sunday October 3-4

Sukkot (Last Two Days) Saturday/Sunday October 10-11

Hannukah Friday-Friday December 11-18

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