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July 4th Holiday: Should We Feast or Fast?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When we think of July 4th in the U.S., we typically think of food, friends, and fireworks. Many of us don't know that every 10 to 20 years, July 4 is also a Jewish holiday and a fast day.

This year, Independence Day falls on a Saturday, which is coincidently the 17th of Tammuz and Shabbat. For observant Jewish people, the 17th of Tammuz is a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. The observance falls on July 4th about every 10 to 20 years, with the most famous being in 1776. The next time this will happen is in 2034, a Tuesday. Luckily, this year, for observant Jews, since the 17th of Tammuz falls on Shabbat, the fast gets a rain check until Sunday.

How can American Jews  celebrate our religious freedom and retrace what we did when it was threatened? According to Jewish educator and author, Ron Wolfson, the fourth of July is a time when we can "stop and think about the blessings of freedom and independence and the great opportunities that America afforded the Jewish community." One way to do so is to "look into the journeys our families have taken to come to America.” For inspiration, he suggests checking out Freedom’s Feast, a website that implores us to “learn new ways to explore and participate in our American democratic tradition.” Also, be sure to "like us" on Facebook and "follow us" on Twitter to get inspiration throughout the week.

However you choose to celebrate, we at the J wish you a happy and healthy fourth of July!

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