Jewish communities large and small will be taking to dairy-based feasts and late-night study sessions to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. Commemorating the giving of the Torah – beginning with the transmission of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago – the two-day holiday begins this year the night of May 18.

In Wyoming, an expansive state home to an estimated 500 Jewish men, women and children, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn was making the final arrangements for a dairy dinner featuring in-depth discussions and prizes for the kids.

For many, said Mendelsohn, it will be their first time observing the holiday. It’s “something special” and out-of-the-ordinary, he explained, pointing to the custom of eating dairy foods just like the Jewish people at the giving of the Torah.

“It’s actually one of our most important holidays, but nowadays,” many people are not that familiar with it, said Adena Chernosky, who has lived in Wyoming for the past 10 years. “The holiday is very important, though, and for me, is very special. It is the first major holiday that I celebrated with Chabad.”

In the similarly-small Jewish community of Roseville, Calif., holiday celebrations at the local Chabad House will include the traditional reading of the Ten Commandments as well as an ice-cream party and dessert buffet.

“We really have a great community here who all want to come and enjoy events together,” said Carole Goldberg, who has been living in Roseville for eight years and operates a Jewish genealogy website. “Without Rabbi Yossi and Malkie Korik, we probably wouldn’t be doing anything for the holiday. Our events are always really fun and have great food. It’s totally what we need here.”

In the business-minded community of downtown Baltimore, Md., Shavuot festivities began days before the onset of the holiday. Local Jewish women gathered together to make topiaries to symbolize the flowering of Mount Sinai, and to study the book of Ruth, which many synagogues read during the holiday.

(A full directory of holiday celebrations stretching from Sydney, Australia all the around the world to Honolulu can be found at the Jewish website Chabad.org. To find an event near you, click here.)

“It was a great hands-on project in a warm atmosphere,” said one attendee of the program at Chabad-Lubavitch of Downtown Baltimore. “The event sparked my interest to learn more about the holidays and to understand more about Judaism.”

A student at the Torah Troopers preschool holds a Torah-shaped poster he decorated for the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah.
A student at the Torah Troopers preschool holds a Torah-shaped poster he decorated for the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah.
Noelle Stills, who works at Coppin State University, echoed the woman’s sentiments.

“I had a great time at the event; I just loved it,” said Stills. “It was very relaxing and I haven’t done anything like that in a long time. It was different and educational, and good to connect with other Jewish women in the community.”

The Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Living in Oklahoma City, meanwhile, will feature guest speakers at an all-night Torah study session Tuesday night. Wendy Kleinman, a journalist at the The Oklahoman, and Lt. Yoni Goldstein of the U.S. Air Force are scheduled to share stories about their life experiences.

“My husband and I were welcomed so swiftly and with such an open heart to this community,” said Kleinman about her experience moving to Oklahoma four years ago. “Now that we’re moving, this Shavuot is our last opportunity to celebrate with the Jewish community that we’ve become so close to.”

Nancy Clark was equally ecstatic about the upcoming Shavuot, although it won’t be her last in the state.

“We celebrate all of the holidays together and we look forward to celebrating this holiday especially as one, just like the way we received the Torah as one people,” said Clark, who has also lived in Oklahoma City for four years. “We come to Shavuot this year to reaffirm our faith and to hear the Ten Commandments together as one community.”

Steven Tanenbaum, a local real estate developer, borrowed a metaphor from his own industry to describe the holiday’s importance.

“This was the day we received the Torah,” he explained. “This is for me the most important holiday because we accepted our ‘contract’ with G‑d on this day. It’s the day we ‘signed our lease.’ ”