Unpacking Yom Kippur: The Red Suitcase Experience at Calgary Jewish Academy

The Red Suitcase is a treasure trove of symbols designed to deepen students' understanding of Yom Kippur.

by Joseph Tappenden 

(Calgary) – At the Calgary Jewish Academy, education goes beyond textbooks and classrooms. We believe that learning about important cultural and religious traditions should be engaging and memorable. That’s why we’ve introduced a unique and creative approach to teach our students in grades 1 to 3 about the significance of Yom Kippur using a special Red Suitcase.

The Red Suitcase is a treasure trove of symbols designed to deepen students’ understanding of Yom Kippur. It’s a hands-on journey that not only educates but also ignites a spark of curiosity and connection in our young learners. Each item carefully chosen to represent an important facet of this holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Red Suitcase was a project created by Morah Joyce Kerr in 1987 at the Calgary Jewish Academy and after a 35 year stint in Winnipeg it has made its way back to Calgary.

So, what’s inside this remarkable Red Suitcase, and how does it bring Yom Kippur to life for our students? To name a few:

Calendar: Right at the beginning of the adventure, students find a calendar that marks the date of Yom Kippur. This isn’t just any date; it’s a date that carries profound meaning for our Jewish community. It’s a reminder that some days are special and require preparation and reflection.

High Holiday Machzor: A Machzor for the High Holidays is also buried in the Red Suitcase. It introduces students to the special prayers and customs associated with Yom Kippur. This valuable book helps them appreciate the unique spiritual journey that takes place during this time of introspection and repentance.

White Clothing: Also included in the Red Suitcase are white garments, symbolizing the aspiration to purify oneself ethically and morally during the High Holidays. These garments remind students of the tradition of wearing white on Yom Kippur, signifying purity and the opportunity for a fresh start.

The Shofar: The sound of the shofar is a powerful and iconic symbol of hope. In the suitcase, a few shofars are carefully placed to represent the collective hope and prayers for a better future. This teaches students that Yom Kippur is not just about repentance but also about looking forward to a year filled with positivity and growth.

The brilliance of the Red Suitcase lies in its interactive nature. Students actively explore and share their thoughts about each item fostering a sense of curiosity and engagement. Through hands-on learning, they can connect with the customs and traditions of Yom Kippur on a personal level, making the teachings more meaningful and memorable.

By utilizing the Red Suitcase, we’re helping students experience Yom Kippur in a profound and personal way. We’re fostering a deep connection to their faith, their traditions, and their community that will stay with them throughout their lives.

The Red Suitcase is a symbol of our commitment to providing a holistic and engaging education that goes beyond the ordinary. It’s about nurturing the hearts and minds of our students, helping them appreciate the beauty and significance of Yom Kippur in a whole new light.

Tell us what you see in the Red Suitcase?

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