This year's High Holy Day season will include a combination of in-person and online experiences. While they certainly will be different in kind than what we have experienced in the past, we pledge, as a community, to pour every ounce of ingenuity and spirit into this moment, creating an interactive, inviting, and meaningful excursion into prayer, memory, and renewal.
Complete Guide & Resources: High Holy Days
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(please note space is limited for some of these opportunities)
We will be cultivating multiple opportunities for our community to safely visit our synagogue building for sacred High Holy Day experiences and spiritual preparations including personal time in our sanctuary, hearing the Shofar blast, and Tashlich.
On-line Experiences & Services
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Click Here Previous Services and Sermons
While these holidays will certainly be different in kind than what we have experienced in the past, they will also ensure your Jewish life continues to thrive in new & authentic ways.
Family Programs & Resources
Click Here for some useful family resources to help you prepare.
A Message From Our Clergy
When we gathered in the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur last year, none of us could have imagined what the High Holy Days would look like one year later.
What will Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur be like when we can’t physically be together?
Can the majesty of these days, the stirring melodies and emotional charge which they deliver, be felt over the internet? Can they be experienced on a screen?
Yes, they can.
We have devoted a great deal of time, effort and energy towards creating High Holy Day services and programming which we hope you will find meaningful and engaging, in which we hope you will enjoy taking part. We have structured each day of these holidays recognizing that no one wants to sit in front of a computer or a television screen, no one is prepared to focus on a tablet or a cell phone, for hours on end. The services have been broken up into segments no longer than an hour-and-a-half in length. Each unit will feature the participation of the rabbis, Cantor Saralee, and members of the congregation. Watch and listen carefully and you will see faces and hear voices representing many parts of our congregation.
Without question, coming to the synagogue has the advantage of allowing you to enter a space prepared for the purpose of worship. Sitting at home, with a myriad of distractions, will undoubtedly make feeling “prayerful” more challenging.
With that in mind, we suggest the following:
1. Before you sit down in the chair or on the sofa which will become your pew for the service, consider leaving your house for a few moments and re-entering so as to feel that you are coming into a new space. And be grateful that you didn't have a long walk from the parking lot to your seat, especially if the weather’s not great.
2. Have your machzor (High Holy Day prayer book) ready and waiting for you when you arrive in your prayer space. If you have to search for it, you may come to the service already feeling distressed….even before hearing the rabbi’s sermon.
3. In whatever room you will be praying, determine in which direction you will need to face when it is time to face eastward. That is the direction of Jerusalem and, therefore, the direction we face for certain prayers (Barchu, the Amidah, Aleinu). Because the earth is round, you could also face westward, but it would then take much longer for your prayers to reach Jerusalem which is why no one in the U.S. does that, not even Jews on the West coast.
4. On whatever device you are using to access the service, turn off the feature that allows messages to pop-up or notifications of emails or texts to appear on your screen. You’ll have plenty of time to check Facebook and your Instagram account after services. And trust us….if you miss one sale item at Bloomingdale’s or a Wawa give-away, you will survive.
5. If you should happen to lose interest in a portion of the service, rather than check your emails or switch to a different channel, explore the machzor. There are interesting explanations and wonderful readings to be found in the margins of every page. And unlike the magazines that sit around your house for weeks and months, the machzor you will be returning to the synagogue the day after Yom Kippur, right? Right??? You aren’t going to make us come to your house to retrieve it are you?!?
6. Introduce something beautiful to the area in which you will be praying (in addition to your spouse or you kids). In the synagogue, we decorate the bimah with fresh flowers. You would be surprised at what a difference a bouquet of colorful flowers will make to your mental and emotional state. And if you don’t purchase flowers, at least make sure that the basket of laundry you intend to wash or fold later isn’t in your line of sight. That will nag at you all service long.
7. At 10:30am on each of the 3 days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are offering a special family service led by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, Rich Recht and Shira Kline. These are three very talented musicians and both their High Holy Day music and their teaching will be inspirational. If you find yourself debating which option you should choose - the family service or the study/discussion with the clergy - try the family service for 15 minutes and then at 10:45am you can switch to the study option or stick with the song and prayer for all ages (and follow-up with the rabbis after the holiday to find out what they had to say).
8. Just as you would not sit in the synagogue sanctuary for a service eating a sandwich, we encourage you to not to be eating during the service (unless it is a medical necessity). The more things you do during the service that you wouldn’t engage in if you were in the synagogue (e.g. eating a bowl of cereal, doing a crossword puzzle, sending an email, etc.) the more likely you are to feel disconnected from the service or miss something that you will wish you hadn’t. One poorly timed GrubHub delivery and you could miss the whole point of the sermon. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
TWO IMPORTANT SERVICE ITEMS
Early portion of the morning service - The morning service typically begins with Birchot HaShachar (the morning blessings) and Pesukei D’Zimrah (the introductory psalms) prior to the formal start of Shacharit (the morning service) with Barchu. However, everything prior to Barchu can be recited by an individual without the presence of a minyan. In an effort to condense the morning service into our shortened time-frame, we will begin the service on all three mornings with Nishmat Kol Chai (p. 67) just before Barchu. The earlier pieces of the service can be recited individually prior to 9:00am.
Musaf Amidah - When the service resumes at 11:30am with Musaf, Cantor Saralee will chant Hineni and then move directly into the repetition of the Musaf Amidah. Those who wish to recite the silent version of the Amidah prior to its repetition, are encouraged to recite it between 11:15-11:30am (which is why the study session with clergy will conclude at 11:15am).
During services this year, we will pray for the recovery of those who suffer from the coronavirus and offer our prayers for comfort to those who have been bereaved because of this deadly virus. Let us also pray that a vaccine for Covid-19 will soon emerge and that we will in short-order be able to resume so many of the activities that we miss, gathering together in the synagogue among them. May this be a year of blessings, joy, fulfilment, love, good health and peace. And next Rosh Hashanah, may we be privileged to share unmasked smiles, handshakes and hugs inside the synagogue which awaits our return.
L’shanah tovah tikateivu - May you be inscribed for a good new year.
Rabbi Adam Wohlberg Rabbi Sam Hollander
Jeffrey Goldstein, President Ben Wachstein, Executive Director