My dearest community,
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are among my favorite times at Kol Emeth. I love the month of Tishrei, so full of Jewish celebration, gatherings, and shared meals. I have to admit, as I began working with Rabbi Graff, Sarah Miller, and others to plan this year, I felt heartbroken with all that we won’t have. In this time of pandemic, it is nearly impossible to gather in person and that will be harder when we are so drawn to Jewish community and prayer.
And yet, we are working on creating offerings and celebrations that will bring meaning into the holidays. This year, everything will be different, and that can be good. The holidays are meant to create a time for self-reflection. Perhaps our quiet and isolation can facilitate personal and spiritual growth. Joy comes from many places; perhaps caring for each other at this time and reflecting on our blessings can be a source of joy.
As our planning has continued, I have started to get excited about what we can do this year and how the quality of difference has the potential to make these holidays the most memorable and impactful we have ever had.
I’d like to share with you where we are in our planning right now. As you know, the situation remains dynamic and so things may change as time goes on. However, our intent is to be largely virtual in our offerings, with the possible exception of limited in-person gatherings on 2nd day Rosh Hashanah and possibly Yom Kippur afternoon.
We want to feel connected this year. So, we will be preparing High Holidays bags for every member, that will include a mahzor, a yizkor book, some honey, and a Havdalah kit. We will set up times for you to drive through the parking lot of our new building to pick up your bag. For families with children, the bags will have fun additional material so that our children’s services can be interactive. We are also exploring a way to have people come as households into the Sanctuary and perhaps spend a few minutes in front of the open ark.
For selichot this year, we will join Conservative Synagogues around the country for an evening of teaching and prayer organized by the Rabbinical Assembly. This will be a unique opportunity to hear Rabbinic and Cantorial voices from around the country. We are also joining many Synagogues across denominations in creating resources we will share with you for a meaningful evening of Rosh Hashanah at home.
Many of our offerings this year will be virtual. We hope to use both Zoom and a streaming platform so that you can have an interactive experience or a higher-quality stream. This will also allow us to broadcast our services widely this year. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we will offer morning services from about 9am -12:30pm, with clearly delineated time blocks for different segments of the service, as well as services for Erev Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre and Neilah, the service concluding Yom Kippur. Options will include: a Morning Gratitude Shacharit, a traditional Torah service with a minyan in our courtyard, a Rosh Hashanah in the Round style Torah service with group aliyot, Musaf with speakers from our community, traditional Yom Kippur services with Yizkor, an alternative Yom Kippur Musaf that I will lead, and more. Each morning will also include family and children services from 10:30am -12pm. We will conclude Yom Kippur with a massive community-wide virtual service for every KE member so we can feel connected to one another as the Jewish year begins in earnest!
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we hope to create an in-person experience at Bol Park that will feature Shofar sounding, tashlikh, and a butterfly release! We would create multiple time slots and limit attendance to county guidelines, so that everyone can attend safely and securely. This event would require registration for contact tracing, and people would wear masks and observe social distancing. If this proves possible, we would offer as many parallel services as needed to make sure anyone who wants can attend. We would then offer a similar plan at Kol Emeth in our outdoors space for Yom Kippur, that would include a study session, an in-person Minchah, a spiritual hike, and so forth. We would also stream sessions so that everyone can participate.
These offerings are based on the survey we sent out in June, county health guidelines, our Covid task force, and our deep commitment to creating a meaningful and joyous season that keeps our community safe and healthy.
Any additional reactions or feedback are most welcome.
The Holidays are going to be very different this year. And yet, I am starting to get excited for the new opportunities they will bring. Together, I believe we will make these holidays sacred, special, and joyous. I am truly looking forward to sharing the Holy Days with you and finding a way to connect during this spiritual and communal time of year.
Rabbi David Booth