A Message Regarding the High Holy Days
July 13, 2020
Dear Members of the Congregation Sinai family,
Since March, we have faced a global pandemic with resilience, determination, optimism and innovation. With its high degree of communicability, COVID-19 has forced us to rethink and reconfigure every aspect of our daily lives, including our spiritual connections to each other. At Congregation Sinai, the “Safer at Sinai” and “New Technology” task forces have led the way. Their work has produced ways both to permit safe in-person outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat Services (when health trends and weather will permit), and to stream those services online for worshippers at home.
However, the task forces and Executive Committee have concluded we should celebrate the Holy Days virtually this year, from Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur through Sukkot and Simchat Torah. The deciding factors were inadequate physical distance, the risk of viral spread by singing, and the challenge of children’s programming. In addition, one group able to attend in person and a second group only joining from home would separate us in our most sacred season. We know this news is disappointing. Yet, it’s the same conclusion reached by other Reform synagogues in the area and in the region.
This decision is also a new opportunity to meet the profound challenges of the Holy Days: to connect to each other, to the community, to God and to our deepest selves. We’re planning services and experiences that will be uplifting, while acknowledging the exceptional challenges we’ve faced this past year. Cherished ritual and creative innovation will guide us as we celebrate the Holy Days in the spirit of Sinai. Our plans include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Continuing to use technology to see and interact with one another as well as to enhance the grandeur and transcendent nature of the Holy Days.
- Providing new ways to prepare spiritually during the month of Elul (preceding Rosh HaShanah) to prepare spiritually, including short videos, podcasts and opportunities to share with other congregants. For example, we’ll discuss Rabbi Debbie Robbins’ book, “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27: A Spiritual Practice for the New Year.”
- Scheduling timed visits in the sanctuary for those seeking some time alone before the ark and the Torahs, as we’ve done during the Yom Kippur afternoon healing service.
- Creating home celebration kits for Rosh HaShanah, Tashlich and Yom Kippur filled with materials keyed to the nature and ages of your household.
- Using technology to enhance our Yom Kippur Yizkor service of remembrance by showing photographs of those we’ve lost.
- Taking into account the limits of “screen time” attention span, services may be focused and sequenced differently from our experience in the sanctuary.
- Recruiting volunteers to consult with anyone faced with a technological challenge.
- Expanding our Shofar blowing contest – virtually! – with each contestant sending a video from home, or the most creative place possible – the lakefront, on a hike, in front of Sinai, etc! We’ll stream lessons beforehand so you can learn the difference between a Tekiah, Shevarim and Teruah.
To do all this, we need your help. In a few days, you’ll receive an email blast with a short survey questionnaire. Your answers will guide our thinking as we create new ways to engage our members. At Sinai, we know that the love and respect we hold for one another have strengthened our connections, even if they are now online instead of in person. We have no doubt that the upcoming Holy Day season will bring us closer together in ways we are just now beginning to imagine.
Please contact us if you have any questions, suggestions or concerns,
B’Shalom uveracha – in peace and blessing,
Rabbi David Cohen
President Joshua Parkes
2020 High Holy Day Dates
Selichot - Saturday, September 12th
Erev Rosh Hashanah - Friday, September 18th
Rosh Hashanah - Saturday, September 19th
2nd Day Rosh Hashanah - Sunday, September 20th
Kol Nidre - Sunday, September 27th
Yom Kippur - Monday, September 28th