BY DEBORAH MOON
A new online platform gives everyone the chance to find a seat at the virtual table during this year’s unprecedented High Holidays.
Here For is powered by OneTable, the national nonprofit created to make Shabbat dinner accessible to young adults 21-39ish. With COVID making the High Holidays inaccessible for all ages, they have turned their expertise to provide everyone access to resources and virtual gatherings for Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah.
“Expanding their focus both beyond Shabbat evening and beyond younger adults is so powerful and needed at this particular moment,” says Caron Blau Rothstein, director of community planning and allocations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, which is partnering locally with OneTable on this effort. “It’s not instead of synagogue services, it is another avenue/resource for people to safely connect in celebration of the Jewish new year.”
“This is a great complement to our segmented High Holiday-related resources to help people have a meaningful new year,” says Caron. She encourages people to visit jewishportland.org/hhd2020.
Herefor.com notes: “COVID-19 is dangerous, and the High Holidays are all about connecting. The Here For team is at work to help honor both of those things.”
The project name is inspired by the powerful Hebrew word Hineni, which means “Here I am” and is the name of a High Holiday prayer.
The herefor.com home page features the question “What are you here for?” When clicked, it takes you to the page (see image above) that will guide you through the site to relevant resources and events.
“When we thought about what we wanted the platform to express, we thought, ‘Hineni’ — Not only are you in the right place for everything you need to make the holidays holy, but you’ve also come so far to get here,” says Al Rosenberg, director of strategy and communications for OneTable. “We also know from our experience with OneTable users over the last six years that Hebrew can feel exclusionary. We wanted this to be universally welcoming ... (translated) it’s an opportunity for each of us to ask ourselves, what are we ‘here for’? How are we showing up this season?”
The platform not only helps anyone find a resource or gathering, it allows congregations, organizations and individuals to post virtual or socially distanced gatherings (all in-person gatherings must agree to the latest social distancing requirements posted at herefor.com/covid19). Events can be posted by anyone interested in hosting. Hosts choose whether the event is open, host approval, invite only or solo. Anyone can RSVP for open and host approval events, but the host approval events allow a host to limit participation. Invite only events allow people to plan a gathering for family and friends and send out invitations.
Asked why someone would post a solo event just for themselves, OneTable’s Abbie Barash said it gives someone the opportunity to “bring more intention into a ritual … such as a Yom Kippur hike.”
In addition to managing the Pacific Northwest region for OneTable, Abbie is curating content for the Here For holiday microsite. Posting an event on the site is easy, she says. “When you create an event, you are prompted to include all the details needed.”
Support for herefor.com is provided by The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation through the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund. In addition to local partnerships with Federation, congregations and organizations, Here For collaborates nationally with JCRIF partners Hillel, Reboot, Jewish Emergent Network, Moishe House, Center for Rabbinic Innovation, Hadar, Institute for Jewish Spirituality and JewBelong.