High Holidays in the Age of COVID


Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year: sunset Sept. 18-Sept. 20
Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement: sunset Sept. 27-Sept. 28
Sukkot: sunset Oct. 2-Oct. 9
Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah: sunset Oct. 9-Oct. 11

PHOTO: Congregation Beth Israel clergy gather to film High Holiday services at the historic synagogue.


The Jewish New Year of 5781 will be greeted in dramatically different fashion than the way we welcomed the years before COVID.
When Rosh Hashanah begins the eve of Sept. 18, COVID-19 will keep many who normally attend High Holiday services at home. Congregations are planning a variety of streamed services, Zoom programs and smaller group gatherings. Many have shared resources for how to enhance celebrations at home.
“Despite the challenges, there are so many incredible things happening prior to and during the holidays,” says JFGP President and CEO Marc Blattner. To that end, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland has curated High Holy Day activities and resources at jewishportland.org/hhd2020. For a calendar of local services and events, see jewishportland.org/high-holy-days. Link to local and national virtual events and resources at herefor.com
Following are how three Portland congregations plan to make this year’s holidays meaningful for their congregants and the community at large: Congregation Kesser Israel, Orthodox; Congregation Neveh Shalom, Conservative; and Congregation Beth Israel, Reform. 

Congregation Kesser Israel
“I’m excited that we are going to offer live services for the High Holidays this year,” says Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin. “We are planning two services for up to 50 people each at the MJCC. One minyan will be inside the ballroom and a second one will be in an open-air tent outside at the MJCC site. We anticipate beautiful davening in all of our services and are thankful to our Chazanim: Dov Brodkin, Rabbi Tzvi Fischer, Rabbi Sholom Skolnik and Gabi Weinberg.” 
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur service attendance requires social distancing and face masks at all times. The live services are for ages 9 and older with preference to bar/bat mitzvah age and older. 
Preregistration is required for the live services. Due to the significant expenses of running the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, Kesser Israel is charging a fee to help defray the costs (see registration form for details). The sale of tickets is not a fundraiser. No one will be turned away due to a lack of funds. If you have questions, contact Tuvia Berzow at  tberzow@oregonkosher.org.
“In addition, we will be there to support everyone in the congregation, whether or not you are attending live services,” says Rabbi Brodkin. The rabbi and his wife, Aviel, hosted an enlightening Zoom conversation Sept. 10 titled “How Will I Do This At Home?” (see jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/HH-at-home).

Congregation Neveh Shalom
Congregation Neveh Shalom will offer an array of streamed services, Zoom services and small in-person gatherings/experiences.
Staff and clergy had planned to focus on livestreaming the major holiday services, says Neveh Shalom Associate Rabbi Eve Posen. “Our lay leadership was passionate about Zoom services in addition. Our congregants ... want to see each other’s faces.”
So just as in past years, when the shul has offered a downstairs minyan, a second service (on Zoom) has been added for first day Musaf.
Rabbi Eve also suggests people hold Zoom watch parties to view the streamed services. “Livestream the service and watch with friends on Zoom.” She jokingly adds, “You can talk to each other over the rabbi just like in services.”
For the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Neveh Shalom has offered congregants the chance to sign up for 10 minutes to stand in front of one of the arks in the congregation’s three sanctuaries. About 70 families signed up. After a health check, people will be allowed into the courtyard (standing in big marked areas). Everyone will get fresh-pressed cider from the congregation’s own cider press, which was purchased by the young family group. During the visits, families not visiting the ark are welcome to drive through the parking lot, enjoy fresh cider and listen to the shofar. 
Small-group tashlich services have also been planned in various neighborhoods around town. Participation is capped at 15 people per location.
Online services will be open to all, but a password is required. For the password and schedule, email hhd@nevehshalom.org.

Congregation Beth Israel
Congregation Beth Israel welcomes you to join us for the High Holidays. All are welcome to participate in the Erev Rosh Hashanah, Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre or Yom Kippur services filmed in our historic main sanctuary, and/or connect live with us via Zoom for conversations with our clergy, teen and tot experiences, music and meditation, or even a “behind the scenes” look at how we prepared for the High Holidays in this unusual year. Links to all High Holidays services and experiences can be found at bethisrael-pdx.org/cbi5781. A detailed description and links to Zoom opportunities for inspiration and connection may be found there as well. The site also contains links to the Reform movement site on how to celebrate at home. 
“We have all had to make major adjustments in our lives during this historic era,” reads a message from the Beth Israel clergy on the site. “As Jews have done throughout the ages when faced with challenges, we have adapted. Thank you for being our partner in this unique time. We miss you and send you blessings for a sacred and hopeful New Year.”

In past issues, The Jewish Review has shared congregations’ visions for the holidays this year. Read some previous articles at jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/congregations-visualize-high-holidays and


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