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High Holy Day Update: Congregational Conversation

Dear TBS Family,

Almost two thousand years ago, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, our ancestors lamented their grave loss. Their entire way of life had been torn asunder from the leadership of the priests (Cohenim) to the offering of sacrifices. Yet even as they mourned this calamity, they began to reinvent Judaism. Prayer would replace sacrifices, synagogues were established in place of the Temple, and rabbis became our religious leaders instead of priests. This resilient and creative response to calamity is what enabled our people to thrive and flourish despite our circumstances.

Today we are facing a very different sort of disaster, but one, which nonetheless, is forcing us to reimagine how we observe our faith. The coronavirus pandemic and the risks it poses is preventing us from gathering in person, sharing prayers, singing out loud, breaking bread and passing the Torah from person to person. Nearly everything we traditionally do to observe the High Holy Days together is now hazardous to our health.

Realizing this brings me a bitter taste of what the ancient Israelites must have felt when they suddenly lost their religious foundation.

Yet like our ancestors, we, too, must reimagine how we will observe these holy days that are central to our Jewish lives. In conversations with local rabbis and rabbis across the United States, webinars and study groups,we are beginning to reinvent how we virtually gather in community to pray, learn, grow and spiritually renew ourselves. As Jews we know that the value of preserving life (pikuah nefesh) supersedes almost every other mitzvah. Therefore, after much discussion and contemplation, we have made the decision that Temple Beth Sholom will be offering virtual rather than in‐person spiritual High Holy Day opportunities this year.

I know this will be a loss for all of us. On Passover, I mourned that we could not have our regular 30+ person Seder in which we rejoice in every year. And yet the simple zoom Seder we held ended up including my nephew and his new wife in Amsterdam (where it was midnight!), my daughter and her fiancé in California (where it was 3:00 pm) and others with whom we never considered sharing our Seder because of the distance.

Because of this, our pandemic Seder was unexpectedly meaningful and joyful. My hope, prayer, and plan is that the High Holy Days will present another opportunity to connect in ways we had not imagined before. In addition to worship, we will share communal study, meditation, children’s programming and more. There will be more ways to learn, grow, and experience the High Holy Days than ever before.

We very much want your participation and input and there will be many ways to offer this. First, there will be two opportunities to connect and discuss what is important to you via zoom:

Tuesday, July 7 at 5:00 pm and Sunday, July 12 at 10:00 am

Secondly, in the coming days we will be asking you to contribute photos and video recordings so that your faces and voices will be represented in our services. We may not be gathered in one space, but we will be TBS (Together but Separate) throughout.

We hope to be able to come together in a small group for Selichot services on Saturday, September 12 at night and for Tashlich on Rosh HaShanah, and perhaps before then for Shabbat.

Finally, to any of our members who may not have a tablet or computer, or who need assistance in learning how to connect virtually, please contact Craig Berko (305.538.7231, ext. 230) as soon as possible. We will be happy to support you and give you the technical training you need to connect.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will be sending you a great deal of information about the High Holy Days.

Please remember that due to circumstances, everything will be different this year. Your clergy and lay leaders are dedicated to keeping our congregation safe and healthy. We are also committed to nourishing your souls and spirits, which are so sorely in need of uplift in these difficult days. We thank you for your understanding and hope that you will help us to make something beautiful and meaningful together just as our ancestors once did when circumstances demanded.

In the meantime, I hope you are staying safe and well and finding purpose in every new day. As always, my colleagues and I are available to speak to you and are looking forward to a summer of safe connection.


Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784