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High Holidays 2020

Dear Members of B’nai Israel,

With so much uncertainty all around, it is not surprising that people are starting to ask questions about the High Holidays this year. The High Holidays are a pinnacle moment of congregational life, and we are working diligently to deliver that experience to you in whatever capacity we are allowed. This early in the planning stage, there are really only two things we know for sure: Rosh Hashanah will begin on the 1st of Tishrei (Friday evening September 18) and things are going to be very different this year.

We are planning around the assumption that by mid-September religious gatherings will be permitted, but there will still be size limitations and other protocols to enforce social distancing for the safety of our community. Given those limitations, it does not seem realistic to have our traditional seat assignments and tickets sales this fall. Instead, we will be conducting a High Holiday Appeal. We hope people who normally purchase nonmember tickets or rent extra seats for family members will still support us even though their contributions will not be linked to seats or admissions, as those revenues are an important part of our annual budget.

We have not yet decided how honors will work, but it is difficult to imagine Torah parades or the handshakes and kisses that accompany invitations to open the ark. And then there are the logistical challenges like how to enter and exit the building without creating unsafe opportunities for congregating, protecting shared items like prayerbooks and tallitot, and determining how often to clean restrooms and sanitize other surfaces.

As of today, we are planning to hold traditional services, likely in the usual three locations, with a livestream option from Dweck. Rather than planning for all core activities to take place during busy morning sessions, we are looking at the possibility of scheduling multiple services and experiential opportunities throughout the week, including some outdoor gatherings, so people who do not feel comfortable entering the building for our larger services might have other opportunities to celebrate the holidays with the community in other ways.

To help us develop these programs, we ask you to please complete a short, five question survey. Please respond by June 5. We plan to use your input to create a new menu of experiences and then mail High Holiday packets at the beginning of July. We will continue to adjust our plans throughout the summer as public health guidance changes.

Like you, we are eager to celebrate as we normally would and remain hopeful that the day will come soon; But this year is going to be different, and we want to be as prepared as possible. Working together, we know we can create a meaningful experience that celebrates our rituals, honors our traditions, and brings our B’nai Israel community together.


Steve Rothenberg, President
Rabbi Michael Safra
Hal Ossman, Executive Director

Wed, May 27 2020 4 Sivan 5780