Dear Ohav family:
We are writing to update you on our plans for the High Holy Days 5781 and ask you to complete the brief survey below that will help us to make those plans.
We all know that this will be an experience unlike those of past years. Though the past few months have been anxious ones for our nation and for the world, our synagogue family is blessed to still be here, going strong and continuing to do the vital work of building Jewish life and community. The approaching High Holy Day season 5781 will be most special for us as we take time to reflect upon our lives, the coming year, and God’s blessings of strength and wisdom for us.
Judaism requires us to choose life by preserving it and avoiding danger, to act with a sense of communal obligation and responsibility, to practice kindness and pursue justice. As a religious community, Ohav Shalom will continue to model these four values through how we conduct our religious life safely during the COVID pandemic crisis. This will especially be the case during the coming High Holy Day season.
We have listened very carefully to the expert advice of public health professionals, the strong recommendations of our rabbis, our safety and security subcommittee, our High Holy Day Task Force, and our Executive Committee concerning safe worship and programming during this time. Based on all of these recommendations, our Board of Trustees has voted that we will not hold our large in-person indoor services this year. Instead, we are exploring a variety of other opportunities for us to come together safely as a community. In addition, we are considering the possibility and practicality of a number of small outdoor gatherings. The rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic will determine if this is feasible.
This decision was not arrived at lightly. We know that this is a constantly changing situation and we have no way of knowing now what will be permitted or safe in September. We are motivated always by pikuach nefesh—the obligation to preserve and protect life. We will not create a situation that poses any danger to our community members.
While we share your disappointment at missing our community gathering in our beautiful sanctuary to observe these sacred holy days, we are excited about the many new ways to rethink our holy day experience. We have the joyous opportunity, moving forward, to utilize the best technological innovations, religious values and practices, and educational programs at our disposal to make 5781 a truly inspiring time for everyone.
Your insights and experiences matter to our leadership as we begin to explore innovative approaches to the eight weeks of the holy season, from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul through Simchat Torah, and ways for congregants of all ages to experience the joy and the solemnity of this season.
Every member of our sacred community plays a role in creating this unique picture. In the brief survey below, you have an opportunity to share your insights and concerns with us. Of course, no leadership can accommodate every suggestion or request made by its members. However, we assure you that everyone’s responses to our survey will be read and given thoughtful consideration.
No matter the upheaval and uncertainty around us, the Jewish people has always found a way to mark sacred time, study Torah and find our way to wholeness together. We are looking forward to creating a wonderfully spiritual and meaningful High Holy Days season, and to celebrating the new year with all of our Ohav family in the months ahead.
Judy Avner, President Rabbi Dan Ornstein Rabbi Rena Kieval