Area congregations dig deep in search of safe and spiritually sound High Holiday services

August 14, 2020

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From Reform to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between, Tidewater congregations in pursuit of prayer, have advanced more technologically in the last few months than in 30 years. Prior to 2020, rabbis and temple executives had no reason to believe they would become tech genies, directing congregants to their YouTube channel for High Holiday services or limiting the number of members that can pray in person provided they wear masks and sit apart.

Rosh Hashanah is a month away and some Tidewater congregations are still figuring out what the holidays will look like this year. Questions arise: ‘Can we invite people back safely? How many is too many? What if the numbers of cases surge? What if they drop?’

As of mid-August, this is a sampling of what is planned:

Ohef Sholom Temple will hold High Holiday services online, as they have deemed it the most reasonable way to keep congregants safe and healthy under the current pandemic climate. OST online services are open to the community, and accessible on a streaming services page.

KBH, Kempsville Conservative Synagogue is taking a hybrid approach. Members will be invited to pray in-person, while all others are welcome to join via ZOOM.

All High Holiday services at Congregation Beth El will be virtual. The services will be through live streaming and Zoom.

Beth Chaverim will be ZOOM only, with a guest rabbi and will incorporate their soloist and choir.
Shenkman Jewish Center, College of William & Mary, will not have any in-person services, but will get local service information forwarded to students.

B’nai Israel plans to be totally in-person, with restrictions to maintain a safe and healthy worship experience.
ZOOM (and mask) fatigue have caused some synagogues to keep services short. The tech savior has kept Jews in search of Torah and connection with their spiritual families, from wandering again, feeling totally lost.

The Sept. 7 issue of Jewish News will feature a complete line-up of area congregations’ plans for the High Holidays. Please look for it.

- Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor