HIGH HOLY DAY SERVICES 2020 – 5781
Following our letter of last month, where we wrote to you with an initial outline of the plans for this year’s High Holy Days, we write again, two weeks ahead of Rosh Hashanah (beginning on Friday evening 18th Sept) to lay out our plans and provide some additional information. As we hope the below shows, an enormous amount of thought has gone into preparing these services by a great many people. We hope you will find them enjoyable and meaningful.
As you know, given the ongoing pandemic, the Synagogue Council believes it is in the best interest of our membership not to hold any physical services for this year’s High Holy Days. Everyone, including our rabbis, will be leading and participating in the services from their homes, and the services will be shared online via Zoom and on social media. Links to the services will be emailed to you in the week beforehand. We have written specifically to members without internet access to discuss options with them for accessing the services – we are still happy to discuss options with anyone who wishes to contact the office about their circumstances.
While holding the services online will be a significant change from usual, we are looking to take advantage of the changes where possible. As distance is no barrier, we will be sharing a number of services with other Synagogues (the Liberal communities in Bristol, Reading and Ealing, and SWESRS locally). As well as increasing the number of rabbis and service leaders, it also means we are able to offer a range of additional activities from normal. These include:
- Three virtual meals: a dinner before the Rosh Hashanah evening service, a lunch after the Rosh Hashanah morning service, and a meal to break the fast on Yom Kippur. We will group 3-4 interested households together to share a meal online. If you are interested in attending any of these meals please contact Sam in the office on 020 8989 7619 or email@example.com, stating which meal/s you would like to join. Please also let us know if you would be happy to host the meal – this does not involve any extra work but means that you would be a point of contact for us in arranging who goes to which meal.
- Extra study sessions
- A havdallah ceremony at the end of Rosh Hashanah (in addition to the one we usually hold at the end of Yom Kippur).
- Extra activities for YK afternoon aside from the machzor services, including a meditative service and pre-recorded material that can be used away from a screen – for example, recordings of explanations about the High Holy Days by rabbis from across the Movement.
- ELELS’s first ever virtual cooking class! The honey cake for our Rosh Hashanah Kiddush is made by Alice Wilcock. As you won’t be able to sample it in person this year Alice has agreed to give away her carefully guarded family recipe in a live cook-along on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. Click here for the list of required ingredients.
Full details of services and activities are in the schedule of services that can be accessed by clicking here.
We also anticipate that other progressive synagogues may be offering activities on Yom Kippur that you would be welcome to join and we will forward details when we have them.
Machzors (Prayer Books)
We realise it can be harder to maintain concentration in online services than it is in person, so we will ensure that no service lasts longer than 90 minutes. This means, in a few cases, that the services will be shortened from usual.
Everything the service leader is reading will be shared on the screen during the service, so even if you do not have your own copy of the prayer books you will be able to follow online. If you wished to take a break from looking at the screen however, and wanted to have a hard copy of the text, the prayer book we will be using is Liberal Judaism’s green-covered Machzor Ruach Chadashah.
If you wish to buy a copy they can be obtained from the office at a cost of £19. Please contact us on 020 8989 7619 or firstname.lastname@example.org to order. Please ensure you order at least a week in advance of Rosh Hashanah to ensure that it reaches you in time.
However, as noted above, some of the services have been slightly truncated, so it may be easier to follow the liturgy onscreen.
While we will try to create the usual High Holy Day atmosphere online it would be optimistic to think we could do this as well as we could at a physical service. Accordingly, to help you create the appropriate atmosphere at home, you may wish to think about where you will be sitting on the day and what you will be able to see from your seat, what will appear in the background of your video, and how you will appear on the screen.
We would request that anyone visible on camera is doing nothing that might distract other service attenders, including eating (especially during Yom Kippur). Of course, we all realise that it is medically or physically essential for some to eat or drink at times during the day. If you think others may be distracted we would ask that you turn your camera off temporarily for that time – please note that this action will not affect your ability to watch the service.
Candles and Kiddushim
The service leader will have all of the ritual equipment required, but if you would like to join in with candle lighting and Kiddushim at home you may wish to have the following available:
- Erev Rosh Hashanah – two Shabbat-type candles and candle holders, Kiddush wine or grape juice, challah and apples & honey
- Rosh Hashanah morning – Kiddush wine / grape juice, challah and apples & honey
- Kol Nidre – two Shabbat-type candles, a yahrzeit ( yizkor – memorial) candle and candle holders
- End of Yom Kippur – a havdallah kit including wine / grape juice and a havdallah candle for the end of the day – and a shofar if you are feeling adventurous!
Rosh Hashanah Kiddush
It has been ELELS’s custom that the whole congregation comes together for the Kiddush after the Rosh Hashanah morning service. We wish to make a slight change this year. We plan to have a communal gathering together at the end of the service itself, during the closing blessings, and will be asking all members following on Zoom to turn their cameras on so that everyone can see each other at that time. We then plan to hold the Kiddush in smaller groups of 10-12 to enable members to chat more readily after the service. One of the biggest drawbacks of Zoom is that it is almost impossible for multiple people to speak at once so we wanted to arrange smaller groups for the Kiddush to try to retain the social aspect of the experience.
Rosh Hashanah Tots’ Service
If you have children under five and would like to join this service on Rosh Hashanah afternoon, please email email@example.com in advance. This is partly for security reasons, but also so that we can send you gifts in advance to use in the service!
ELELS has previously offered a Tashlich walk on Rosh Hashanah afternoon. While the Government’s current guidance on social distancing makes it difficult for us to arrange a single walk for all members, it is perfectly permissible for households to conduct their own walks. Accordingly, we attach a service booklet for you to use if you wish. Please click here in order to view or download the document.
The Fast for Yom Kippur
If you are keeping the fast on Yom Kippur, it should be for a 24-hour period, although tradition has made it 25 hours. Liberal Judaism acknowledges some members might wish to keep the traditional times which are: Sunday 27th September at 6:28pm to Monday 28th September at 7:33pm.
Yizkor (Memorial) Service
ELELS’s custom has been to read out loud the names of those being remembered by members during the Memorial Service. We want to ensure that the reading of names does not go on for so long that it becomes hard to maintain the right atmosphere of reflection. This is at a particular premium this year, given the increased concentration needed to follow services online. We therefore ask that you only provide names if you plan to attend the service on Yom Kippur afternoon, and do not provide more than three names – although you are welcome to write the name of a family or a couple rather than an individual.
In a change from recent custom, we will require all names in advance. Please could we ask that you provide names no later than Sunday 20th September. For practical reasons it simply won’t be possible to add names to the list on Yom Kippur itself so we ask that you meet this deadline to ensure the names you would wish are included.
Our preferred method of adding to the list is to ask you to type the names into this online form https://forms.gle/2U35WzWbCjz1NmJA8. This will make it much easier to ensure all names are correctly included. However, if that is not possible, please send your chosen names to Sam in the office in writing at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, Marlborough Road, London E18 1AR.
Please note that there is no need to list the names of congregants who have died in the past year as their names will already be included. The names of members core to the histories of Bet Tikvah and Woodford will also be included, through discussions with the rabbis and long-serving members of each legacy congregation. Please feel free to contact the office if you wish to confirm whose names have already been included.
It is traditional to visit the gravesides of relatives in Elul, the month that leads up to Rosh Hashanah. While cemeteries are open for visitors it might not be possible to obtain prayer books at this current time. Accordingly, we attach a service booklet for you to use if you wish. Click here in order to view or download it.
Attendance by Non-Members and Security
In previous years we have provided tickets to the High Holy Day services for non-members at a suggested price of £25. For a variety of reasons we do not plan to do so this year, so please feel free to invite guests to our services. However we would ask that you do not make the link publicly available as, sadly, there are still security concerns with admitting people to the service we do not know. We will, however, be sharing the services online via social media. Unlike our Zoom links, anyone watching the service via social media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube would not be able to interact with the service or see other congregants, and so you can invite them to join us on either Facebook or YouTube. Although there is no charge to attend the service, we would ask you to encourage any guests you invite to consider making a donation to this year’s High Holy Days Appeal.
For security reasons, if you are joining on Zoom, we ask that you ensure the name that is displayed on your screen is your actual full name. Some accounts are set up with names such as ‘iPhone’. Please note, our wardens on the day are being asked not to admit anyone on Zoom unless their name appears on our membership list or is a guest introduced to us.
Kol Nidre Appeal
The High Holy Days are a traditional time to give donations to improve life for those less fortunate than ourselves and you have given generously for our appeal causes in the past. This year Council was particularly mindful of the problems lockdown has caused for many and, having considered suggestions received from members, has chosen the following causes as this year’s recipients:
- Women’s Aid
- Jami (Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill)
- East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue
Details about how to make payment electronically will be announced at the time the appeal is launched. If you are unable to play electronically, please send a cheque payable to ‘East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue’ to ‘The Treasurer, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, Marlborough Road, London E18 1AR’ and mark it as ‘High Holy Day Appeal’.
Sadly we won’t have the opportunity to build a communal sukkah this year or hold a communal chavurah supper, but we will be bringing you the service from inside a sukkah and plan to have a moment during the evening when everyone watching is able to show us their sukkah. Your sukkah doesn’t have to be full size or inhabitable (a sukkah made out of Lego would qualify!) so please feel free to be as creative as you like.
On Simchat Torah it is traditional to honour two members of the community for their contribution to the life of the Shul. This year, given the remarkable surge in volunteer support to respond to the challenges of lockdown, we felt that honouring only two members would not be sufficient. We therefore have special plans in place – more details to follow shortly.
While these services will be held remotely and there won’t be a procession around the Shul, there are plans afoot in the cheder to add festivity to the service and we are encouraging members to put up multi-coloured decorations as a background to add to the occasion.
If you have any questions on any of the above, please ask the rabbis, any member of the Rites & Practices committee, or Sam in the Synagogue office.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish you Shanah Tovah and say how much we look forward to joining with you at our services over the High Holy Days.
With all best wishes,
Elliott Porte and Ben Glassman
Co-Chairs of the Rites and Practices Committee