Rescuing Rosh Hashanah
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HIGH HOLY DAYS & COVID-19

Rescuing Rosh Hashanah

Subject to government approval, organisers are planning shofar blowing in local parks within earshot of residents so they can fulfil the mitzvah of hearing the shofar sounded.

Rabbi Moshe Kahn will be one of a number of people blowing the shofar outside on second day Rosh Hashanah.
Photo: Peter Haskin
Rabbi Moshe Kahn will be one of a number of people blowing the shofar outside on second day Rosh Hashanah. Photo: Peter Haskin

GIVEN the current restrictions on gathering for worship, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) is in talks with the Victorian government to solve how Orthodox Jews can observe the High Holy Days.

A letter from the rabbinical body to RCV members stated, “We are holding regular discussions with representatives of the Premier’s Department and the Department of Multicultural Affairs to discuss the needs of the Jewish community. Our aim is for the relevant decision makers to be fully aware of the key dates in our calendar and what they mean for us and require of us as Jews. While nobody knows what the coming weeks will bring, we are working on plans for every possible scenario.”

The RCV stated it hopes “these discussions will enable us to provide the community with clear guidance as to what may be done on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year within the letter and the spirit of government guidelines”.

RCV members were also told of Project High Holy Days, under which RCV rabbis and rebbetzins “will create opportunities to connect with our holiest of days – with our minds, our bodies and souls”. 

“This Rosh Hashanah, even if we cannot spend as much time in our synagogues, let us prepare to welcome The King into every one of our homes.”

Chabad Youth director Rabbi Moshe Kahn told The AJN that under Project High Holy Days, subject to government approval, organisers are planning shofar blowing in local parks within earshot of residents so they can fulfil the mitzvah of hearing the shofar sounded. Special arrangements will be made for people in outlying areas of Melbourne – and those with special needs – to have a visit by a shofar blower to their street.

Teenaged volunteers who wish to learn the art of blowing a shofar are being sought by Chabad Youth and will be presented with a shofar as a keepsake. “We’ll have an army of volunteers who go out on Rosh Hashanah and blow the shofar. We’re going to be giving out hundreds of shofars.”

Another initiative under Project High Holy Days will be home kits helping families to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, said Rabbi Kahn, similar to those distributed before Pesach this year, with special programs for children. 

Drawing these activities together will be a major online community event focusing on Selichot at the beginning of the High Holy Days.

“We want our community to know that no matter what the situation will be, which none of us can know, we will work tirelessly to make these High Holy Days as meaningful and as engaging as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Progressive Jews are taking part in High Holy Days online under Yachad (Together), a Temple Beth Israel (TBI) initiative providing resources for yomtov worship. The program sees TBI joining with Etz Chayim, Leo Baeck Centre and Kedem synagogues to welcome 5781, said Rabbi Gersh Lazarow, TBI’s senior rabbi.

Yachad – which will include live streaming and interactive components – is based around yachad.org.au, a website enabling congregants to take part in High Holy Day services, and share reflections, hear music and daily shofar soundings during Elul. Family shule services and activities are part of the package, accessible with a digital ticket and secure log-in.

Rabbi Lazarow said those who prefer will be able to listen to the shule services simulcast on J-AIR Jewish radio.

The rabbi encouraged members of Progressive Judaism Victoria to reach out to anyone in the Jewish community who might be feeling vulnerable during this stressful time to join in these activities. “While missing out on attending services in person is not easy, we need to do all that we can to not only safeguard life – pikuach nefesh – but to make sure that our people and our tradition thrive.”

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