Perspectives on the 2020 High Holy Days – Overview

At this point, saying that 2020 is unprecedented nothing new. It might even be an understatement.

But when it comes to how Jewish congregations — and their clergy — experienced the High Holy Days, there is really no precedent.

With all of the talk before the holidays about how synagogues and others were preparing for what normally are some of their most sacred — and highly attended — events, we reached out to members of our community after their conclusion to see how things went, how they were different and what they learned.

Specifically, we asked the following questions:

  1. How did your synagogue/community approach the High Holidays? Your services were likely online, or outside and at a distance, but were there additional activities this year? Fewer? Were your sessions live, prerecorded, or some combination?
  2. Did your synagogue track the numbers of people who attended your services and activities? To the best of your knowledge, were they higher, lower or about the same as in (non-pandemic) years past?
  3. How did you personally have to change your personal preparation for the Holidays?
  4. Finally, what did you and your colleagues learn from this experience? If this is what Judaism looks like for the near term future, what do you think worked well? What didn’t? What are you and your colleagues taking away from these last couple of weeks?

We received wonderfully thoughtful responses from a cross section of rabbinic and cantorial alumni and current students living in different parts of the country. Some lead larger congregations, some smaller, and they included a variety of responses to the pandemic.

To see what our alumni and current students shared, please keep reading:

Thanks so much to all who shared their reflections. We hope you will share your own HHD experiences in the comments area!

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