With Years of Experience Organizing Outdoor Shofar Services, Chabad Has Adapted its Model for the Jewish New Year of 5781 with COVID-19.
With the High Holidays approaching and COVID-19 creating difficulties for many in joining a traditional synagogue service, Chabad North of Montana will hold an outdoor Rosh Hashanah Shofar service on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. on the Lawn outside Franklin Elementary School open free to all Jewish Monicans, no membership required.
The service, which will include prayers for the wellbeing of all humanity—a key theme of Rosh Hashanah—will also be centered around hearing the sound of the Shofar, the central observance of the holiday. It will be one of thousands listed on Chabad.org/HighHolidayServices, the world’s largest directory of outdoor High Holiday services.
“The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, considered the most influential rabbi in modern history, insisted that the observance of hearing the Shofar— the key observance of Rosh Hashanah—be made accessible to all Jews even those not attending synagogue,” Rabbi Chaim Teleshevsky explained. Chabad North of Montana has always prioritized making Judaism available to all. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has taken on a whole new meaning, but our mission to serve everyone remains the same.”
While Rosh Hashanah services are generally held in a synagogue, Chabad North of Montana has in past years met the needs of those who couldn’t make it with a short outdoor service focused on the shofar observance. Chabad North of Montana also creates accessibility by creating a welcoming and nonjudgmental atmosphere and affordability, with no expectation of membership or affiliation. This year, they’ve gone a step further to ensure that the very real health concerns we face are not an impediment to holiday observance.
“Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry, and to encourage each and every Jewish person to actively participate in the observances of Rosh Hashanah,” said Rebetzin Shira Teleshevsky “This year, that means bringing a Rosh Hashanah service to a location where people can safely participate and making it free of charge as many in our community are hurting financially now.”
The 30-minute service will include the sounding of the shofar as well as selected prayers from the High Holiday liturgy. While not a substitute for the complete Rosh Hashanah prayer service (which can and should be done at home if one is not able to join a congregation), the service will enable everyone to hear the shofar, and bring a heightened sense of community during this difficult time.
To ensure the wellbeing of participants, those present at the event will be asked to wear masks, and stay six feet away from people not living in the same household.
Chabad North of Montana will also be hosting their regular traditional High Holiday service, albeit with a more limited crowd, outdoors and distanced, on the morning of Sept. 19 at and Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. at Franklin Elementary School.
As COVID-19 has changed the way people gather to worship they will be holding services in the yard with limits on attendance and safety protocols to keep everyone safe while praying for the year ahead.
Submitted by Rabbi Chaim Teleshevsky