By Edward D. Gold
As the sun was setting on Rosh Hashana 2020 I couldn’t help but reflect on how we celebrated this very important Holiday. It would be an understatement to merely say it was different.
It was the first time my wife and I were not in the presence of family.
It was the first time we were somewhere other than in our home in Michigan.
It was the first time we weren’t at services with members of our community.
Thank goodness we were able to make it special by attending services by video. Special thanks to the Rabbi, Cantor and lay leadership at Temple Shir Shalom for providing a beautiful service on Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon, including a family service for families and their children. I am also grateful to our daughter in law who worked tirelessly with others to produce the video transmission that we were able to see. It was also a treat to attend the family service, by Zoom, with our daughter and our granddaughters.
I am grateful to the Temple for making their services available to the entire community. These are difficult times. Many of our fellow Jews are unemployed or have businesses that have suffered during this pandemic. Now more than ever it was important to be inclusive. To make sure everyone could participate in one of the most important religious events of the year.
I make this observation because I know that some Synagogues in our community made their services, by video hookup, available only to their paid up members. I know those that did so felt that if they made it available to all, some of their members would not meet their financial obligations in a timely manner. This is not speculation as I raised this issue and was told this by leadership. I expressed my feeling that this year was different. That our community was hurting and that decisions needed to be made to benefit everyone, whether a “member” of the institution or not. Unfortunately, I was not successful.
We also attended by a link the services at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center (Florida). Our friend Rabbi Jonathon Berkun is it’s spiritual leader. On Friday eve, before the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, they had a drive-in service. On a large vacant lot, they erected a stage and a huge video screen and made the audio available by FM to those parked in the lot. The services that night and the following night (also at the lot) as well as Saturday and Sunday morning at the Synagogue were available to everyone who wanted to watch by video. The services were wonderful. It was also special to see Jeremy Berkun (Jonathan and Rabbi Lauren’s son) accompany on the keyboard and sing along as part of the service. Jonathon played his guitar as part of the service. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
In the end, being able to join these services by video helped bring the spiritual fulfillment we longed for. We probably spent more time than we ever had in the past being part of the religious experience of the holiday. I hope that everyone was able to be part of a service. I only hope that next year we can return to “normal” whatever that might look like. I hope our institutions will revisit their decision and next time act in a way of total inclusivity.
Edward D. Gold is an Attorney at Law.