Board Votes to Hold High Holy Days On Zoom

By Sandra Z. Armstrong

A child blowing a shofar

“A modern Conservative perspective would see the Torah as a living organism, constantly shedding cells and growing new ones, changing and adapting to new and unprecedented circumstances.”

– Commentary, Etz Hayim, 4:2 Va-Ethannan, p.1007

On Friday, June 26, we held an outdoor Sof event at Kalama Beach Club in Kailua. We were hoping that outdoors would provide the safest possible venue to have a live service during the pandemic. Fortunately, we had a beautiful beach day with lots of sun and ocean fun combined with sounds of children’s laughter and boogie boarding waves. As evening approached, Malka Rappaport led an exquisite service enhanced by the cool ocean breezes, clear skies and softly swaying pines nearby.

This important event helped clarify thoughts regarding resumption of services in the Unitarian Church. As a minyan is made of ten Jews, so it is also made up of ten individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 in uniquely different ways. What might be okay for one person will not be okay for the next. No matter how many precautions are taken, there is no way to predict how or why each person will react to a particular social event. And then, up to the minute, the outlook of any member of that minyan has an absolute right to say, “I am uncomfortable with this.” We are in a time in our lives when the health and welfare of our beloved community needs to be our highest consideration. Therefore, the board has decided to have High Holy Day services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on Zoom.

I am honored to be your president at a time when zooming creates the best possible atmosphere on Shabbat. This interactive venue is lively and enables us to come away feeling passion, compassion, and love.

As a congregation that worships and builds our Jewish community during these difficult times, we create extraordinary ruach. Each week, it happens, and each week we are fulfilled with God’s promise to extend ourselves in ways we never thought possible. On the screen of faces, we catch emotion and joy up close and personal. We share in each other’s lives in a way never achieved before by seeing everyone’s expression all at once. This unique weekly celebration of life keeps us, as Shabbat has kept the Jewish people for thousands of years, so we keep it now. We have found a way to adapt and to adapt well.

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