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A Virtual High Holy Day Experience

We know that all of you are anxious to learn more about CBY’s plans for the High Holy Days and we’re very grateful for those of you who took the time to complete our High Holy Day survey last month, and for the many congregants who have personally shared with us their hopes and concerns. Your input was hugely helpful and also confirmed both the complexities and emotions surrounding this discussion. The High Holy Day Task Force has carefully considered many factors, including issues of transportation, sanitization, the challenges of addressing the needs of people of many different ages and health-comprised, and the mandated restrictions on singing and chanting. Ultimately, the Task Force, Clergy, Staff, and Board of Trustees all came to the same conclusion: As much as we want to gather together physically for the High Holy Days, the only responsible decision is to plan and prepare for virtual services.

We understand that this news, while maybe not a shock, is certainly a disappointment. Congregation B’nai Yisrael is a community committed to its history and traditions and none of those traditions speaks to us as much as coming together in this sacred space for the High Holy Days. Please know that this was not a decision we came to lightly. The discussions have been passionate, informative, and intense. In the end, however we realized that an in-person experience that would also attempt to ensure the safety and security of our members would not resemble anything close to what we have come to expect, it would not be something we would be proud of, and it would be less than what you deserve as members of CBY. Conversely, a service experience that did meet all of those needs would not allow for the sort of social distancing and other precautions necessary to ensure your safety, and the safety of our wider community. While our only concern is doing what is best for Congregation B’nai Yisrael, other congregations in our region have reached the same conclusion.

So what does this mean?

First, let us start by saying what this doesn’t mean. It does not mean that we will simply stream our usual High Holy Day service. That may work for Shabbat but it won’t work for the High Holy Days for a variety of reasons.

We view this as an opportunity to boldly re-imagine what the High Holy Days can be, even virtually. We will, with your help, and with an eye towards honoring the traditions of our community, create an experience that will be spiritual, meaningful, participatory, dynamic, and unique to our congregation.

Already we have started thinking about a number of different
enhancement opportunities that we can share throughout the month of Elul, leading up to the High Holy Days and running through the end of Simchat Torah. Our goal is to create as many diverse and exciting opportunities for engagement (both virtually and in small physical gatherings) around the High Holy Days as possible. To remove as many barriers between our members and a meaningful worship experience as possible. To create new traditions that we can carry forward with us when this crisis passes. To build, together, an experience that we can all be proud of.

We understand that you may have additional questions about our decision making process and future plans. We invite you to not only join us for the town hall conversations linked above, but to also review this list of frequently asked questions. As always, if you have any additional questions, or would like to set up a time to speak more in-depth about this decision, please contact Rabbi Joshua StromExecutive Director Ava SapersteinTask Force Chair Michelle Honig, or CBY President Aaron Kwittken.

Thank you again for your dedication and support through what have clearly been challenging times for us all.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Joshua Strom
Cantor Lilah Sugarman
Aaron Kwittken, President

Michelle Honig, Vice President
Elissa Lefkowitz, Vice President
Robert Okin, Treasurer
Tamar Schweitzer, Secretary
Blake Eger, Member-at-Large

Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780