The ramp up to this year’s High Holy Days feels... different. That’s no surprise to any of us. Whether our preparations include cooking for gatherings of people, preparing to lead or participate in prayer, or taking time to reflect inward – we are approaching these days from such different physical and spiritual places than in the past.
At a time when how we access and create Jewish community and meaning is changing faster than ever due to the needs of the moment, I like to remember that the Open Dor Project communities have been experimenting with what it means to access and build Jewish community and moments of spiritual meaning for years. Sure, they are forced to adapt to this time like everyone else, but the conceptual curiosity to redefine Jewish spiritual practice means that the Open Dor Project rabbis and communities have positioned themselves to be leaders and teachers in how to pivot and experiment while still pursuing a clear vision.
Below, read a taste of what’s happening in the communities around the High Holy Days. Some offer virtual experiences, all are creating content (and even publishing a children’s book) and offering it with love.
Wishing you a sweet new year,
Rabbi Ana Bonnheim
Director, Open Dor Project
Community High Holiday Updates
The Beloved Brooklyn community gathered in-person at Prospect Park for selichot on Saturday afternoon. Rabbi Sara was joined by Beloved rabbinic intern, Laura Marder and Beloved musical leader, Elana Arian -- all three wore white, stood 12 feet apart, and led the crowd of 50 beloveds (the maximum for a gathering in NYC) in a beautiful, powerful, and unprecedented prayer experience (which was also live-streamed on zoom).
Rabbi Sara shared this introduction to the gathering:
I am a firm believer in Elul, as you might imagine. I am all for reflection and honest self-assessment and hard conversations and renewal and prayer and the shofar and waking up and a new start - all of it. This year, beloveds, it just feels so close to impossible. I feel like every time I hear "Shana tova" it’s like a tiny moment of gas lighting – like wait is everyone else just like moving on with it and doing ok in their zoom boxes? Meanwhile, I’m thinking ‘a good year? I can barely get through the day!’ If you are like me, just know you are not alone. 5780 has been so terrible and if you’re not in the renewal and reflection spirit, don’t worry. The liturgy today is mostly in the plural, we will have to hold up each other, even from 10 feet away.
Earlier this summer, the Den Collective created numerous gatherings and opportunities to move their community through this sacred and unique season together, working to keep the Den community close, especially while so many of us might feel particularly distant. the Den joined together with friends and partners from across the nation to offer even more opportunities for the community to learn, sing, pray, meditate, cook, and connect during Elul and also throughout Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Some highlights include:
Delivering ready-made challah dough to 20/30s throughout DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, in preparation for the Den's Knead to Know: Rosh Hashana Challah Bake & Learning class, where we learned to bake round Rosh Hashana challot and while the challahs were in the oven, we immersed ourselves in a text study and discussion about teshuva, and the many ways we practice "returning" during this season.
Volunteer leaders (aka "hike captains") at the Den led 3 socially distant Pre-HiHo Hikes & Learning in Rock Creek Park for fellow community members. Mid-hike the group gathered for holiday learning and discussion.
Last Saturday night the Den band gathered socially distant on Rabbi Aderet's front lawn to virtually lead the Den community in a very unique and meaningful Selichot: Singing Circle + Havdalah.
Rabbi Aderet will be leading virtual High Holy Day services, RENEW: Contemplative + Holistic High Holy Day Services, open to the community.
Click here to learn more about the Den's upcoming gatherings and High Holy Day offerings.
Shana Tova u'Metuka!
Rabbi Aderet & the Den team
“Arise and build!” Our People proclaimed these words, galvanized by the prophet Nehemiah to rebuild their destroyed Temple, their destroyed city after generations of exile. These words inspire Malkhut's theme for the High Holy Days this year as we commit to rising up amidst the destruction, the suffering and the injustices that have been laid bare in our lives and our world during this pandemic crisis. Before COVID hit, we may have thought we were safe, comfortable, protected. But the structures of democracy, of safety nets, of justice were already showing their cracks, and crumbling. To look at these truths is profoundly anxiety-inducing. And at the same time, when we can be with the ruins, the possibility of building utterly new structures comes into view. We can “Arise and build!”
Artwork by Malkhut lay leader Jonny Goldstein
Weaving this theme throughout the Days of Awe, Malkhut is creating opportunities for our community to celebrate the High Holy Days at home this year. Rabbi Goldenberg will be leading Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services on Zoom, along with Music Director Kris Wettstein and many collaborators and cocreators. We’ll also be hosting other online events for all ages before and during the Holy Days where participants will learn, create, and connect with others in the community. And, to give folks a break from screen time, we’re developing other resources to help people celebrate and find meaning on their own time.
Malkhut’s High Holy Days are a collaboration with local Queens lay-led groups: Kehillat Tikvah, Wandering Jews of Astoria, and the Queens Jewish Project. Our High Holy Days are supported by a grant from UJA-Federation of New York.
All of our events are free and open to all, but registration is required in order to receive zoom links.
For more information and to register, please head here: https://www.malkhutqueens.org/p/high-holy-days.html
We dwell in the white space; in the In-Between. It is within this space that we make meaning of this time. It is upon us to define it. It is upon us to choose: Do we do the work this Elul and High Holidays? Or are we going to take a "Hall Pass"? While some must stay home, many of us have the freedom of re-emergence with social distancing. Emerging into this “white space” is unique, as in it we dwell in an acute experience of relational community. Martin Buber writes in his seminal work “I and Thou”: “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” God dwells in the in between. As the High Holidays are our season of apprehending a numinous presence in our midst, it is clear that this year is a unique experience as we will hover in the “Before” and the "After": God’s House of In Between.
In 2020, this liminal space of Quarantine resembles the flu epidemic of 1918, the cholera epidemic of 1849, or any other epidemic Jews faced in our history (there are many). All found a way for meaning making while waiting it out in the White Space of The In Between.
The antidote to the existential isolation of this time is to figure out how to break out of our Quarantine and Return to the electricity between us. While sitting in front of a screen will certainly emit electricity, this experience with the inanimate is what Buber might call an I-IT experience. For an I-Thou, we need LIVE HUMAN ENERGY.
The Jewish Journal spotlights Open Temple as one of the few communities in Los Angeles offering live High Holidays this year. Open Temple's High Holiday Ritual Lab goes LIVE on Electric Avenue and follows best social distance practices with Rosh HaShanah Awakening,Family Services, Yom Kippur Urban Retreat and more experiences TOGETHER. The Selichot Schvitz invites all of us to the beach with a Venice Gold’s Gym trainer ready to CrossFit the Body and Soul and Sweat out 2020.
This time may feel paradoxically burdensome and empty. This is hard. However, as Venice Street Art reminds us: After the Plague Came the Renaissance. May All of Us Rediscover Inspiration through Our Holy High Holiday Work and Begin to Create a Glorious AFTER for 5781. And May We Make Meaning of this White Space In-Between within the Electricity of Community.
Alumni Community Updates
The high holidays have the power to lift us out of our own individual worlds and connect us deeply to ourselves, to one another, and to something greater. Join us this year for an uplifting, connective, musical holiday experience through live, at-home services & programming led by Rabbi Adina Allen and Jeff Kasowitz (Co-Founders of the Jewish Studio Project) with Maya Abramson and Jordan Lowe. These liturgically-grounded services bring the prayers alive through a mix of traditional melodies, uplifting contemporary music, and powerful teachings that will open your heart to the depths of meaning that these holy days have to offer.
All are warmly invited. Please register to join us here!
Still looking to get the most out of your Elul? Check out these 4 creative exercises designed to connect art making and creative process to the work of teshuva. You can download the prompts here.
We're going BIG by going SMALL.
This year, we're excited to present
Tiny Tashlich: A Well-Produced Rosh Hashanah Experience.
At Tiny Tashlich: A Well-Produced Rosh Hashanah Experience, you’ll see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and EXPERIENCE the ritual of tashlich with your most authentic self. This customizable, immersive experience brings unconventional tools (like Silent-Disco Headphones!) to an ancient tradition, and allows you to engage in reflection, connection, and celebration with your friends at a safe physical distance.
Arrive with an open mind and an introspective spirit; leave with a renewed sense of peace and excitement for the year to come, a potted plant of the herb or vegetable of your choice, and a bag of seasonally-themed snacks and swag!
Groups will be limited to 10 participants. We're hosting 15 sessions of Tiny Tashlich in the 7 days between Sunday, September 20th and Saturday, September 27th. Due to the generosity of donors, tickets are available at the subsidized price of $15.
But wait, there's more! We're hosting Tashlich virtually, too!
This is the place for you to cast away your stresses, anxieties, and woeful habits to start your year fresh! What are you letting go of? What do you need for more balance? Who will you spend more time connecting with? Toss your anonymous submissions into the virtual well! Your intentions will help inform how we design our year, and help you articulate your priorities for 5781.Click here for Virtual Tashlich at The Well!We're so excited about moving into 5781 with this amazing community by our side. May we continue to go from strength to strength together.
The Well Team