Rosh HaShanah online

September 17, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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By embracing computing technology, Sydney’s Emanuel Synagogue has launched a program of making their services for the High Holy Days available online.

Reverend Zwarenstein and Cantor Mordecai are filmed in preparation for Emanuel Synagogue’s Rosh Hashanah service.

Amid the current concerns around transmission of COVID-19, the synagogue has taken steps to make sure all services throughout the high holy days will be made available online to all members of the congregation and the wider Jewish community.

“Early and timely responses are critical, which is what we have done here,” said Suzanna Helia, CEO at Emanuel Synagogue.

Located in Sydney’s inner eastern suburb of Woollahra, Emanuel Synagogue is a pluralistic community with both more traditional and progressive services. Using technology for the High Holy Days will enable streaming and made available as an outreach.

“Our more traditional services will be pre-recorded, while our progressive services will be livestreamed,” Susanna said.

“No-one among our congregation or community should feel discriminated against by their being able or not able to attend.”

The online streaming of services for the High Holy Days goes a long way towards promoting a sense of community, a vital part of Jewish life.

Emanuel Synagogue’s Rabbi Kamins explained why it is important for the High Holy Days to continue online.

“Given the restrictions on numbers of people allowed to come to synagogue, the majority of the Sydney Jewish community will not be able to attend – in particular the elders of our community, but families with young children as well, and others who have health issues,” he said.

“We believe it is crucial to be as inclusive and engaging as possible.” Rabbi Kamins said there was a real benefit to bringing the services online.

“Every year there are many people who are unable to attend Shul for a variety of reasons. The fact we can reach people who are isolated at home, or in communities around the world where there is no Synagogue in which to have services, is a vital contribution to make connection.”

Suzanna Helia added, “Our history, despite trying circumstances from the Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust, is one of us being able to keep going, through faith and community.

“This is very important,” Susanna said, “as is upholding health and safety standards, along with that sense of community and belonging.

“Having healthy relationships is what makes people happy, so what we’re doing is providing an online version of services, allowing us to continue to feel community, engagement and connection.”

“The coronavirus pandemic is another challenging situation, but our faith and community will continue through it, as they have always done.”

Rabbi Kamins feels that this technology represents part, but not all of the Synagogue’s future.

“In terms of our ability to live-stream and include and engage, it is the future. In terms of people desiring to be present in and singing and praying and learning with each other in person, it absolutely isn’t,” he said.

“In the future we see it as a both and, not an either/or”.

“There are so many who, while our live-stream is ‘the next best thing’, are praying for the absolute best thing in the future.”

Celebrations and observances of the High Holy Days will begin with Rosh Hashana from Sept 18-20, Yom Kippur on Sept 27-28, Succot on Oct 2 – 9, Shemini Atzeret on October 10, and Simchat Torah on October 11.

To find out details on High Holy Day 2020 and to pre-register click here.

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