Temple Israel in Greenfield to hold High Holiday services virtually

  • Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener stands in Temple Israel in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Temple Israel in Greenfield will hold its High Holiday services virtually this year because of the pandemic. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2020 4:54:12 PM

GREENFIELD — Each year in the fall, the Jewish community gathers at Temple Israel in Greenfield to observe the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But this year, while Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener is trying to make the services “as normal as possible,” the pandemic isn’t making it easy.

“It’s always hard to hold the High Holidays,” Cohen-Kiener said. “It’s so serious a time — life and death, health and reconciliation are some of the topics — and this has all been impacted by COVID-19 this year, so there are social stressors and financial concerns and even more health concerns on people’s minds.

“People will be bringing a lot of emotion to services this year, even though they’re remote, and this is a time when they’ll really benefit from prayer,” she continued. “Everyone will be looking for the ‘real meaning’ for today in the words of the services.”

The technology involved in holding virtual High Holidays — Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement — has been a challenge for the rabbi.

“It’s been a real learning curve for me,” she said. “It has certainly been beneficial, though, in the time of COVID. It’s all part of the adapting we’ve all had to do.”

Services and activities

She said services and activities will be on Zoom and they will be terse, not like they’ve been in the past.

“We’ll have brief sessions with lots of breaks,” Cohen-Kiener said. “I don’t expect people to sit in front of a screen all day with us.”

Participation links will be shared via Temple Israel’s email list, as well as on its website at templeisraelgreenfield.org.

Some of the leaders of the services and activities will be at the temple those days, observing indoor COVID-19 protocols, while others will do their part from home. It’s the social aspect of the High Holidays that Cohen-Kiener is worried will be lost.

“We’re doing what we can,” she said. “We’ll be holding a Kiddush and Kibbitz on Friday night where we’ll be checking in with everyone, encouraging everyone to talk about what they’ve been doing and how they’ve been dealing with the pandemic.”

She said Temple Israel is encouraging members to form “pods,” so they can get together while social distancing and wearing masks outside at least for some of the activities, including casting their sins into the water and meditating on it, a tradition during Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi will be at the Green River on Sunday and invites anyone who would like to join her to do so between 3 and 4 p.m.

“We’re all missing the physicality of this pandemic; I’ve only had two hugs since March,” Cohen-Kiener said. “I miss people being in the room. I just hope everyone shows up on Zoom to pray together. It’s the best we can do right now to be close, a community.”

She said services will be held like they would have been in person, just shorter, so there will be blessings, music and lots of singing. A cantorial soloist will lead the main service and there will be a chance for everyone to do yoga.

“We’ll get together virtually to celebrate each other’s joys,” she said. “There will be conversation and social discussions, and we’ll ‘unmute’ ourselves to sing.”

Cohen-Kiener said Temple Israel received a small grant so it can broadcast from the temple. The temple put everything on Zoom beginning in March when the pandemic first impacted the area. She said Hebrew School, weekly services and adult education has all been done remotely since, so people won’t be surprised by the High Holidays being held remotely.

“We’ve actually had greater attendance,” she noted. “Some people are adapting, while others are enjoying the mix of creative, social and traditional online.”

Cohen-Kiener said she is in the midst of planning Yom Kippur services, the more solemn of the two holidays, which will also be remote. Observance of the annual Day of Atonement begins Sunday, Sept. 27, in the evening and continues through Monday, Sept. 28.

Rosh Hashanah Friday, Sept. 18

6:30 to 7 p.m.: Kiddush and Kibbitz. Make blessings together, catch up and check in, as well as a sermon on food justice.

7 p.m.: Rosh Hashanah Maariv

Saturday, Sept. 19

9:15 to 9:30 a.m.: Intention setting and chant with Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener

9:30 to 10 a.m.: Sepharid Birchot HaShachar/Psukei/Pslams and songs with Justin Sundell-Thomas and Ryan O’Donnell

10 to 11 a.m.: Shacharit with Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener and Yosl Kurland

11:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.: Torah reading and Aliyot blessings, words from the rabbi and closing prayers

Sunday, Sept. 20

10 to 11 a.m.: Highlights and Shofar service for all ages

11 to 11:30 a.m.: Shofarot for the Times: Poetry and Polity

11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.: Overview of Torah readings for High Holidays — learn and discuss

3 to 4 p.m.: Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener will be at the Green River, weather permitting, casting her sins (stones, no bread crumbs). She encourages people to join her or go to another “living” body of water with family and friends.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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