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High Holy Days 2020 FAQs(Frequently Asked Questions)

If you have a question you can't answer from our website, contact Rabbi Jon!

Are the services on Zoom and at the synagogue the same?
The traditional service is a single service on the mornings, led from the Sanctuary. A limited number of people will be in the Sanctuary and in the parking lot by a monitor and speaker, and the same service will be what we Zoom.

Other than technology, what will be different about the main services this year compared to other years?
Here are the key differences:

  • Services will be quite a bit shorter in the mornings, starting later than usual and ending earlier.
  • There will be fewer periods of silent prayer.
  • We will concentrate on major prayers that are the core of the service and the memorable prayers of the High Holy Days, while staying within the parameters of a service as defined by Jewish law.
  • You'll only hear a single voice most of the time, since the people in the Santuary seats can't sing along loudly.
  • Certain prerecorded items will be woven into the service -- explanations and reflections from congregants and some music from our Zimria choir.

How can I get a prayerbook?
Members and those who register will be able to pick up the prayerbooks they need from the Temple, on Sunday, September 13 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. If you cannot come out, you can arrange a time to come by outside the Temple early in the week or we will bring prayerbooks to you. You will also be able to view or download and print the pages we plan to use from our website.

Will I be lost if I do not know Hebrew or the prayers already?
Our community is made up of people from every imaginable background. The combination of our individual perspectives, inner questions, and personal prayers is what makes our High Holy Day services particularly powerful. Our ReNewYEAR service is particularly designed to be a learning service. If you do not know Hebrew, most of the prayers in the Sanctuary service that we sing together are transliterated phonetically into English in our supplementary booklet. Those melodies are also available on our website. We intersperse explanations through the service, and we have material you can download ahead of time about the themes and ideas of the service.

Online Services
What’s it like to attend services online?
If you haven’t been to a service already, here are some things you can expect in our traditional service:

  • If you use a computer instead of a phone, you'll be able to see video of many other people who are attending, though you won't be able to hear them.
  • You'll be able to choose and switch from a "Gallery View" where you see lots of people and a "Speaker View" where you see primarily the cantor or rabbi, whoever is leading at that time.
  • You will hear mostly the cantor or the rabbi, one voice at a time.
  • Every so often we allow everyone's microphone to be unmuted so we can hear a lot of people say Sh'ma or Amen or a part of the Mourners' Kaddish.
  • Some people will have their camera on and show you where they are, and some will turn off the camera and you will see just a name on a black background.
  • Unlike other Zooms, we are disabling the chat function. This is to discourage writing and to encourage people to connect through the service itself.

We’ll be sending out some advice on how to make the most of online services and how to make your space special and comfortable.

Will I like it?
All we can tell you is that we have been trying to think of everything possible to make the online service meaningful for you and to make it feel like Beth Abraham. You may not like all of it, and you may decide to turn it off -- that’s why we’re providing you with other materials you can use on your own. We also encourage you to think not only about liking it or not, but about how you can use your whole experience to focus on what it means to be connected to community, tradition, God, and the people who are trying to connect with you in this imperfect way.

Are Conservative Jews and synagogues allowed to use computers on holy days?
This year the national rabbinic leadership of Conservative Judaism has issued advice on how to use technology in this extenuating circumstance in specific ways. Our rabbi and Ritual Committee have studied the Talmudic law related to the use of computers and smartphones, and we decided that these are not the same as “writing”, which is how technology is often described in Jewish tradition. For now, we regard the use of computers like the use of a car on Shabbat -- it depends on the purpose you are using it for. Rabbi Jon would be happy to talk or study with you about this.

Can I go in and out of services, or switch between them?
Yes, that part is the same as every year! Come to the service from the Sanctuary, come to ReNewYEAR with Eliana, visit the Virtual Gallery, take a break and come back. You’ll just need to keep track of the log in or call in instructions for each.

Can I have the service on my TV instead of a small computer?
There are ways to do this, depending on the TV you have and the computer you have. Drop us a note and we will put you in touch with someone who can guide you.

What if I have trouble with my computer or forget what to do?
First of all, we will send you an e-mail will all the instructions you need in one place. If you go to the synagogue homepage,, on the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, you’ll be able to find your way to a page that will give you instructions, the phone number for a live help desk, and if all else fails a page where you can just watch.

Is someone available to help me figure out how this works or how to set up my computer?
Yes! Send us a note and someone will call you.

Is there a dress code for online services?
No, you will not be removed from the online link based on how you are dressed! We’ll publish some thoughts about this in more depth, but basically there are two approaches. One is to dress for the service in a special way, as you would if you were going to any service or special gathering. The other is to get super-comfortable, even in ways you wouldn’t be able to inside a typical synagogue. Think about which way will help you open yourself to the music, words, ideas, and teachings.

I’ve heard about Zoom bombing of Jewish events. What are you doing about that?
Two things. First, we are only giving out the log-in details to people who register and to our members. We ask that you do not share this with outside people. If you know someone who wants to attend our online service, direct them to our website to register. Second, we have hosts for each service who are looking out for anyone who might be doing something inappropriate, so they can be removed from the service.

At the synagogue
Where should I park?
We are using much of the parking lot for outdoor services. You can try to park in the lot, behind our school building, or on any street in the neighborhood. Make sure you leave sufficient distance between where you park and a corner.

Can kids come?
Yes. Any children who come to the synagogue need to stay with their parents all the time.

Is someone leading the service separately in the parking lot?
People in the parking lot will have a big screen and speaker showing the bimah in the Sanctuary. The leaders will be in the Sanctuary. We do plan to have someone blow the shofar outside while the shofar is being blown inside.

When do I have to wear a mask?
Inside the synagogue, we require everyone over the age of 10 to wear a mask at all times, except the 1-2 people leading the service in front at a given time. We recognize that some people are unable to wear a mask and unfortunately given the nature of our activities we cannot accommodate for this. Children ages 2-10 are encouraged but not required to wear a mask, and children of all ages are expected to remain in their family’s assigned place throughout the service.

Outside in the parking lot, we require everyone over the age of 10 to wear a mask while arriving and leaving, going to the restroom, and walking past another person. Children ages 2-10 are encouraged to do so as well. We are spacing the seats such that when everyone is situated in place, a mask is not required as long as you are praying quietly.

Can I use the restrooms?
Yes, the restrooms are open for people attending in the Sanctuary and the parking lot. Up to two people at a time may be in each restroom, or a single household of more than two may be in a restroom by themselves.

Why aren't more services being offered on-site?
It takes a certain number of volunteers to manage everything on-site as well as certain protocols for cleaning and disinfecting. We are offering as much as we can given the capacity we have.

What if it rains?
We realize that is beyond our control. We do plan to have people under the tent and while it may be cold and wet that will be your judgment to make. Unfortunately, we aren't able to readjust and add people to the Sanctuary on the spot, simply because we do not have the organizational tools or volunteer power to do that. If you do have to stay home because it's too rainy for the parking lot, we hope you will participate online or use our other resources for meaningful prayer.

What if I am registered to be at the synagogue but I am not feeling well that day?
The main thing would be: stay home and do whatever you need to feel better. If you have any symptoms that suggest COVID-19 contact your medical provider. You do not have to call us to let us know you won’t be there.

What should I do if I become sick after I’ve attended services in person?
First of all we hope you heal quickly. If you test positive for COVID-19 within two weeks of being at the synagogue, please let us know. We will want to know if there’s anything we can do for you. We have a responsibility to look out for each other, to alert our members to possible exposure, and to assist in contact tracing that will help limit the spread.

Services and Gatherings Off Site Outside
How will proper spreading out be maintained?
We will hold our offsite services and gatherings in places with plenty of space for the number of people who sign up. The leader will ask people to spread out, and any activity that involves discussion or other interaction will be based on at least 6 feet of distance between any two people.

What are the mask requirements?
We require everyone over the age of 10 to wear a mask while arriving and leaving, and whenever they are walking past another person. Children ages 2-10 are encouraged to do so as well. Other than that, people who are spread out at least 6 feet from all other people in a quiet activity may remove their masks. Depending on the question or activity, the leader may ask everyone to wear a mask while together. Some outside gatherings will involve a part together and a part where individuals or families hike or explore on their own.

Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781