By Jill Fox
The apples and honey are there, but something will be missing during this Jewish New Year—the congregation.
Parkland temples have been busily preparing for something very different, as COVID-19 continues to keep worshipers away.
On the two most attended religious days of the year, local temples are determining the best ways to celebrate the high holidays with or without an in-person L’Shanah Tovah greeting.
During the past few months at Congregation Kol Tikvah, virtual Shabbat services have been going smoothly. They put prayers on the screen, and the service is interactive, with people sharing about their weeks.
“In many ways, we have more people now than when we were in person,” said Rabbi Bradd Boxman, “Anywhere from 70 to 100 people on a Friday night, where we used to get 50.”
Kol Tikvah has also adapted to their new routine by adding online activities to engage families. They chose to pre-produce services for the high holidays to avoid any glitches, whether technical or, unfortunately, antisemitic.
Boxman said the new format gives them opportunities to do things they’ve never done before, like offer chat rooms for those in mourning to talk about their loved ones and incorporate family portraits during the video.
They are also working on a beautiful outdoor shofar service around the lake.
At Temple Beth Chai, virtual plans aren’t quite as simple.
“We don’t have our own building,” said Rabbi Jonathan Kaplan, “We’ve never had dues or membership fees, so this year is a challenge because we have to go virtual and have nowhere to do it.”
Temple Beth Chai has typically 600 to 700 people attend services at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School auditorium on Rosh Hashanah. But without a location and a technical staff, they had to figure something out.
Kaplan eventually decided to pre-record services in a Boca Raton sanctuary.
“It feels different as a rabbi,” said Kaplan, “Normally with 600 people, you have that human connection, but through the spirit of technology, we will all be together.”
All services will be available on Facebook and YouTube.
Kaplan said, “It’s just you and the holiday without the pomp and circumstance– no fancy shoes or nice bags, it’s the real thing.”
Chabad of Parkland has live services in the main synagogue, socially distanced with mandatory masks and temperature checks.
“There are a certain camaraderie and energy from the community as a whole being together, and we’re almost at capacity,” said Rabbi Shuy Biston.
Each family in attendance will have their own pod, and others will be spaced out six feet in each direction. Attendees must call the office to register for a ticket.
Chabad of West Parkland will also hold an in-person service at Parkland Golf & Country Club.
The celebration will continue with a socially distanced outdoor family service on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Pine Trails Park Amphitheater, and everyone is welcome.
For those who aren’t ready to travel to synagogue but still want to see and hear the ram’s horn in-person, Chabad has positioned shofar blowers in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Residents in Ternbridge Estates, Cypress Head, Mayfair, Mill Run, Heron Bay, Parkland Reserve, and MiraLago will be privy to the shofar’s sounding inside their communities. Find a list of times and exact locations here.
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.