Observing the High Holy Days during COVID-19

Observing the High Holy Days during COVID-19

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Friday evening begins one of the most-attended synagogue periods of the Jewish calendar, the High Holy Days.

Because of the pandemic, the majority of congregations around the country will be streaming services online this year.

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Jewish New Year and is observed by going to services and often eating apples and honey to symbolize a sweet new year. In the past, Ryan Eubanks attended high holy day services in Tyler at Congregation Beth El. Recently though, he’s been streaming services online.

“I think I prefer the online Shabbat services because it’s a bit of a schlep to drive all the way to Tyler just to go to Shul,” said Eubanks. “That’s like getting home past 9, so just being able to tune in online is really good.”

For another student, she will be watching services Friday night and was given the chance to give a sermon for the Houston Hillel on Saturday morning. She’ll be speaking about creating community in a place where it’s not already established.

“Because that’s the experience I’ve had here at SFA creating the Jewish community here on campus from like nothing,” said SFA student, Jade Gordon. “So he thought that I’d be a really good person to talk about that because everybody’s having to create a community where it doesn’t exist during this pandemic.”

Rabbi Neal Katz at Congregation Beth El, said their congregation has always put an emphasis on in-person worship, but have been online since March and feel ready.

“I am personally energized by the entire opportunity, by the experience,” Katz said. “Because I was just in a Zoom meeting with a bunch of rabbis from around the country yesterday, it was our third or fourth meeting of a group that are having conversations about what they’re doing. The level of creativity, the development of online content, the sharing, it’s all geared toward an experience.”

That experience, for viewers on their couch, or outdoors, Katz says he hopes is a good one.

The Jewish Student Union at SFA handed out bags with apples, honey, challah, and more to students to help make the at-home experience a little sweeter.

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