Jewish communities in East Texas, nationwide prepare for holiest time of year amid pandemic

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 10:33 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Jewish temples across the country are scaling back attendance and taking safe steps as the faith prepares for some of its most attended services.

The sound of the shofar is meant to wake up the Jewish community for the High Holidays, which are right around the corner. It’s a time of celebration, reflection, and atonement.

“The two big pieces are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the new calendar year and then ten days later is Yom Kippur. That is the day of atonement,” said Rabbi Neal Katz at Congregation Beth El in Tyler.

Katz said for the last year they’ve had online services. They were able to begin in-person services around May this year, but this will be their first attempt at in-person and online service for the holiest time of the year.

“I’m watching congregations around the country cancel their in-person services for the safety of their congregation,” he said. “But we’re going to commit to that with certain protocols and restrictions.”

Those protocols include being vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing, and more.

“What we’re interested in is the health of our congregation, the safety of our congregants. “We’re using book rotation, so whatever book people use on one night, they’re not going to use the next day because we’re going to rotate those out,” Katz said. “We have our cleaning services coming, we have air purifiers in the room, so we’ve taken what precautions we need to take at our small congregation to make sure that people are safe.”

A time that is usually the most crowded service of the year at synagogues will be scaled back to 50 percent capacity in their synagogue. But many will still tune in online, Katz said, and from all over.

“Last year during holidays we had people from Turkey, from Hungary, and one from France I believe, joined us online. It’s wonderful to have that opportunity to create that community online,” Katz said.

Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, starts Monday, September 6 at sundown.

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