Jewish Community Prepares for Distanced High Holidays

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Like most everything this year, members of the Jewish faith are preparing for a very different celebration for the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur due to COVID-19.

“It’s odd to be able to say this is the very first time in all of Jewish history, that we are doing this,” said Rabbi Marci Bellows of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

Many congregations are going online for Rosh Hashanah this weekend, when the Jewish new year often means being together.

“I think you just have to adjust with what it is,” said Nancy Sklar, member of Congregation B'nai Jacob. “So even though it’s a little bit disappointing, and it’s a different kind of feeling you have to keep in mind what the holiday is all about.”

At Congregation B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, families are picking up high holiday prayer books and gift bags to go with their online services. The bags include apple honey cakes, memorial candles, and a new way to add to the socially distant holiday.

“I made a special Haggadah, like a little service for the evening of Rosh Hashanah, like a thing to do at home,” said Rabbi Rona Shapiro.  

Rabbi Marci Bellows of Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek says they also sent bags home with congregants to help make their space feel sacred.

“We suggest that maybe people make a table cloth they decorate and place either on the coffee table in front of them in their living room, or kitchen table, decorated with Hebrew words or Jewish symbols,” said Bellows.  

The holidays are about family and Sklar says hers will keep their celebrations limited. And although it will be small, they’re excited about the tradition of food.

“The food we definitely look forward to, that’s always the highlight of every holiday,” said Sklar.

And speaking of food, the Jewish community in greater New Haven is continuing a 27-year tradition of giving back. They’re collecting food for the town of Orange Food Bank and Jewish Family Services.

“We hope to have just as much food raised or maybe even more,” said Rabbi Michael Farbman of Temple Emanuel.  

And he says, they’re also serving each other.

“We are a small community but pretty wide spread, so volunteers will be delivering those honey bags with calendars and memorial books for Yizkor and other things to the community between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” said Farbman.

At a time when staying connected means so much.

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