We are thrilled to share our plans for JRC’s 5782 High Holidays. In order to accommodate everyone and bring our community together in the safest way possible, we have planned a combination of indoor and outdoor services and experiences, all of which will also be accessible via Zoom or Facebook Live. As we expect larger numbers to gather together for these High Holidays, Covid-19 vaccination will be required in order to enter our building and masks must be worn when indoors. For outdoor services, non-vaccinated participants must wear masks and those who are vaccinated may choose whether or not to wear a mask.
We welcome non-members to join us for outdoor services and on Zoom or Facebook Live, and hope to also be able to include non-members at our indoor services if space allows. Members must register for High Holidays before August 16 in order to be counted in our numbers as we determine capacity for non-members.
The Days of Awe at JRC
For many American Jews, the High Holidays remain the most important synagogue-going holidays. They provide an anchor in Jewish identity: the taste of apples & honey, the sounds of the shofar, and the familiar melodies of prayers and songs not just from our past, but from that of our parents, grandparents, and beyond. For those of us whose days are spent with lives intertwined within many other communities, the High Holidays are a time to come back into Jewish time and space. We learn what it means to atone, to renew, to mix sweetness and confession, to do them collectively and make them relevant for today.
At JRC, the festivals of Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are a powerful evocation of memory and visceral feelings as we hear our rabbis’ teachings; allow ourselves a 10 day spiritual retreat in community and reflect on the past year; and experience the beauty of feeling our social justice values tangibly woven into thousand year old liturgy for contemporary times.*
Aside from our worship services, many of our members appreciate the other, nontraditional pathways JRC offers into this spiritual experience of the Days of Awe. We gather on the shore of Lake Michigan for a short Tashlich service on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, carrying birdseed and crumbs and frozen corn to represent the things we want to leave behind from the previous year. We offer Yom Kippur afternoon discussions, meditation, and an hour of live contemplative music.
One of the most important elements of our High Holiday experiences for our members is connecting with one another. As we gather in “our church,” JRC members look forward to seeing friends and fellow members and learning from one another. Casual lobby conversations and opportunities for connection are for many as important as the liturgy. Our human community and our spiritual community join together to mark the new year.
During the COVID pandemic, our clergy led us in remarkable High Holiday experiences, crafted and collaborated with over 50 JRC members to bring them to fruition. We asked, “what is essential, what is meaningful, what is nourishing?” and let those responses guide our programming. Some attended High Holidays dressed in their best, some gathered masked and on lawn chairs in backyards around a projector, and some sat on their couches in pajamas. Seeing the faces of our members on Zoom, hearing the voices of our choir and Torah readers, being pushed to activism for Black Lives Matter and democracy, and finding moments of bringing Judaism into our daily lives made these unique Days of Awe more awe-some and meaningful.
Who makes our High Holiday services happen?
For some people, the High Holiday experience is about how they can contribute their skills, time and heart to their community. A crew of “shleppers” carry our ark, books, Torah scrolls, and other tools of the season to First United Methodist church. Other people serve as gabbai’im, ushers, or lead our young people in their services or holiday projects.
In truth, our services are a massive community production. You will hear the voices of our rabbis and cantor, but also of many of our members. They offer personal reflections, readings, or work behind the scenes, bringing us all comfortably and meaningfully into the holiest days of the year.
Where Are Our Services Held?
In typical years, our High Holiday Services are held in First United Methodist Church where, for 35 years, we have been grateful for their beautiful two story sanctuary*. In “our church,” JRC members and non-members find themselves in familiar spots on the first floor or in the balcony, year after year, reconnecting with each other. With beautiful music from our cantor and choir, thought-provoking sermons and reflections from our members and rabbis, and carefully curated readings to supplement our high holiday liturgy, progressive high holiday services are part of what draws our members to JRC in the first place.
Why do we meet at “our church” instead of in our own building? For the High Holidays, we have many more people in attendance than our beautiful green building at 303 Dodge Street can accommodate. Rather than build — and heat or cool — a sanctuary there that would be mostly empty for much of the year, we chose to work with our friends at FUMC to house our High Holiday services there, in a space that can easily seat all of us, our friends and family, and any prospective members with whom we can share our meaningful Days of Awe services.
High Holidays During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In 2020, we were blessed with the incredible gift of meaningful connection on the High Holidays across many screens of Zoom. Our 2020 High Holidays were coordinated by an incredible team of members and staff — in months of work inspired by sheer love and dedication — who assembled a deeply meaningful and soulfully connected set of high holiday services. The offerings included both live broadcast and pre-recorded music from our choir and cantor. In a year when so many of us were hungry for connection and spiritual rejuvenation, we found that it wasn’t the building that we needed most — it was each other. (In fact, after the success of our High Holiday services online, hearing from so many of our members about how intimate it felt and how connected our members felt to one another and with our clergy, we have added synchronous Zoom services for Shabbat. That is a testament to our success with online services.)
As Reconstructionist Jews, we were made for a moment that calls for adjusting to the times, however challenging. Among the many ways we worked to keep our community connected was a collective of over a dozen congregant bakers who donated homemade challahs to sell to members for Rosh Hashanah, led by our Rebbetzin, Julia Tauber.
Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives
As a community, we were profoundly moved by the activism and soul-searching inspired by the unforgivable murder of George Floyd in the summer. As a result, we dedicated a portion of our 2020 Yom Kippur service to the below words of confession and repentance in our Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives, which you can watch below, read by Rabbi Rachel Weiss.