R.I. congregations offer options for worship

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Jewish Rhode Island asked several R.I. synagogue leaders about their plans for the High Holy Days during the pandemic. It turns out that the plans are as varied as the congregations.

A few will meet outside. Most are offering virtual services. Several congregations, including Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, are taking their shofars around the state to give Jews an opportunity to hear its blasts.  

Here is a list of High Holy Days plans at several synagogues in Rhode Island. We urge you to contact your synagogue as the holidays draw closer since plans may change as the virus and health recommendations evolve. 

Temple Sinai, in Cranston, a Reform congregation, is offering virtual-only services for the High Holy Days.

“We will be live and in-person only for a ‘drive-through’ shofar service and a socially-distanced tashlikh service at Goddard Park Beach, both on Rosh Hashanah afternoon [Sept. 19],” Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser said.

He said most High Holy Days services will be in a format similar to the weekly Friday night Shabbat services on Zoom. They will include traditional music, led by Cantor Deborah Johnson, and a professional choir. 

Only the Erev Rosh Hashanah service will be formatted differently. It will be conducted as a seder, and participants will be encouraged to integrate the service into their festival dinner as they do during Passover.

A High Holy Days guide, “40 Days of T’shuvah,” has been distributed to temple members. The guide is formatted as a journal that congregants can use to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The hope is that this will make the shortened services more meaningful. 

Digital tickets will be required for Rosh Hashanah morning services, Kol Nidrei and the Yom Kippur morning service.

For more information, contact Rabbi Goldwasser at rabbigoldwasser@templesinairi.org or Dottie Swajian at dottie@templesinairi.org. 

Congregation B’nai Israel, a Conservative congregation in Woonsocket, is planning in-person services, according to Judy Schoenfeld, congregation vice president. “We have a large sanctuary and can accommodate a specific number of people while still social distancing when seated,” she said in an email.

Those interested in attending any High Holy Days service must contact the synagogue office, at 401-761-3651, so that an accurate count can be kept. 

“We have made arrangements for the building to be cleaned and will be restricting access to certain parts of the building.  Signs will be placed around the building to encourage social distancing and hand sanitizers will be available.  Prayer books, tallitot, and kippot will be used once and then separated to prevent reuse,” Schoenfeld said.

Services will also be available via Zoom. Contact the office for access or any additional questions.

Congregation Miskon Tfiloh, an Orthodox congregation on Providence’s East Side, will have in-person services only for the High Holy Days. According to Rabbi Yechezkel Yudkowsky, these are “Orthodox services that are beginner-friendly. We have marked off areas to sit and require masks.”

For more information, contact the rabbi at 347-968-7368.

Temple Shalom, non-affiliated, in Middletown, will offer services via Zoom and Facebook Live, led by Cantor Fred Scheff and Daniel Berkman. Temple president Abigail Anthony reports that the services will last no longer than two hours. The congregation will gather for tashlikh at Third Beach, in Middletown, on Sept. 19.

For more information, email templeshalomrhodeisland@gmail.com. Up-to-date information is also available at templeshalomrhodeisland.org.