The Hardships of online services/community

After my last post in which I bemoaned the challenge of High Holy Day services without in-person community I had some interesting interactions.

First I heard this from a friend on this list:
I’m not gonna lie – no way am I looking forward to the high holidays this year.  My husband and I have always participated in all the services, day and night, and really gotten a lot out of them.  Our synagogue does an amazing job and it’s one of the highlights of my year.  The sense of oneness, community, inspiration, tradition, comfort, magic… well…. I just don’t think that can happen on a zoom call.  And yes, it breaks my heart.  I’m not even Jewish and yet it’s the Jewish holidays that have been the hardest to go without this year.  We haven’t discussed what we’re going to do, whether we’re going to tune into zoom and sit there on our couch and feel even *more* isolated and lonely, or if we’ll just skip the whole thing.  Sorry to sound like such a Debbie Downer about this, but this is one of the very few instances where I’ve given in to melancholy and sadness when it comes to the pandemic.  Most of the time I’ve just made the most of it and been fine.  But the high holidays are a killer.

That really hit the nail on the head for me and I replied:
Boy do I understand! I’ve asked myself the same question. Will I really be able to sit in front of a computer for hours? It is just SO VERY DIFFERENT. But I’m going to give it a try. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve said before that I LOVE walking up and down the aisles hugging all the seniors. My own parents are gone and this is where I get my parental support. I love seeing the kids scattering like chicks to the corners of the room, upstairs to the balcony. I love all the generations together. 

 Listen, hang in there! Give services at least a 30 minute trial and I’ll do the same. We’ll meet back here to compare notes.

My friend replied:
So OK, you’ve given me a reason to at least try out the services.   I’ll report back to you.  I hope it goes even better for you than you would have expected in your wildest dreams.  Take care and thanks for your always thoughtful and interesting email dispatches.

So to my friend (you know who you are) I want to say, guess what I got shortly after our exchange? This!

Although of course I am unhappy about the challenges of COVID, I am SO EXCITED to virtually visit some of my most favorite Bay Area synagogues for the upcoming High Holy Days!  I’ve enjoyed Menachem Creditor this summer along with Rabbi Jenni Chabon’s Friday night services.  It’s been AMAZING!

And then I got more comments:

I’m looking forward to connecting with my community, even though it will be by strange electronic means.

I’ve tried to follow along with my shul’s services online and it just makes me cry. I seem to cry easily and often now.


For myself, I’ve decided I’m going to try different synagogues’ services. I’m going to see which ones, which prayers, which styles really draw me in and give me a feeling of connectedness and tranquility.  I invite each of you to test out what works for you during this unusual holiday season.  REPORT BACK!


A few articles:

Your Brain on Crafts
Are you doing anything with your hands? Research has found that crafting has a calming and centering effect on our brains.
Make Rosh Hashanah cards with your kids – or just make them yourself!
(About your brain on crafts)

In the column of: WE CAN DO BETTER!
Black Jews face double bias

Books for Rosh Hashanah for Kids
From the United Kingdom, a list of favorite children’s booksfor Rosh Hashanah
PJ Library has a book for every age group and every Jewish holiday.

Want to try meditation?
Wendie Berstein Lash has a YouTube channel where you can learn about and participate in meditations with her online.
Wendie’s channel

Basic Judaism class coming right up
Rabbi Ruth Adar began her year long basic Judaism class this summer. It is a three term class, each session is 8 weeks. Beginning this fall will be the section Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts. Here’s the link to the class. Just FYI, HaMaqom has an odd pricing structure where you can pick one of three prices. Don’t let that confuse you. Just pick the one that makes sense. For most people that is the least expensive.

Details here.

Wear your masks, stay safe,



Sacred Sounds: Hearing the Shofar
Baking Honey Cake with Laurie Leiber
Selihot Night Live
S’lichot “Teshuva and 12 Steps”
#ShofarTogether Moment of Unity
Rosh Hashanah Celebration for the Birthday of the World!
Apple & Honey Days
Rabbis Roundtable: Planting Ourselves at the Gates of Hope
Rosh Hashanah for Youth & Families



Sacred Sounds: Hearing the Shofar
Join a weekly spiritual practice of hearing the shofar sounded. During the month of Elul, we take in the sacred sound of the shofar as much as possible in preparation for the High Holy Days. This short ritual moment will include a chant, short teaching, and hearing our lay shofar sounders. Especially this year, let’s bring some ritual grounding to this period of seeming timelessness.

Do you have a shofar at home and want to learn some tips for getting out a good blast, or doing all of the distinct sounds? Stick around at the close of these shofar sessions for a few minutes and we’ll teach some shofar sounding skills.
With Rabbi Copeland and lay leaders of Sha’ar Zahav

Dates:  Mondays September 7, 14
Time:   5:15-5:30pm
Host:   Sha’ar Zahav
Register here for all (Zoom)



Baking Honey Cake with Laurie Leiber
Honey Cake is a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert for Ashkenazi Jews. Why not join me, Dawn, to make cake with my dear friend, Laurie! Laurie teaches children and adults so bring your kids! The more the merrier.

This event requires pre-registration. Please click here to register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Download the recipe here to follow along while you bake!

Date:   Wednesday, September 9
Time:   3:30 – 5:30pm
Host:   Temple Sinai, Oakland


Rabbis Roundtable: Planting Ourselves at the Gates of Hope:
A High Holiday Journey in the Time of Covid
How can we stay present to what is happening in the world without giving in to despair and hopelessness? As we stand at the cusp of a New Year under these most unusual circumstances, how may we tap into the deep well of Jewish wisdom that is critically needed now and find a “growing edge” from which we see both ourselves and the world as we are, as we might be and as we will be.

Join Rabbi Lisa Kingston of Peninsula Temple Beth El, Rabbi Lisa Delson of Peninsula Temple Sholom, Bill Futornick, Ritual Director of Congregation Beth Jacob and Rabbi Corey Helfand of Peninsula Sinai Congregation for a conversation about how the wisdom and ritual of the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe – can guide us on this journey to awakening and hope. Rabbi Lavey Derby of the PJCC will moderate the conversation. Learn more here.

Date:   Wednesday, September 9
Time:   7:00-8:30 p.m.
Host:   Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Foster City
Click here to register. You will receive a Zoom link on September 9.


Selihot Night Live:
Bringing in the High Holiday Season from East to West
Join the Conservative Movement for a national observance of Selihot. We will come together to learn, sing, and connect as a community.

Date:   Sept. 12
Time:   5:30pm PT
Register here by September 10.


S’lichot “Teshuva and 12 Steps”
Teshuva is more than just pledging to do better. If we want to make deeper change, we must do the difficult work of making a moral inventory, recognizing patterns in our behavior, and exploring what has prevented us from making changes in the past. We can learn from the 12 Step recovery model to help us move forward without guilt and blame, but with growth and change. It’s time to start the work!

7:00 p.m. Learning with Dr. Steve Tulkin and Rabbi Lisa
7:45 p.m. Havdalah and S’lichot Service

Shul member, Dr. Steve Tulkin is a clinical health psychologist, currently working in private practice and as professor Emeritus at the California School of Professional Psychology.

Date:   Saturday, September 12
Time:   7:00 p.m.
Host:   Peninsula Temple Beth El
Please register here.


Rosh Hashanah Celebration for the Birthday of the World!
Let’s celebrate the Jewish New Year and the Birthday of the World with Jewish Baby Network, singing and dancing and our favorite puppet friends. Bring your favorite stuffy or puppet to celebrate with us!

Date:   Sunday, Sept. 13
Time:   10:30 – 11:15am
Host:   Peninsula PJCC, Foster City
Free and via Zoom. Register here to join us!

Apple & Honey Days:
A Virtual Week of Family Fun to Welcome a New Year
Gear up for 5781 with a week of Rosh Hashanah themed family-friendly activities with PJ Library Bay Area and our community partners!
Join us every afternoon at 4:30 pm from September 14 through 18 for a daily dose of crafts, cooking, stories, and more.

Monday, September 14: Create A New Year Wish Book with Rabbi Allie of URJ Camp Newman
Tuesday, September 15: Decorate Rosh Hashanah Cookies with Tal Sendrovitz of Tal’s Patisserie
Wednesday, September 16: Sing and Groove with Alison Faith Levy of PTBE Tots
Thursday, September 17: Learn A PJ Story through Puppets with Jeni Markowitz Clancy of the PJCC
Friday, September 18: Celebrate Erev Rosh Hashanah with Camp Tawonga***

Monday through Thursday’s events are FREE!

Click here for a one-step, simple registration for these four days. You can also tune in on Facebook.
*** Registration for Camp Tawonga’s Virtual Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebration on Friday, September 18, must be completed separately. Click here to register. Hosted by the Jewish Federation


#ShofarTogether Moment of Unity
Have a shofar at home? Join the #ShofarTogether moment of unity! Every day between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, be part of a worldwide gathering to sound the shofar from your home and from the heart.

A number of JCCs around the country are participating in this event!

Dates:  Saturdays, Sept. 19 through 26
Time:   7:00 PM
More details are on Facebook

Rosh Hashanah for Youth & Families
Join Rabbi Lynn’s Rosh Hashanah celebration for youth and families and those who love them. We will co-create the New Year story of Ziz and the Gathering of Birds. This mystical tale celebrates the power of community to renew itself again and again.  You are invited to bring a shofar, percussion instrument, apples and honey, grape juice, a round sweet bread (challah), a tallit and your bird puppet.

Date:   Saturday, September 19
Time:   9:30 – 10:15am
Cost:    $10
Host:   Chochmat HaLev
More info