Diaspora differences for the High Holy Days
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Diaspora differences for the High Holy Days

Investigation by The Media Line has shown the varying approaches with congregations around the world

The new normal: gloves and masks are temporary but Covid will also bring lasting changes. This synagogue is in Hungary
The new normal: gloves and masks are temporary but Covid will also bring lasting changes. This synagogue is in Hungary

Jewish communities around the world have explained the measures they are taking to protect worshippers and stop the spread of Covid-19 during this month’s High Holy Days.

Beginning with Rosh Hashanah this week, an investigation by The Media Line has shown the varying approaches, with one congregation even buying a short-wave radio station for the day.

The High Holy Days typically draw the largest crowds of the Jewish calendar, but synagogues are having to adapt services and gatherings for safety.

In New York, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun said worshippers were worried about coming to shul, “so the shul will come to you”, with sermons and “concert quality” videos with Rosh Hashanah prayers featuring the cantor and choir.

In Kraków, Poland, the Jewish community is small enough that social distancing in the synagogues is not a problem, but the community centre is dividing people into smaller groups to protect older and sicker members.

Across the world, there will be shorter prayer sessions, mandatory mask-wearing, strict cleaning rules, social distancing and no singing, but many synagogues have opted to go virtual instead.

Such changes in ritual customs are more limited for Orthodox Jews, whose strict observance of religious laws precludes using technology on the holidays, meaning they cannot watch services online.

Several synagogues said the shofar would be tested for the virus and will have a mask placed over its end to prevent droplets from spreading while it is being blown, while others said children under 12 are asked to stay away.

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