Synagogues in the area are in full High Holy Day mode as Rosh Hashanah begins this Sunday evening, Sept. 25. They are gauging attendance, adding new prayer leaders and programs, while ensuring accommodations to those most susceptible to Covid. The Voice reached out to a sampling of local synagogues to find out what congregants can expect at services this year.
Rabbi David Englander kicks off his first High Holy Days as spiritual leader of Cong. Beth El in Voorhees. To balance the change with the familiar, he’ll be co-officiating services with Emeritus Rabbi Aaron Krupnick. They’ve also made a few changes to seating arrangements at the Conservative synagogue, according to Executive Director Josh Laster. Open seating is more available and now children 7th grade and older can sit with their families in both the Katz Sanctuary and Appel Social Hall main services. Services will be mask optional indoors with a high-quality livestream broadcast option. They aim to welcome close to 2,000 attendants in person.
“I’m looking forward to putting my own stamp on the experience and working with the rest of our clergy team,” added Englander.
Temple Sinai in Cinnaminson welcomes Rabbi Rosalind Glazer to their High Holiday clergy. She will offer both rabbinical and cantorial expertise. For the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue plans to host an alternative service led by the “Temple Sinai Players,” which includes community conversation around a comedic holiday-themed skit.
As a new father, Temple Sinai Rabbi Michael Perice is still wary of Covid and emphasized that no one will get left behind with their livestream option and flexible policies. Overall, they expect a few hundred in-person guests. “I really want to make it clear that just because we’re back in person doesn’t mean you won’t have the option to participate,” said Perice.
After the merger of Cong. M’kor Shalom and Temple Emanuel earlier this summer, Kol Ami is set to experience their first High Holy Days as a new community. Rabbi Jennifer Frenkel noted that the Reform synagogue tried out a new Selichot service led by a rotation of teachers. There will also be a multi-generational tashlich, family services, and robust livestream options. “It’s very rare that you can say that you were part of the founding of a synagogue,” said Frenkel. “And that’s what all of our members get to experience this year.”
Cong. Beth Tikvah in Marlton hits the road this year to Voorhees Middle School, where they can better accommodate roughly 500 attendees. “It doesn’t matter where we are in a sacred community,” said Rabbi Nathan Weiner. “Because it’s the people that make up our community, not only our space.”
Their youth service will feature tashlich, shofar blowing, and children’s story time. Over Sukkot, Weiner plans to build a portable sukkah in the back of a rented pickup truck to offer people in the neighborhood the chance to shake a lulav and etrog.
Temple Beth Sholom will unveil their new “Mahzor Lev Shalem” High Holiday prayer books, according to Director of Congregational Learning Alex Weinberg. For family services, congregants will also have a first look at “Machzor Shalom,” a companion prayer book that Weinberg spent the summer writing himself. Equipped with a new livestream broadcast, TBS expects about 2,000 in-person guests in the sanctuary.
“There’s still uncertainty, but as a community in general, I think we know how to protect ourselves and carry on safely,” said Weinberg. “The confidence level to participate is much higher.”
For Orthodox synagogue Cong. Sons of Israel, they plan to incorporate some social distancing with their mask optional service. Rabbi Michael Davies said he aims to “put some real effort and energy” into their Camp Shofar youth program. Davies expects at least a few hundred people.
“My first year here was kind of for observation,” said Davies, who started his tenure last summer. “But now there’s the possibility of taking next steps and building on our success.”
Executive Director Alex Grumbacher of Adath Emanu-EL in Mt. Laurel anticipates around 500 in-person guests, with an additional portion attending via livestream. After a modified version last year, there will be a full youth program and a teen service. This will also be Rabbi Amy Memis-Foler’s first High Holiday season at the helm. “People are excited to be back together,” said Grumbacher, who specified that there will be a mask section in the sanctuary. “Obviously, some people are still very hesitant. But we’re ready to open back up.”