Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will look different this year. Different, though, doesn’t need to be worse. Different also doesn’t need to be better. Different can just be different.
Sometimes we all just need to do something a little outside of our comfort-level.
Sometimes we just need to try something new.
Sometimes we just need to do something different.
Four years ago, I met the woman who would later become my wife. We started to date in the fall and so our story has a somewhat unique High Holiday memory. One with a bit of chutzpah.
It was too premature for us to make High Holiday plans together, four years ago, when we first started to date; but she asked if I had break fast plans after Yom Kippur. Besides the usual bagels after services, I did not, so I decided to join my future wife and her friends. It wasn’t quite a “date,” but as all of you know, meeting friends is kind of a big deal for 20-and-30-somethings. And I was going to meet them for the first time after a day where we were all fasting for Yom Kippur. It could have gone really poorly, but thankfully I passed the important test of friends’ acceptance.
In the years that would pass, my wife and I would split our High Holiday traditions between things that I used to do in my single days and things that she used to do in her single days. Together, they each became things we’d do as “our traditions.” We’d usually go to Washington Hebrew or Sixth & I with her friends for some of the Rosh Hashanah services and Georgetown, where I got my Masters, with my best friend for the others. For Yom Kippur, we typically do the same – split services between Georgetown and one of the many Washington Hebrew or Sixth & I offerings. Then host or share break fast with friends.
In 2020, not much is typical anymore. As we adjust and change our traditions to these atypical times, we’ll be celebrating a new year and atoning for our sins from the last year differently. We are choosing to observe virtually and the combination of options available to us aren’t just geographically limited. We might attend my wife’s childhood synagogue’s virtual services Zoomed out from Cleveland or maybe connecting with our siblings and the services that they go to. Family is an important part of our Jewish identities and although COVID-19 has changed the model of buying tickets to attend services in-person, a virtual service allows us to do more with less and to just try something different.
The world has pivoted and so have we as Jewish people. I will be uncomfortable with my computer turned on during Yom Kippur while I stream a service, but I’d rather be a part of a service and be uncomfortable than not be a part of a service. (I personally don’t feel comfortable attending a service in-person yet).
Before the start of the pandemic, I was honored to be asked to serve my Jewish community in a more tangible and impactful way for an organization where I’ve volunteered for the last seven years. I was proudly the volunteer Chair for Israel Bonds New Leadership Washington – where I looked to bridge a community of DMV young professionals with opportunities for them to learn about investing in the development of Israel. I received a call from the organization’s CEO to see if I’d be willing to take my lessons learned in DC and apply them as national co-chair for New Leadership with a close friend and peer who co-chairing from Chicago.
Beyond family, for those that know me, they know that my Jewish identity is intertwined with my connection to the Jewish State. I am a Taglit-Birthright success story in many ways because my Jewish identity became very much solidified when I visited Israel for the first time. I went from identifying as an American-Jew to a Jewish-American after that trip. The Jewish part of my identity became something more than “what” I was, but “who” I was. Volunteering with Israel Bonds gives me a lot in expressing who I am. There, I feel a part of Israel’s history. And most important for me, I feel investing in the Jewish State is the single most tangible thing that I can do to support Israel and Jewish peoplehood (outside of making Aliyah).
I didn’t know when I was asked in early 2020 to step up and serve that the world would have changed so dramatically due to coronavirus. But I was ready to take on the challenge and try something different. How I would have engaged in a world without COVID-19 would be different, but the opportunity is still the same: I was willing to make the change that I wanted rather than wait for the change to happen around me. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to co-host a zoom chat with Fauda co-creator Avi Issacharoff ahead of Season 3 coming out on Netflix; join Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer in a special virtual program; attend a meaningful program on Yom HaShoah with a survivor; start a monthly pre-Shabbat zoom series with New Leadership volunteers from across the country; and so much more.
In the coming week, I invite you to try something different. As we find our own personal ways to celebrate the High Holidays and proclaim next year in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur, challenge yourself to do or accept a little difference this year.
Shana tova u’metukah – wishing you a sweet and happy New Year.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.