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High Holidays 2020/5781

 Experience the High Holidays with Barnert

Dear Barnert Temple Friends,

We begin with gratitude.  Since the close of our building in early March, our members and the wider community have been busy engaging through our Shabbat services, holiday observances, classes, and other offerings… in record numbers.  Here at Barnert Temple, we have been living our Jewish traditions creatively and meaningfully.

We write to you with information about the upcoming High Holidays.  Our community has been guided throughout the pandemic by the work of our COVID-19 Task Force.  Our concern for the health and safety of each member of our community has been our starting point as we remain dedicated to nurturing and sustaining each other, through this difficult time and beyond.

Given all that we know about how COVID-19 spreads, and perhaps especially all that we do not yet know, we are writing to inform you that our High Holiday services and experiences will be shared on a digital platform this year.  There simply is no safe way to fill our Sanctuary and Social Hall with people and song.

Many of you will not be surprised by this news.  Others will.  We know that receiving this update may bring up mixed responses and emotions.  Relief, perhaps, that the decision has been made.  Sadness and loss over what we will miss by not being together in our building.  Curiosity for the imaginative and impactful ways we will create meaningful and lasting holiday experiences this year.  (Please complete the three-question survey at the end of this letter — we would really appreciate your thoughts and input!)

Having anticipated this as a real possibility, we have been busy planning for remote High Holiday experiences for months.

  • Rabbi Steiner has been crafting unique service experiences that will each lift up particular and holiday-specific themes.  These services will vary in format and length — allowing us to experience both the formality we expect and the connection we long for.
  • Rabbi Steiner, Marina Voronina, and Janet Montroy have been working on the anchoring and transformational music, which needs to be recorded and produced in advance of the holidays.
  • Our dedicated lay leaders have spent hours on necessary details, especially those that relate to digital access.  The technology needed will be in place, and detailed instructions, training and support will be available.
  • We are implementing creative and meaningful ways to honor our Barnert Temple leaders and supporters.


Each person working in this team has demonstrated creativity, sensitivity, and openness to the transformative experiences that await us.

Rabbi Steiner is shaping a High Holiday experience in which much will be familiar and also much will be new — there is tremendous opportunity during this difficult and unprecedented time.  In the coming weeks, you will be hearing much more from us. 

  • We are planning a Barnert, community-wide preparation for the High Holidays.  Our work is traditionally meant to start in the month of Elul, which begins this year in the middle of August, a full month before Rosh Hashanah.
  • Each household will have the opportunity to set up their home as a sacred space.
  • This year we will participate in a unique seder-like Erev Rosh Hashanah experience.
  • There will be a geographic-area specific live drive-in shofar blast.
  • Using a digital tool, we will participate in our annual “collection of sins” from the past year, and our collective accountability as we witness each other’s openness.
  • We will be able to connect and support one another during our Yizkor Memorial Service.
Fri, August 7 2020 17 Av 5780