Dear Friends,

I hope all is well and that despite Covid limitations, you were able to to enjoy these summer months. As we are now roughly a month away from Rosh Hashana, I am writing this letter to update you on where things stand in what promises to be a one-of-a-kind Yamim Nora’im season.

Our guiding principle is clear: Beth Jacob is fully committed to ensuring that every person reading this letter has a meaningful and uplifting Yamim Nora’im. One way or another - whether in person, virtually, or through some other medium - you will be provided with an opportunity to experience the spiritual power of these weeks. There are many varied ways to sanctify the name of Hashem, which is what this time of year is about.

I would like to thank the more than 220 households who filled out the survey to assist in Yamim Nora’im planning. Your feedback and comments were heard, and are being incorporated into the planning process.

Please note that next Wednesday, August 26, we will host a virtual “Yamim Nora’im Town Hall” meeting from 7:00-8:00pm on VBJ Zoom to address any issues not outlined below, as well as answer any other questions you may have. An email will go out closer to this date soliciting your questions.

Davening
The biggest question on everyone’s mind is how we will accommodate tefilla (services). In a normal year, we host multiple minyanim with over 600 people attending peak davening during Kol Nidrei and Ne’ila. This year there are many things we don’t yet know, and Rabbis Foxbrunner and Tendler and the Shul staff are working intensely with the help of a special committee comprised of Dr. Yaakov Berendt, Yonasan Gavant, Shimon Kaminetzky, Dr. Ari Leifer, Matt Lewis, Stacey McGhee, and Roberta Scher to address all issues and challenges. The Shul's security committee will also play an important role in planning these details.

What we know: 
  • We plan on hosting all minyanim on our campus, utilizing every possible indoor space as well as outdoor space using open-walled tents. All minyanim will be structured in consultation with health experts, and include mask-wearing and social distancing. 
  • Davening will be quicker than usual, though we still intend to retain the framework of a traditional Yamim Nora’im tefilla.
  • There will be early and later minyanim whenever possible to maximize the use of our space and to avoid the heat of the day as much as possible. 
  • We will do everything possible to accommodate as many men and women at these minyanim as possible.
  • We are addressing special concerns of senior citizens and doing whatever possible to create a secure venue for those in this demographic.
  • In addition to the full minyanim listed above, One or more “Shofar + Mussaf only” minyanim will be held for those who can’t attend longer tefilla.
  • As we have done in years past, a “Learners Service” will be hosted on Rosh Hashana afternoon to make it possible for those looking for a more explanatory service to participate.
  • For those unable to attend any Rosh Hashana davening, we will be holding a series of evening programs, “A Taste of the Yamim Nora’im,” in the days before Rosh Hashana. These will have enhanced safety guidelines. Please look out for more information soon.
  • Detailed halachic guidelines addressing all aspects of the holidays will be publicized for those who will be davening at home.
  • Machzorim will be available to be borrowed for the entire Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, for use in Shul or at home.

Our goal is to finalize the schedule and open up registration for all of the above minyanim by September 1.

Shofar
In addition to the Shofar blowing held on campus during davening on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (there is no shofar blowing on Shabbos), we will coordinate with other Shuls to provide shofar blowing through the afternoon on residential streets. We will also be sending someone to blow shofar at Holbrooke Assisted Living, as well as other locations throughout the neighborhood.

If you think your street or location may be overlooked in the planning and want to make sure shofar blowing is arranged, please contact Rabbi Dov Foxbrunner at rdf@bethjacobatlanta.org

Youth Programming 
For now it appears that we will not be able to offer youth programs or childcare on Yamim Nora'im mornings. However, we intend to offer other creative programs for BJ youth both before Rosh Hashana, as well as on Rosh Hashana afternoon. More information will be shared on that shortly.

Education
In the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana, we will have a variety of opportunities to tune into Virtual Beth Jacob for inspiration and practical guidance on making the most of these weeks.

We are also excited to announce that on the first day of Selichos, September 13, we will host a major virtual pre-Rosh Hashana event called “12 Hours of Teshuva”, featuring local speakers and guest speakers from around the world, as well as youth and musical components. Look out for more information about this event in the coming days.

This year's Shema Koleinu publication will include a special expanded section of sermons and Torah thoughts that can be read and enjoyed during Yom Tov.

Fundraising
In place of our usual array of High Holiday fundraisers, this year we will hold one central fundraising campaign between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Especially this year, I urge you to consider giving generously to this campaign, more details of which will be released in the coming days.

Those who are accustomed to purchasing specific honors will still be able to do so at the minyan they attend.

I want to especially acknowledge the dedicated and diligent effort that Rabbi Foxbrunner and Rabbi Tendler are investing in all aspects of our planning.

Thank you for being part of a Shul community that transforms any situation into an opportunity for sanctifying Hashem’s name. It is a privilege to prepare with you to crown the King of Kings.

Wishing you a joyous, meaningful, and safe beginning to the month of Elul.

Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman