July 30, 2020
Dear Temple Israel community,
 
With all the uncertainties that surround us these days, what remains constant is our ability to enter the High Holy Days on a path toward forgiveness, repentance, reflection, and renewal. We have worked hard and thoughtfully to ensure that these spiritual themes and prayerful experiences find their way to you as much you seek them. We may not be able to gather in large crowds, but we will most certainly be together virtually.

In the coming days, you will receive more detailed information in the mail, but today we want to share with you the many pathways that will bring us together during the upcoming Days of Awe. 

We will hold virtual large group services with the clergy leading (with proper physical distancing) from the sanctuary bima. The familiar music and melodies will surround you as we make our way through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Find comfort in the familiar (though the length will be shorter) and be inspired by innovation as we experience high-quality live worship together. It will be beautiful and meaningful to share the holidays with others right on the screen in front of you or by dialing in over the phone for those who are not comfortable on the computer. All Temple Israel community members will have the enhanced opportunity to have a front row and interactive seat via Zoom, and a live-stream version of the service will be available to the broader community on our website. The exact links and phone numbers will be sent to you closer to the holidays. We will project the words of our prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, onto your screen. Alternatively, you could buy a copy from the publisher, Central Conference of American Rabbis, or, as a benefit of Temple Israel membership, you may opt to borrow a copy from us. For questions about membership, please connect with Shoshanna Goldberg.

We will also offer virtual small group prayer and discussion experiences. These will allow us to dig deeper into the High Holy Days and strengthen our relationships with others in interactive, small group virtual gatherings in the month of Elul and on the holidays themselves. We will also have gatherings for a more intimate prayer experience focused on specific ideas and themes such as Kol Nidre, Unetaneh Tokef, Poetry as Prayer, Jonah, Power of Music, and many more.

If you find that you want to spend time alone or with your family or pod, perhaps in the woods, on the beach, in a field or in the privacy of your own home, you can utilize our Self-Guided High Holy Day Exploration, available to all on our website, www.tisrael.org, starting August 21, the first day of the month of Elul that precedes Rosh Hashanah. Here is what is particularly wonderful about it: it's also compatible with your smart phone so you can take it with you. Through various thematic lenses, you will find prayers, art, meditations, texts, poems, and moving musical pieces of the holidays sung by Cantor Stillman. This is a way for you to curate your own High Holy Day experience based on which materials in our interactive online library are most meaningful to you.

A word about finding your place and space to pray, to reflect, and to engage with the experiences before you. We invite you to set an intention to create a sanctuary within your home or wherever you choose, where you can focus your attention without distractions. Being present allows active engagement, which we hope will enable you to pray, to reflect, and to take your own personal accounting. 
 
During these holidays, we say hashiveynu v'nashuva. Return to us, O God and we will turn toward You. We are entering the time of turning inward to discover our best selves and outward to each other and the world. Together, we engage in this sacred work. The mode may be different but the method remains the same: community, self-reflection, meaningful prayer, and beautiful music. 
 
We look forward to celebrating with you this year on the pathway toward forgiveness, repentance, reflection, and renewal. It is a journey we share together.
Rabbi Elaine Zecher
Cantor Alicia Stillman
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson
Rabbi Jen Gubitz
Rabbi Dan Slipakoff
Rabbinic Intern
Andrew Oberstein