Pandemic sparks changes, opportunities as Jewish congregations celebrate High Holy Days

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Tents set up outside Chabad Palm Beach Gardens, to accommodate more congregants observing the Jewish High Holy Days starting next week. (WPEC)

The Jewish High Holy Days are just more than a week away.

This year, local congregations are planning observances much differently due to the pandemic.

Chabad Palm Beach Gardens has set up tents outside the sanctuary as part of a multi-faceted approach to connect with as many people as possible at this important time of year.

"Your prayer matters,"said Rabbi Dovid Vigler of Chabad Gardens.

Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, will be followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

"We've created six options to be able to allow every member of the Jewish people, to be able to affiliate with their Jewish community this High Holiday season," Rabbi Vigler said.

Inside the Chabad's sanctuary, with spaced seating and masks required, more traditional in-person services will take place for both Holy Days.

Outside, the tents will host more in-person services, but of varying duration, emphasizing the traditional blowing of the shofar.

"Since that is the single most important moment of the entire Rosh Hashanah service, we're therefore having 'just shofar' services, which are literally five minutes," Vigler said.

Reservations are required for the in-person services, both indoors and outdoors.

While many conservative and reform congregations are streaming holiday services online, some direct from Israel, the orthodox tradition does not allow for that.

So Chabad Gardens plans concerts, to be streamed, a couple days before each holiday.

And both rabbi and rebbetzin Chana Vigler have gone online with tutorials on how to celebrate the High Holidays at home.

"I want you to realize these are the holiest days of the year and you can do it," the rebbetzin said. "You can bring that holiness into your life."

"You are important, you matter," Rabbi Vigler said. "And even though we might be socially distanced, we're spiritually more connected than ever before."

So you have many options for observing the Jewish High Holidays, despite the pandemic.

Chabad Gardens has information about its many holiday offerings on its website. Other local congregations are doing the same.