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A Yom Kippur Couch Potato in the Virtual World

18 1 8
01.10.2020

I grew up in Queens, NY and my family belonged to the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, a large Conservative synagogue with a prominent Rabbi, I. Usher Kirschblum and famous cantors. However, my family spent the holidays with my maternal grandparents at a Galitizianer shul in East NY, Brooklyn. I wrote about the experience of holidays at the Berriman Street Shul here.

The past few years I attended Chabad of Port Washington for high holiday services. I was first introduced to the shul taking my granddaughters to the fabulous preschool program run by the charming Rebbetzin Sara Paltiel. She and her husband Rabbi Shalom Paltiel have developed a very warm and welcoming environment and I really enjoy the services there. The Rabbi humorously describes his services as being in an Orthodox shul, with a Conservative style service, and a Reform congregation officiated by a Rabbi who looks like Fiddler on the Roof.

I was therefore thrilled when I read that the shul was erecting a tent for limited seating at a social distance, and all worshipers would be temperature checked and masked. I rsvp’d that I would attend and was looking forward to it. A few days before Rosh Hashanah I received a call from my son saying that he and my daughter were dead set against me taking the risk of going to services. He outlined several thoughtful reasons and I reluctantly agreed. I guess I am at the age (68) now where I need to listen to my kids.

Thus, I entered the virtual world of holiday services. For Rosh Hashanah I found out that my old synagogue, Temple Israel of Great Neck was streaming their services. I enjoyed listening to the familiar voice of Cantor Raphael Frieder. It still was hard for me to get used to it. As someone who is a big fan of the high holiday nusach I truly enjoyed the Baal Shacharit a young man named Simon who had a beautiful sweet voice and perfectly chanted the prayers with the endearing melodies. He blended so well with Rabbi Stecker and I have to say the two of them together were my favorite part of the service.

Still this process was something that I had a hard time getting used to. I was watching on my laptop and it was just difficult to get into the spirit of the service. The part I missed the most was not being able to listen to the congregational singing. I particularly noticed this during the Hayom prayer where everyone would normally be belting out the ha ah ah ah yom hayom hayom refrain. The Cantor tried his best but it just didn’t do it for me. I found it particularly awkward to stand and sit when indicated. Eventually I just decided to stay seated.

The Torah reading and the shofar blowing was weird being directed to different peoples houses for the various aliyas and readings. I really don’t understand why they couldn’t do that in the sanctuary and just go to the houses for the blessings.

So telling my son of the qualms I had with the virtual service he told me that I should for Yom Kippur watch it through YouTube on my big screen television. Good idea I thought. I will give it a........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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