Liberal shuls ponder opening for Yomtov

St John's Wood among synagogues considering a reduced in-person offering. Other congregations have been collaborating on online provision for the festivals


Although Liberal communities will mainly be holding High Holy-Day services online, a few congregations, including the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, have been considering whether to offer a reduced, in-person option on their premises.

For Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism’s joint interim director, what has been particularly conspicuous this year is that “there has been far more collaboration”.

Communities, she said, “have been sharing resources, not only in terms of technology but rabbis. In some ways, the preparation has been more exhausting.”

For example, four congregations — Elstree, South Bucks, Stevenage and the Liberal group at Mosaic — will be teaming up for their Yomtov services.

Their live-streamed Rosh Hashanah offering will include shofar blowers “from each of the four communities sounding it individually in their own home as part of the service”.

The Essex and East London community is working together with Bristol and Birmingham.

Some communities will supplement their digital offering with outdoor tashlich ceremonies such as Kingston by the river and Brighton near the sea.

On Yom Kippur afternoon, Liberal Judaism will be streaming sessions “so all communities can come together and do different things with different rabbis. Then they can go back to their hub or community for Neilah.”

One collective activity the movement has already been running is the Akedah Project — the Binding of Isaac is read on Rosh Hashanah — with members invited to create their own midrash “focusing on the unheard voice of Sarah”.

Some groups will incorporate responses in their services.

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