Pandemic changes Rosh Hashanah celebrations, but message remains the same

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Jewish community is getting ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, but many of those celebrations will take on a different look as a result of COVID-19.

At the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, congregants will pray in a tent set up outdoors.

“You can maintain the highest levels of safety and at the same time, pray and welcome in a brand new happy, healthy, wonderful and sweet new year,” said Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, of the setup.

Seats are arranged within the tent so members of the same household can sit together, at a safe social distance from others.

Additionally, all congregants will be required to undergo temperature checks and wear face masks.

“The cantor, the rabbi – when they speak, they will be behind plexiglass,” explained Kaltmann. “All the safety measures we can use are being used because safety, health, and welfare comes first.”

Other Central Ohio congregations, however, will be holding Rosh Hashanah services virtually.

“It’s not the same as hugging your friends when you see them in services, but it’s wonderful to be able to connect technologically and to feel like you’re part of something,” said Rabbi Sharon Mars.

Temple Israel, Mars’s synagogue, will stream Rosh Hashanah services live online for all congregants, while limited celebrations will occur in person.

Mars says she is hopeful her congregation will be able to pray again, as normal, soon.

“We’ll be praying in person, I know it, but it makes all the difference that people take care of each other in the meantime,” she said. “I just pray that we have the fortitude to be able to, through these masks, look at each other in the eye and say ‘I see your humanity. Let’s go. Let’s get there.’”

Both congregations will hold services for Yom Kippur in the same forms they are doing so for Rosh Hashanah.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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