Beth Am to celebrate High Holy Days with sacred distancing

Congregation Beth Am's Rabbi David Kornberg during a virtual Campfire Shabbat.

For people in the Jewish faith, the fall’s High Holy Days are a time of year that they most look forward to coming together in the sanctuary, praying and reflecting over the powerful and transformative messages of the days.

“To not be able to be here is a big challenge,” said Rabbi David Kornberg of Carmel Valley’s Congregation Beth Am. “We have such a beautiful sanctuary and a lot of people are really sad that they aren’t going to be able to be there and to see the Torah scrolls dressed in white.”

This year it will look different as most will attend services online but Beth Am has come up with creative ways to connect with the congregation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur over the next several weeks.

Rosh Hashanah, known as the Jewish New Year, begins on the evening of Sept. 18 and ends on the evening of Sept. 20. It is followed by Yom Kippur on Sept. 27-28.

“What we’ve been doing is thinking about the High Holy Days not in terms of two days but a whole month-and-a-half process,” Kornberg said. “There are lots of different things we’re doing to help people engage in the High Holy Days over that course of time.”

Rabbi Kornberg and Rabbi Matthew Earne plan to post “Spiritual Sparks,” a set of videos that will be posted at the beginning and end of every week sharing a message of the holidays.

Another way to connect during the holidays will be through “Meaningful Moments” which will begin on Aug. 24. With Meaningful Moments, the rabbis are offering the chance to meet with any family in the congregation on an individual basis to do a short ceremony in the sanctuary, providing an opportunity to connect, say prayers and reflect together. Each family who participates will be met in front of the Ark outside of the synagogue for prayers and song. After safely hearing the sound of the shofar, families can share a special moment to prepare for the New Year.

Kornberg said on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, part of each person’s confessional is “acknowledging how we can do better.” One of the prayers, the Al Chet, is always said in the plural so the community together takes responsibility for everyone: “This year that will be really hard.”

To adapt, Beth Am will be encouraging people to send in their own personal confessionals (kept anonymous) and they will be incorporated into the services on-site so people can feel like they are a part of the service and the community without being physically there.

So much of the Jewish faith revolves around community and Kornberg knows that so many in his congregation are missing that personal contact—he hopes that their efforts over the next few weeks will help people feel a sense of connection as they celebrate this year in such different ways.

Congregation Beth Am is located at 5050 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego, CA, 92130. Call (858) 481-8454 or visit