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it takes a village

10/15/2020 10:20:48 AM

Oct15

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I have been livestreaming services from my living room since March 13, hoping to bring some semblance of the familiar to a totally unfamiliar situation.  No one could have anticipated that I would still be doing so seven months later.  Despite the hope and desire for in-person High Holy Day services, the health and safety of our congregation had to take precedence, thus my first-ever, livestreamed, High Holy Day services. Little did I know on March 13 that I would acquire a ring light, a usb microphone and a green screen to complete the transformation from living room to live broadcast studio, complete with white-covered music stands.

What type of services should I offer for the High Holy Days boomeranged through my head for months? Postings from colleagues ran the gamut from no pre-recorded parts through elaborate, high quality, professional recordings costing thousands of dollars.  What should the duration of each service be? I do not recall in all my years on the bima a congregant lamenting “how short the service was” or “the Rabbi should have spoken longer”. In a sort of bizarre interpretation of the B’rosh Hashanah opening pair of questions, “Who shall live, and who shall die?”, I had to ask the same for every single paragraph in the Machzor.  Does this one stay, or does it go?  How can we create communal prayer when everyone is muted? To answer this question, we unmuted the entire congregation for each of the five times we recited the short confessional, Ashamnu, on Yom Kippur.  The congregation was instructed to echo our cantorial soloist as we created an amazing cacophonous chorus.

So many questions kept me up nights. What if A happens, or B, or C, or D, etc.? in the end, I am proud of what we accomplished. I wanted to create something intimate, personal and heimische, so we only pre-recorded the instrumental prelude to Kol Nidrei and the person who chanted the Haftarah for Yom Kippur. The rest was live, warts and all. I can only hope that the effort was appreciated, and that people found their time spent with us meaningful and prayerful. Feedback from the congregation is welcomed and encouraged. Please e-mail me, rabbi@treeoflifepgh.org, with your comments, which I will share at our High Holy Day debriefing meeting.

There are too many people to thank, and as everyone knows, when you try to thank you risk omitting someone, so I will tread lightly. I want to thank our cantorial soloist, Sarah Nadler, for chanting the liturgy so beautifully. I want to thank our professional staff, Barb Feige, Executive Director, and Alex Speck, Program Director, for all of your efforts leading up until and during the holidays. I hope that you each found some personal time for prayer.  Thank you to our Torah readers and Haftarah chanters, and English prayer readers for your participation. Thank you to our officers and Congregation Board for your support and varied efforts and responsibilities that you assumed. Thank you to congregants who stepped forward and helped in so many ways.

It took a village, and I’m so proud of our village. We demonstrated that with common purpose and unity, we can accomplish incredible things. May God continue to inspire us as we travel this road together on a path to a bright future.

Mon, October 26 2020 8 Cheshvan 5781