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High Holidays 2020


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A Message From Rabbi Sammy on High Holidays 2020


כִּ֣י בֵיתִ֔י בֵּית־תְּפִלָּ֥ה יִקָּרֵ֖א לְכָל־הָעַמִּֽים

For My house shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples

- Isaiah 56:7


I want to begin by stating the obvious: I love our community, and I miss you. While it has been helpful and meaningful to connect from a distance, it is simply not the same as coming together in our shul and in our homes for prayer, learning, social events, and commitment to gemilut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness). With this in mind, I wish to share the decision for our approach to the High Holidays as approved by the Ner Tamid Board of Directors.


Ner Tamid plans to go entirely virtual for our High Holidays and the holidays that follow: Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. The format will place Dr. Sharna Shachar, our wonderful and soulful shelichah tzibur (prayer leader), and me as the only people in the sanctuary for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We will do this live through virtual platform(s) such as Zoom. The current California guidelines for houses of worship expressly prohibit indoor singing when there is a gathering present. In addition, based on the current trends of the viral spread, it seems nearly certain that we will not be able to welcome safely all who would desire to come together for the High Holidays as we would be required to maintain a limited capacity. Health and safety remains our number one priority.


In order to hold any in-person High Holiday experience, we would have to determine exclusively who could attend and who could not attend. That kind of process feels antithetical to the Ner Tamid spirit of warm inclusivity. Since we cannot open our “house of prayer for all” during the High Holidays, virtual services are the preferred alternative.


I have been meeting virtually with Sharna and with Liliane Eichenbaum (our VP of Ritual) and our Board, as we plan and craft creative means to engage with you during the Holidays. I would anticipate using Zoom. We also plan to reach out to community members to take leadership roles in the services and to deliver creative means for participation: Teen Trope Troupe and other Torah readers chanting Torah from home; sharing of personal stories (as Sharna, Gerry, and Leora did last year); musical offerings; breakout rooms for sharing, learning, reflection, discussion, and good ol’ schmoozing; creative in-home dinner experience on Erev Rosh Hashanah.


In the weeks and months to come please stay alert for other communications about our holiday programming. We plan to share more information next week about mahzorim (High Holiday prayer books).


While this is certainly not how I would have imagined any High Holiday season, we can view this as an opportunity to engage in a unique experience that will be remembered throughout time. Our people have a long and proud history of adaptation to adversity, and I have faith that together we can make these holidays meaningful and transformative.


May we all be in good health!



Rabbi Sammy

High Holiday Mahzor (Prayer Book) Information



As we plan for a High Holiday season like no other, we wish to offer guidance and information that will help you best prepare for this holy time of year. I wish to share some exciting news about High Holiday prayer books (mahzorim).


This year, our community will transition to the wonderful “Mahzor Lev Shalem.” (A brief explanation of this mahzor can be found at the bottom of this email.) The Rabbinical Assembly is offering a special discount of 40% on this mahzor on all orders placed by August 20th.


Please Click Here to Order Your Mahzor Lev Shalem (High Holiday Prayer Book)


During our High Holiday prayer services on Zoom, we will not screen-share text of the prayers. Screen-sharing the text of the prayer book would occupy a significant amount of space on the screen. We want to ensure that everyone logged in can see more faces of friends and community members davening together as we feel this will provide a more connective and meaningful High Holiday experience. We are therefore encouraging everyone to have their own prayer book for participation in this virtual experience. We plan to use this mahzor in future High Holidays as well, so once you order your own book, you will have it for subsequent High Holidays.


The Rabbinical Assembly plans to release a digital edition of the mahzor for purchase as well. We will share more information as it becomes available. If you would like, you may select this option. Keep in mind, the discount on the printed book may not be around next year, so we encourage you to take advantage while you can.


If you are able to buy an extra book for a congregant in need, please let Christa or Rabbi Sammy know and we will find a home for it.


If financial concerns are a barrier to purchase the mahzor, please contact Christa or Rabbi Sammy, and we will work with you to ensure that you can still have the mahzor for the High Holidays.



Rabbi Sammy

About Lev Shalem

Our community uses the “Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals,” the latest prayer book of the Rabbinical Assembly used by the Conservative Movement. This particular mahzor, like its Shabbat and Festival counterpart, is a beautiful prayer book in several aspects. Published in 2010 by the Rabbinical Assembly, this new mahzor presents a complete liturgy, restoring many traditional prayers that had not been included in earlier mahzorim. It contains a variety of commentaries from classical and modern-day rabbis, gender-sensitive translations, and “choreography” instructions as to when to sit, stand, bow, etc. English transliterations are offered for all prayers and lines recited aloud by the congregation. The page layout surrounds prayers with a variety of English commentaries and readings, as one finds in classical rabbinic commentaries. These commentaries and readings can help to provide greater depth and connection, understanding, and spirit in our prayer.

Thu, August 13 2020 23 Av 5780