Sunday, August 9th 2020   |

Shir Chadash makes decision to use tech for High Holidays

By ALAN SMASON

Faced with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the looming possibility that public gatherings of more than 50 individuals might still be banned by Jefferson Parish officials during the time of the High Holidays, Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation has for the first time in its history decided to use technology that will enable it to connect electronically with its congregation members.

Shir Chadash Rabbi Deborah Silver, who was one of the historic signatories on the teshuvah in May that will permit livestreaming of High Holiday worship services. (Photo by Alan Smason)

The ability to make a decision of this sort was put into action when the,Conservative movement came out with a teshuvah, or responsa in May that permitted livestreaming of relgious services on Shabbat and the High Holidays during the current pandemic crisis.

That particular teshuvah by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, was first advanced by one Conservative Jewish rabbi and then the responsa signed by 13 Conservative rabbis including Shir Chadash Rabbi Deborah Silver.

According to the rules of the Committee of Jewish Law and Standards, every teshuvah signed by 6 or more Conservative rabbis  is valid and allows individual synagogues to determine a path for themselves to follow.

 “The unprecedented change was approved this week by the Shir Chadash Board of Directors, based on recommendations made by its Executive and Ritual Committees,” said the announcement yesterday, July 9, 2020.

“The plan is to utilize both Livestream and Zoom technology for this year’s High Holyday services which begin September 18th at sunset,” the release continued.

According to Rabbi Silver, the livestreamed services will be viewed on the synagogue’s web site. Information on when individual services will be available online will also be posted there.

It will be the imperative of a “High Holydays Task Force” at Shir Chadash “to ensure technology will be used judiciously so these important services remain inspiring and spiritually uplifting even under the conditions of the pandemic.”

Under normal conditions, such technology would be seen to be in violation of the spirit of maintaining Shabbat and the High Holidays, but given the uncertain times dictated by the ongoing pandemic, major segments of the Conservative movement have felt that safety of its members is foremost.

“We believe these recommendations fulfill the mandate of Conservative Judaism to strike the right balance between tradition and change,” Rabbi Silver said. “They provide the greatest access to our services for the greatest number of people in our community during the COVID-19 emergency while preserving the culture of our sacred spaces and the lay leadership who make our services special and meaningful.”

By livestreaming services, the need to attend is person is alleviated, thus keeping congregants out of harm’s way and possibly exposing them to the coronavirus during these public gatherings.

“We hope and trust that this decision will consolidate and strengthen our relationships with each other across the Shir Chadash community, enabling us to come together in prayer during these unprecedented and challenging circumstances,” Shir Chadash president Ken Klein added.

According to the announcement, the technology infrastructure committee also plans to create additional programming throughout the High Holidays.  

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