The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Pandemic once again disrupts Jewish High Holy Days

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As customary, there will be celebratio­ns and somber reflection­s as American Jews observe the upcoming High Holy Days — their faith’s most important period. There also will be deep disappoint­ment, as rabbis once again cancel or limit in-person worship due to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

The chief culprit is the quick-spreading delta variant of the coronaviru­s, dashing widespread hopes that this year’s observance­s, unlike those of 2020, could once again fill synagogues with congregant­s worshippin­g side by side and exchanging hugs.

“I’m crushed emotionall­y that we’re not able to be inperson,” said Rabbi Judith Siegal, whose Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida, will hold only virtual services for the holy days as the pandemic’s upsurge buffets South Florida.

“For many rabbis, this is our favorite time of the year — we’re extroverts who love to be with people,” Siegal said. “We really miss being able to be together.”

Instead, Siegal and her staff are filling the synagogue’s sanctuary with cardboard cutouts of congregati­on members, including children and pets.

At many synagogues, such as The Temple in Nashville, Tennessee, there will be a mix of in-person services, including indoor and outdoor options, and virtual offerings for people staying home. In many cases, plans keep changing with the approach of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which starts the evening of Sept. 6, followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Sept. 15-16.

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