© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rabbis Share How Rosh Hashana Will Be Affected By COVID-19


Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. But like so many things this year, it will be punctuated by the challenges and uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic. We called up several rabbis to hear about their preparations ahead of this evening.


We start in New York with Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Glatt. His congregation is Young Israel of wood near. And he is also an epidemiologist. He says it is crucial to celebrate safely.

AARON GLATT: How we act during the high holidays in a more practical way, not just in a spiritual way - of course, the spiritual way doesn't change - but maybe more so than in other years what we physically do during the high holidays will determine outcomes for people whether they'll have a happy, healthy year or, heaven forbid, the opposite.

GREENE: When we caught up with Rabbi Sarah Fort of Congregation Beth Yeshurun, who's in Houston, she was thinking about her message.

SARAH FORT: When I was in rabbinical school, I was taught you always - you give the sermon that you need to hear. And the thing about all of us, even rabbis, is that we're all living through the same pandemic that everybody else is.

MARTIN: Mychal Copeland is a rabbi in California whose congregation caters to the LGBTQ community. It's called Sha’ar Zahav. She says her sermon will try to help those coping with loss.

MYCHAL COPELAND: We're dealing with not only COVID but dealing with fires here that have taken people's homes. And so high holidays comes along in a time when people are already holding a tremendous amount of loss. And how do we begin to process what they're holding?

GREENE: Rabbi Sholomo Levy of Beth Elohim, a Black synagogue in Queens, says it is all about looking inside yourself.

SHOLOMO BEN LEVY: This new year is beginning on a note of reckoning. We're dealing with this pandemic, and we're dealing with an epidemic of racism. And Rosh Hashanah traditionally starts a period where it involves deep introspection about what's going on in your life and in the world.

MARTIN: But while it's been a painful year for all Americans, Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel in Memphis says Rosh Hashanah still carries the same meaning it always has.

MICAH GREENSTEIN: It's never too late to become a better version of yourself than you were before. So if we can just help everyone connect and know that they're not alone, then it will be the most successful and impactful and meaningful holidays of our lives.

MARTIN: Surely a message we can all learn from. Shana tova to all who celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEONARD COHEN'S "WHO BY FIRE?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.