Memphis’ Jewish community prepares to celebrate High Holy Days differently due to pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Jewish community is preparing to celebrate the High Holy Days starting this Friday, but this year they will do so without the men’s choir performing live at one of the city’s oldest synagogues for Rosh Hashanah.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is causing the Jewish community to do things differently this year. Orthodox Jews avoid all technology on the Sabbath.

The synagogue is doing something it’s never done before. They’re posting the High Holy Service in an empty synagogue ahead of Rosh Hashanah. They’re doing do ahead of restrictions that come with an Orthodox Jewish Sabbath.

“We made it available to the whole community,” said Rabbi Binyamin Lehrfield, of the Baron Hirsch Congregation. “Not just our small faith community, but anyone who wanted to have a small peek and a small window into what it’s like to be in attendance at an Orthodox holiday service.”

Baron Hirsch congregation has been following health department guidelines having only 40 to 50 members at multiple services. Lehrfield said trying to come up with new ways to celebrate the High Holy Days has been difficult.

“On a regular year, preparing for the high holidays are incredibly difficult hours, months of work,” Lehrfield said. “This is, this is the Super Bowl. This is a big moment for us as a congregation and to have to reimagine and rethink everything from how we do our services to where we’re doing our services to what about those who are not coming to the services has proven to be a big challenge.”

Though the process has been challenging, Lehrfield said he hopes people of faith accept the challenges through prayer.

“That we ask God to help open our eyes, if you will, to not get caught up in the negativity or the pain. And the loss, which is so real, and it hurts, but rather to open our eyes, to see the opportunities that lay in front of us, whether it’s our family or maybe it’s health or jobs or community.  We’re all very lucky, and we have so many things to be thankful for,” Lehrfield said.

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