Monday, September 28, 2020

The rest of us: Some small congregations & prayer groups trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic *also* ran HH services

The reports, questions, requests for advice, etc., were all over Facebook, particularly on the Dreaming Up High Holy Days 2020 page.  The sighs of relief, as well as the thank-yous now that Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is over, are also all over Facebook.

Large synagogues have rabbis, cantors, staff, and technical help, paid for by their large numbers of members and donors.  

And small congregations and prayer groups have . . . what?

Pre-recorded music from a choir?  What choir?

Pre-recorded musicians?  What musicians?

Musicians piped in from other rooms?  How many rooms do you think we have in our tiny, windowless basement?  We can barely accommodate a minyan in our chapel, and the other rooms are full of mostly-no-longer-used machzorim and megillot books, not to mention a freezer and a second refrigerator, 'cause, ya know, Jews like to eat.  :)

Clergy safely distanced in sanctuaries that can accommodate hundreds of people (under normal circumstances)?  With at least two separate cameras capturing the services?  Are you joking?

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, some prayer/community spaces have had to sell their meeting locations, and some of them have no place to return to after the pandemic.

And some small congregations and prayer/community spaces have lost most of their "donations" (from people borrowing their facilities for non-synagogue activities) as a result of being closed due to the pandemic, and are barely above water financially.

Do you know what it's like to run High Holiday services with *no* full-time staff, *no* full-time clergy, and only one (part-time) cantor who's, um, less than stellar, all the while worrying about whether your synagogue building will still be there in six months?

Do you know what it's like to have some of your "hard-core regulars" unable to join you on Zoom because they're so low-tech that they don't even have cell phones, much less computers, and don't feel like holding a landline phone for an hour and a half?  It's no fun, "discriminating" against people just because they're over 80 and don't want to learn a new technology.

Do you know what it's like to spend months as volunteers creating e-mail lists, e-mailing information and Zoom links to congregants and friends, trying to figure out what to include and what to exclude from Zoom services, studying nusach, practicing Torah readings, and writing sermons, only to have High Holiday services with such a small attendance that we never had more than 30 people on the Zoom at any service, and couldn't even get a minyan on Shabbat Shuvah?

It's not that large congregations aren't terrifically challenged by these difficult times.  It's just that the problems of large congregations are often completely different from those that some smaller congregations/prayer groups have to deal with.  Congratulations to all of you whose services went well, and my sympathies to those who ran into technical or other difficulties.  But while you folks with resources are busy congratulating yourselves and one another, how about giving some recognition to the rest of us?



Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

Thank you for the reminder. I've been following that group, though I'm not a pulpit rabbi, but not really paying such close attention to break-down. It is good to have my eyes openned.

(Our plan had been to pray at home- then found that our (large) synagogue was down a sha"tz for one of its outdoor services, and tada- as of Friday afternoon, my husband was leading Shacharit and Musaf, and leyning. It turned out okay, but- not what we had planned! I guess we "are" some of our large shul's resources, though...)

Tue Sep 29, 01:11:00 AM 2020  
Blogger Unknown said...

We did it: no staff, no building. Space we usually rent unavailable due to pandemic. Leading from member homes, everything done by volunteers, all online.

Tue Sep 29, 01:50:00 AM 2020  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Kudos to all of you who did it yourselves or pitched in to help your communities! Somehow, we did it!

Tue Sep 29, 09:02:00 AM 2020  

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