Congregation T’chiyah’s setup for Zoom Yom Kippur services, with Raya Samet, Jake Ehrlich and Kendra Watkins. Courtesy photo
The year 5780 is over, baruch Hashem. And as with so many other things this year, the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were celebrated in Detroit mostly over Zoom.
This year has been dark, and pretty much anything that happens on Zoom ends up being bleak — but the recent services were possibly the most fulfilling observances I’ve experienced. They were full of song, prayer and impressive speaking on Torah (the Old Testament to some).
As is traditional for Yom Kippur, on Monday I wore a yarmulke, a tallit and all white. Less traditionally, no pants.
Some other thoughts on Jewish high holidays at Detroit’s Congregation T’Chiyah during pandemic:
Normally there are four old guys gossiping in the back of the synagogue distracting everyone during services. This year, everyone got the chance to be those four old guys, with all the gossip happening in the DMs.
With the help of Zoom’s breakout rooms, the “introduce yourself to your neighbors” moment actually forced you to chat with people you didn’t know. I schmoozed with a local politician and two lovely women.
Similarly, instead of mostly seeing the back of people’s heads, you saw their faces and living rooms. We couldn’t stand together, but we could see each other sing.
It was the first time in 15 years I attended services with my parents, who live out of state. Their biggest takeaway? Praise for one of my friend’s singing, and for his beautiful hair. Yes, I am bald. No, I cannot sing. Yes, I am in therapy, why do you ask?
It was lovely, it was perfect. And, baruch Hashem, next year we’ll all be there in person, gossiping, praying, atoning and singing. And, one can only hope, wearing pants.
Have a sweet new year.
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Dan Klein is a Detroit-based writer and activist. He is circulation manager for Geez Magazine.