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Getting the most out of the High Holy Days at USH 

How to get the most out of the High Holy Days - in Hoboken or wherever you will be. See for the full brochure. 



Frequently Asked Questions about the High Holy Days at USH 2020

And resources for your High Holy Day observance


Q:  How will services be different this year?  How will they be the same? 

A: What’s different? …. Because of the health situation, most people will access most services online.  In-person gatherings will be very small or will take place outdoors, and masks and social distancing will characterize all in-person gatherings. Because group singing is considered a hazard, our singing will be more restrained this year, and services will not be accompanied by the USH Choir.  Services will also be shorter, considering safety factors as well as the limitations of the online format.  The Shofar will only be blown outdoors.  All our children’s activities will take place online.  All this of course means that services will be very different from what we are accustomed to. 

And at the same time…  As hard as it may be to remember, in our long history, the Jewish people has managed to celebrate Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur under circumstances much more adverse than this.  This year, as every year in our congregation’s 115-year history, our community will come together and stand before God and resolve to do whatever we can to make next year a better year. Our words and melodies this year will echo words and melodies from our people’s past, while also addressing issues of relevance to today.  Whether you are joining us online or in person, or celebrating the holiday on your own at home, we hope to give you support to have a meaningful High Holy Day experience.

Q:  What are you doing to assure the safety of those who attend the in-person gatherings? 

A: All in-person gatherings (indoors and outdoors) will include 6-foot social distancing and will require every person to wear a mask (over mouth and nose).  People who cannot abide by these guidelines are invited to access our services online instead.  Additionally, those who attend any indoor services will undergo a health screening upon entry.  However, there is an understanding that these gatherings are not risk-free. People who are in high-risk categories, and anyone not willing to assume the risks of this kind of gathering, are invited to access our services online instead.

Q:  What if I don’t have a computer?

A: If you have a smartphone, it should be possible to access the Zoom meetings on your phone.  Otherwise, you can access the audio of the service through a regular phone call; the number and access code will be sent to you (and if you don’t have email, we’ll give you this info over the phone if you call the synagogue office). 

Q: Attending services on the computer just sounds weird and unspiritual.  How can I make it a meaningful experience?

A: It’s a good question - and it’s a huge challenge.  But you can make it happen if you want to.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid multitasking.  Someone who attends services in person is “all in” and is not involved in other activities, and we recommend that you resist the temptation to do other things with your computer at the same time.  The next several suggestions are ways to help you to feel you’re “all in” and having an actual high holy day experience. 
  • Designate a special location in your home where you will access services -- we could call it your mikdash me’at  מקדש מעט (mini-sanctuary) in your home.  Here’s Rabbi Elyse Goldstein’s suggestion for a ritual to designate and sanctify the space in your home where you will participate in High Holy Day services.
  • If you can, sit back from the screen, or broadcast the image from the computer to a large screen TV.  Turn off the various pings and alerts that our computers are likely to use to demand our attention. Gather others in your family to experience the holiday together. 
  • Some of us will use the computer only if we can pre-set it before the holiday begins; here are some instructions about how to do this from my colleague Rabbi Sam Blustin.
  • Getting dressed up for a special occasion often helps us to feel different and special.  Even though others will not see (most of) you, considering getting dressed up as if you were going to the synagogue.
  • Wear a Talit if you have one.
  • Consider using a physical Mahzor - purchased or borrowed from USH (use the form at .  And feel free to look through the entire Mahzor and not just to stay at the page we happen to be on!  (You also have the option to request to use an e-book version of the Mahzor if that is your preference.) 
  • Attending services online, like any new experience, gets easier with experience.  In the weeks between now and Rosh HaShanah, check out some services online so that Rosh Hashanah will not be your first experience of online services. 
Q:  I understand and appreciate the lengths you’re going through to get services online.  But I already know that Zoom services are really not for me.  How can I have a special holiday experience? 

A: We have many in our community who will not access services online because they don’t find it compatible with their observance of the holiday.  We support you in that decision.  Below is a list of ways you can make these days special even if you are not able to come to our in-person synagogue services or access them online. 

Q: What else can I do to make these days special and meaningful? 

Every year, we get out of the High Holy Day experience what we put into it.  This is all the more true this year.  Here are some of our recommendations: 

  • Check out these web sites which are designed to help people to enhance their High Holy Day experiences: 
  • -- Sign up and they’ll email you a question each day, for the 10 days between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur. You then respond with your answers -- and next year at this time, your answers will get emailed back to you.
  • For kids: See the AMAZING High Holy Day guide from PJ Library, “HIgh Holidays at Home,”, created just for this year. It’s full of stories, crafts, music, recipes, and other suggestions. Lots of material that’s great for adults too. You won’t be disappointed!
  •, curated by Craig Taubman, has lots of brief inspirational quotations for the High Holy Day season (you can sign up to get one emailed to you every day, or review the selections from the last several years)
  • is always a great place to go to start to learn about any Jewish topic, including the High Holy Days and their observances.
 Q:  What’s the point of fasting anyway?

A:  Here are a few answers:  (1) Through the discomfort of fasting, we vividly express that we are conscious of the points of failure in our lives and that we regret our shortcomings.   (2) Fasting is a turning from material to spiritual concerns.  Fasting for one day helps us to concentrate on the concerns of the spirit, so that we might better understand the proper role of material things in our lives during the rest of the year.  (3) Fasting makes us more sensitive to the plight of people around the world who are hungry and prompts us to assist them.  While you might find it more difficult to fast while at home, since you’ll have more ready access to food and drink, we encourage you to try and fast even in these circumstances.  This is one way in which we can all still feel connected to our Jewish community while being forced to remain physically distant.  (Note that people for whom fasting would be medically unsafe are instructed by Jewish law NOT to fast.) 

Q: How can I put the values of the High Holy Days into action to make our world better? 

Check out, and/or, for a variety of volunteer opportunities at this time of year, supporting our community and our various partner organizations that care for the neediest people in our region.  You’ll find volunteer opportunities and donation opportunities for the Hoboken Shelter, the Hoboken Emergency Food Pantry, and Welcome Home Jersey City’s programs for immigrants and refugees, among other organizations. 

Q:  Do I really need to register for online services?

Never in the history of our collective lives have we had a situation like this in which the safety and health of our community requires that we remain physically distant during these most sacred services.  While you do not need to be a paid synagogue member to participate in services online this year, we ask that you register for services in order to receive the online links.  We hope that you’ll also make a donation to support the ongoing activities of USH; our congregation has been able to do its holy work in Hoboken for the last 115 years only because the community has been generous in offering its support.

We encourage you to check back to this website frequently for updates.

We will miss not being together in the sanctuary for our normal services this year.  We can rejoice in knowing that eventually, when this challenge has passed, we will be able to join together, in person, in prayer and community.  Until then, best wishes to our entire congregation for a happy, healthy and sweet New Year!











Tue, May 11 2021 29 Iyyar 5781