High Holy Days and Baseball

September 24, 2020

What a Difference a Year Makes!

While COVID-19 has been a nightmare for the world and we all wish it had never happened, some good things have also come from it. The demand for and availability of streaming technology has blown up and we are now able to virtually attend, watch and engage in events that we never would have been able to before.  By now you’ve probably attended all kinds of virtual events that you might not have been able to otherwise.

Synagogues will not be packed with people for High-Holiday services this year and while there is no substitute for praying in temple, we do have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in services taking place in other temples in the country and/or the world. Robin and I found ourselves doing just that last Yom Kippur when we discovered Central Synagogue in NY.

Last Yom Kippur we had heard that some synagogues were streaming their services online. So after coming back from shul we thought we’d go online and check it out. We found a handful, maybe four. Out of curiosity, we wanted to see how some other services were performed so we watched a few. Remember that this was pre-COVID, so the streaming of services was pretty rare. I’m sure that now there a zillion choices which may even include the synagogue that you attend.

I realize that we all have our opinions on what makes for a “good service.” Some prefer the traditional style, while others are more engaged when instruments and/or choirs are incorporated. These days I’m somewhere in the middle. I grew up in a traditional Conservative/Orthodox synagogue where nothing was in English let alone musical instruments!!  The fact that I had no idea what our prayers were saying and the absence of AC in the building pushed my ADD to the limits. The years spent at hebrew school taught us how to read Hebrew but not to speak or understand it.  So services were pretty much nothing more than going through the motions knowing that it is what I should be doing. Hell, if Sandy Koufax wouldn’t pitch on the High Holy Days then there was no doubt that being in Synagogue was where I should be, whether I comprehended what was going on or not.  Interestingly enough, I didn’t even know that some synagogues performed services with a mix of English and Hebrew until we moved to Colorado when I was in my early 20’s. Seeing the translation on every other page for the first time was literally an OMG moment!

While I still consider myself a Conservative Jew. I do appreciate the many engagement-friendly aspects of Reform services,  but I have to admit that I’ve attended some that were just a little too progressive for my taste. Beating drums?? I don’t know about that! It took me a long time to get used to the use of guitars, and/or pianos, organs, choirs, small orchestra’s, etc. I felt that those things seemed kind of sacrilegious, having no place in a Jewish temple. If my grandma Sadie had seen a reform service, she would’ve probably said in her Polish/Yiddish accent, “Oye vazemeir, what a shonda!” But I have come to understand their purpose, and if those things make the services more enjoyable and keep people engaged, then it’s all good in my book.

So, getting back to watching services online…. Whether you’re Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, I’d like to recommend that you pay an online visit to Central Synagogue in Manhattan, NY this Yom Kippur and check out their services.

The congregation is what I would call “Reformative.”  A mix between Reform and Conservative. For us, I can say that when the services concluded, we wished they would have continued. And that’s not something I would normally say.

Because each of us has different perceptions, expectations, and levels of spirituality, I don’t want to editorialize my thoughts any further about Central Synagogue’s services, as this is not a review. I will just say that, in my opinion, the services are engaging, done very tastefully, thoughtfully, and the Rabbi’s and Cantors are exceptional. It’s great to be able to attend (albeit online) these services and I believe you’ll find them memorable. If you do watch, let me know what you thought.


So what about baseball?

I thought you might ask that!

Robert Klein:  Yom Kippur and baseball.

Thanks to my good friend Alan Feinstein for sharing this with me.  It made my day and I hope it makes yours!!!


Again Happy New Year and have an easy fast!