REHOBOTH BEACH — With this week’s Rosh Hashana observance comes the “High Holy Days” for Jewish people — and hopefully, a “new energy, new spirit for the upcoming year,” says a local religious leader.
“It’s the beginning of what I could consider to be our holiest time of year,” Joel Simon, president of the Seaside Jewish Community, said Monday. “That idea of a new start, a fresh beginning, is a big part of Rosh Hashana. To me, personally, it’s a time to get together with family and the community. It’s a time to spend time together in a spiritual setting.”
Being celebrated through Wednesday evening, Rosh Hashana — literally meaning “head of the year” — is a holiday celebrating the start of the Jewish new year, which is 5782. It is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days and is followed by Yom Kippur in mid-September.
While Rosh Hashana is traditionally a time to gather, Mr. Simon said the COVID-19 pandemic and the delta variant will again prevent his congregation from celebrating fully in person.
With vaccines and masks, there have been some improvements in the community’s ability to gather: Where last year’s services were offered exclusively through a virtual format, Mr. Simon said this week’s events will be offered both virtually, on Seaside Jewish Community’s YouTube channel, and in person.
Reservations, which are fully booked, are required to attend in-person worship. All those who go to services live must wear a mask and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Ceremonies — which took place Monday evening and are planned for Tuesday morning at 10 — will be held at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach due to its larger sanctuary.
Congregation Beth Sholom in Dover also will be celebrating Rosh Hashana both in person and virtually. For those unable to gather, services will be available via Zoom. That community held a gathering Monday evening and will also congregate Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
Seating is limited to 50 people at the congregation’s services. Those in attendance must wear masks.
Mr. Simon noted that there are advantages to virtual services, like being able to reach more worshippers.
“It gives more people options,” he said. “It enables people that want to be in person to be in person, but it also enables people who feel more comfortable staying at home at this point.”
The drawback, he added, is that the congregation will not get the same atmosphere and connection that physical services offer.
“There’s a certain degree of energy when you have a full congregation,” Mr. Simon said. “I’m hoping that the congregants that are there will have double the energy and enthusiasm for Rosh Hashana.”
Mr. Simon said the ideal situation would be to operate normally, as the congregation did prior to the pandemic. Still, he said that while the situation may be disappointing, he and his followers understand what has necessitated restrictions.
“I’m still enthusiastic about being in person in some degree, in some form, even though it has restrictions to it,” he said. “There’s a part of me that wishes it could be full capacity, no mask and more normal, that type of environment, but at the same time, I’m happy to be the president of a congregation that is being cautious, careful and keeping our members safe.”