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  1. Do I need to buy tickets?
    No. The founders of our congregation believed that no one should have to pay to attend holiday services, and we continue to uphold this principle. Our services are open to anyone wishing to attend.

    That said, if you are not a member of our congregation, we hope you will make a tax-deductible contribution after the holidays. Countless hours of work go into creating our services and we have significant ongoing expenses as a congregation. We suggest a donation of $250 for all the services, or $100 for a single day. We understand that people have varying resources, so please contribute what you can. We want to be here for you again next year!

    We also hope that you will join our community and support progressive Jewish life in Madison.
  2. Do I need to register for online services?
    Yes. In order to receive a Zoom link we ask that you register in advance. Register here.
  3. What are the services like?
    We use the Reconstructionist machzor (prayer book) and insert several contemporary readings throughout the service. We have hired a Reconstructionist cantor, Shira Stanford-Asiyo, to lead traditional and contemporary music along with High Holiday Song. We are very participatory and encourage everyone to sing along from home. Our members also lead various parts of the service, share English readings, chant Torah and Haftarah, and blow shofar.

    Our services last several hours, and we encourage you to take breaks. We understand that sitting in front of a screen can be taxing. You might wish to listen on your phone as you take a walk. Many people come and go throughout these days. 
  4. How do you suggest making the holidays special while watching them at home?
    Attending services at home poses certain challenges. It's especially easy to get distracted. We suggest that you close your email. And Facebook. And Twitter. If you enjoy seeing the faces of community members, sit in front of the screen. Feel free to chat with them from time to time using the chat function in Zoom. If you would rather turn off your video and just listen, that's fine too. You might want to take a walk or sit outside. If dressing up feels nice, do that. If you've always wanted to go to Yom Kippur services in your pajamas, no one is going to stop you. And also, feel free to bring your cat, dog, or hamster - you may never have the opportunity again.
  5. Should I join you live or listen at my own pace?
    We hope that you will join us live. The more people who come, the more faces we get to see and connect with. It's hard to sustain community at this time, and being together makes a huge difference. That said, it's not always possible to log in during set hours, and we wanted to create opportunities to experience the holidays at other times. We have created playlists of the recordings by our former cantorial soloist, Mikko Utevsky, along with several of our members. We will also upload recordings of the services and Rabbi Laurie's sermons soon after she gives them.
  6. Do people generally arrive on time and stay until the end of the service?
    For our evening services people usually do arrive on time and stay until the end. Our Erev Rosh Hashanah seder will last a little over an hour and Kol Nidrei will last a little under two hours. Our services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur morning will be broken into segments with breaks. Rosh Hashanah services will last about three hours and Yom Kippur will be a bit longer. Many people arrive late for morning services and they come and go throughout the day of Yom Kippur. For any service, feel free to take breaks.
  7. Should my children attend? Won’t they be bored?
    You should definitely bring your children! We will have a Rosh Hashanah seder for children under ten, as well as a variety of children’s programming – a Tot service for children ages 0-5, a Kindergarten through 5th grade service, and youth discussions for 6th-8th graders and 9th-12th graders. Highlights from the main services include the shofar service on Rosh Hashanah and a special blessing for children on Yom Kippur. Because we are at home this year, it's also nice for kids to listen along while they are playing or drawing. We will be distributing at-home holiday kits, and kids can do the activities in them while parents are participating in the services.
  8. What's an Erev Rosh Hashanah seder? I thought seders were for Passover.
    It's true that seders are held on Passover. In Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish traditions, seders are also held on Rosh Hashanah. Jews celebrate the new year with a special ceremony held at home during which they recite blessings over a variety of foods that symbolize their wishes for the year ahead. Seder means order, and the ritual has become known as a seder because the blessings are recited in a specific order. At our seder we will include these blessings but also songs and prayers from our services that are familiar to our community. Rabbi Laurie will tell a story at the family seder and give a short sermon at the community seder. One of our Hebrew tutors, Tsurit Barhama, has made a video where she explains what a Rosh Hashanah seder is based on growing up in a Yemenite-Israeli home. Purchase foods and prepare for a Rosh Hashanah seder.
  9. Is the second day of Rosh Hashanah the same as the first day of Rosh Hashanah?
    The service is a bit less formal and smaller. We do not have a formal Torah service. Instead two of our members will give divrei Torah (longer reflections) and lead discussions about themes of the day.
  10. What’s tashlich?
    Tashlich is an old ritual that's done on Rosh Hashanah. We walk to a river or lake and throw bread into the water, symbolizing the casting off of our sins. We will hold a socially-distanced, in-person tashlich gathering on the second day of Rosh Hashanah – attendees must register in advance by September 4. This year we will add shofar blowing at a distance to the ritual. Bring some bread and spend some time outdoors with others. Time and location given upon registration.
  11. Is there anything special I should know about Kol Nidrei?
    Yes. We encourage you to log in to the service 10-15 minutes early on Kol Nidrei because we will start on time. You might want to have a yahrtzeit candle to light in memory of loved ones who have died, as well as Shabbat/holiday candles.
  12. What happens during the day of Yom Kippur?
    We encourage you to log on/off as needed throughout the day of Yom Kippur.
  • We have a tot service at 9:00 a.m. for children ages 0-5. This will be led by Rabbi Laurie and our song leader, Aviv Kammay.
  • Our morning service begins at 9:30 a.m. and lasts into the early afternoon.
  • Our Yizkor service begins at 1:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to remember loved ones, especially parents, who have died. We recite much of the traditional service but also leave time for individuals to say the name of the person who has died. This year we invite you to bring photographs of loved ones who have died. We will not be placing stones in water.
  • At 2:15 p.m. we will have a social hour on Zoom. This is unstructured time to say hello to others and wish community members a happy new year. We will also have children's services for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, as well as youth discussions for 6th-8th graders and 9th-12th graders.
  • Avodah is held at 3:15 p.m. This is a unique gathering at Shaarei Shamayim, and we invite you to bring poetry, songs, and stories to share. These can be pieces you have written or the pieces of others.
  • At 4:30 we will have a special panel discussion.
  • At 6:15 we will gather for Neilah, our final service. We begin with fifteen minutes of meditation and chanting. We mark the end of Yom Kippur with the final shofar and havdalah.
  • At 7:30 p.m. we will have a virtual break fast. You are welcome to come even if you have not been fasting.
  1. ​​​​​It’s not my custom to fast. Is that okay?
    Sure, not everyone fasts on Yom Kippur. Some people fast part of the day. Others not at all. Do what feels right to you. Out of respect to people who are fasting, just turn off your screen if you are going to eat.
  2. What should I wear?
    Wear whatever you would like! Some people dress formally in a suit and tie or dress while others wear comfortable, informal clothing. Many of our members wear something special for the holidays. There are certain customs on Yom Kippur that you might like to observe: wearing all white, not wearing leather, and wearing a tallit to the evening service. It is up to you if you would like to wear a tallit or kippot to our online services.
Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781