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Our High Holiday celebrations will be held both in person and on Zoom. Our staff and volunteers are working hard to organize these celebrations, so please be courteous before, during, and after the services.

The office staff will send a Zoom link to Shaarei Shamayim members, who do not need to register in advance. Guests attending on Zoom must register at least one business day in advance of each holiday in order to receive a link.

Covid-19 Policies
Masks are optional. If you or a family member is ill, we ask that you stay home and participate in our services over Zoom. We are reserving the balcony for a limited number of people who would like additional spacing. We do require masks in this section. If you would like to sit up there, please email the office to reserve your spot.

We would love to see your children at our services! Unfortunately, we cannot let your children run around unsupervised, so please accompany them if they wish to go to the playground (evening services only) or to the bathroom. We are unfortunately not able to provide online options for our children's programs. Make sure to check out our kids' page and register for children's services or youth discussions.

As always, we are not allowed to use the parking lot at the First Unitarian Society anytime before 5:00 p.m. during the week. We also cannot use the parking lot on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, which falls on a Sunday. You are free to use the parking lot on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and Kol Nidrei. Please respect this rule, even if you see an open space. The First Unitarian Society rents these spots to other people.

When you arrive at morning/daytime services on the second day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, please park in an alternate parking area on this parking map. Do not park in any area designated "No Parking" or "Permit Required Parking" on Marshall Court or in the Waisman Center parking lot before 5:00 p.m. or you will get a ticket.

The Shorewood Police will not enforce timed parking limits if you put a parking pass on the driver's side dashboard of your car. Please print this pass - you do not need to first enter the First Unitarian parking lot. If you forget to print a pass, a parking coordinator, who will be standing at the entrance to the parking lot, will give you one. Make sure to give yourself enough time to park; some spots are a 10-15 minute walk. There are a limited number of parking spots in the First Unitarian Society parking lot for people who have an official disabled parking permit or license plate; these are first come, first served.

Please consider carpooling, biking, walking, or taking the bus if you are able.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need to buy tickets?
    No! Our founding members 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. If you are not a member and would like to attend on Zoom, please register here to receive the Zoom links.

    If you are not a member of our congregation, we ask that you 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 donate what you can. Your donations allow us to continue to provide these services to the entire community at no charge.

    We also hope that you will join our congregation and support progressive Jewish life in Madison. If you live outside Dane County, consider becoming a Friend of Shaarei Shamayim.
  2. What are the services like?
    We use the Reconstructionist machzor (prayer book) and insert several contemporary readings throughout the service. Rabbi Laurie and Julia Banchik, our cantorial soloist, will lead the services with members of our singing group, High Holiday Song. We are very participatory and encourage everyone to sing along either in person or from home. Our members also share English readings, chant Torah and Haftarah, and blow shofar.
  3. How do you suggest making the holidays special while participating from 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 also might want to take a walk or sit outside. 
  4. What’s tashlich?
    Tashlich is an old Rosh Hashanah ritual. Jews would traditionally walk to a river or lake and throw bread into the water, symbolizing the casting off of our sins. We will hold two in-person tashlich gatherings on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. There's no need to register in advance. Bring some bird seed or pebbles (better for the wildlife than bread) and spend some time outdoors with others. If you are not a member please contact the office for the locations.
  5. Is the second day of Rosh Hashanah the same as the first day of Rosh Hashanah?
    The second day is a bit less formal and much smaller. We do not have a formal Torah service. Instead one of our members will give a dvar Torah (longer reflection) and lead a discussion about themes of the day. Several members stay afterwards for a picnic lunch.
  6. Is there anything special I should know about Kol Nidrei?
    Yes. We encourage you to arrive 15 minutes early on Kol Nidrei because we will start on time. We will provide yahrtzeit candles for anyone who wishes to light one before the service. If you plan to light a candle, please make sure to come as early as 5:30 p.m. If you are at home, you might want to have a yahrzeit candle to light in memory of loved ones who have died, as well as holiday candles.
  7. ​​​​​It’s not my custom to fast on Yom Kippur. Is that okay?
    Sure. 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, don't eat in front of others if you are attending in person, and turn off your screen if you need to eat while participating online.
  8. 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. If you are participating online and 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.

    Some of our members wear a kippah (head covering) and tallit (prayer shawl). Others do not. Do whatever you prefer, either in person or online.

    You might wish to observe the following traditions on Yom Kippur: wearing all white, not wearing leather, and wearing a tallit to the evening service. (Usually a tallit is worn only to morning services.)
Fri, May 17 2024 9 Iyyar 5784