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Our High Holiday celebrations will be held both in-person and via Zoom. We encourage everyone to read the information below. Our staff and volunteers are working hard to organize these celebrations, so please be courteous before and during services.

We are happy to return to our usual standards of not requiring registration for in-person events. Guests attending via Zoom must register at least one business day in advance of each holiday in order to receive a link. The office staff will send a Zoom link to Shaarei Shamayim members, who do not need to register in advance.

Reducing Risk
As outlined on our COVID-19 policy page, we are requiring everyone to wear masks except our service leaders. We ask that your mask fits your face properly with your nose and mouth fully covered. Our staff and volunteers will enforce these policies. Please save us the awkward experience of asking you to pull up your mask and follow these rules. If you or a family member is ill, we ask that you please stay home and participate in our services via Zoom.

Please understand that everyone has different levels of comfort and may wish to be further apart. We encourage you to simply ask your neighbor if they have enough space. We are reserving the balcony for a limited number of people who would like additional spacing. Please email the office to reserve your spot, which will be first come, first served.

We would love to see your children at our services! We ask parents to make sure that their children over the age of 2 are wearing properly fitting masks that cover their mouth and nose. 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. 

As always, we will not be able to use the parking lot at the First Unitarian Society during any part of the day before 5:00 p.m. on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Please respect this rule, even if you see an open space. The First Unitarian Society rents these spots to other people. Also, please note that there is a lot of construction near the First Unitarian Society, so traffic is very slow. Please plan accordingly.

When you arrive at morning/daytime services, please plan to park at one of the alternate parking areas - see 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 download and print this paper - 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. Please be 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. Everyone is welcome to park in the parking lot at the evening services.

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 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. 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.
  6. Is there anything special I should know about Kol Nidrei?
    Yes. We encourage you to arrive or log in to the service 10-15 minutes early on Kol Nidrei because we will start on time. 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 Shabbat/holiday candles. 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.
  7. ​​​​​It’s not my custom to fast. 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, just turn off your screen (if watching online) if you are going to eat and don't eat in front of others if you are attending in person.
  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 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 what's most comfortable for you, 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.)
Thu, December 8 2022 14 Kislev 5783