Ventnor synagogue adapting to COVID-19 changes ahead of Rosh Hashana – Press of Atlantic City

Posted By on September 21, 2020

VENTNOR Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport and his daughters, Ella, 12, and Chaya, 8, set up plastic chairs under a tent Friday afternoon in the courtyard at Chabad at the Shore Synagogue ahead of Rosh Hashana. The courtyard, divided into two sections, will be used for holiday services.

The synagogue would typically have 200 people at the service, but due to COVID-19, its observance of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which began at sundown Friday, was scaled down.

The concern for peoples health is of utmost importance, Rapoport said. However, the high holidays are such an important time. We were concerned. How can we hold services and yet keep people safe? Were outdoors. Everyone wears masks, and its just a safer environment.

The outside courtyard can accommodate 55 people, all socially distanced. The synagogue can hold 200 people inside 50 people at 25% capacity but Rapoport has held all services outside for everyones safety.

Two services will be held, the traditional four-hour service and a one-hour abbreviated service, both Saturday, he said. To adhere to capacity restrictions, members had to make a reservation to come to the services.

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And for those not comfortable coming to an outdoor gathering, the synagogue will hold a 20-minute service on the beach Sunday evening.

Its symbolic where we cast our sins into the sea, and its a tradition that children throw the bread in the water, he said.

Once the pandemic hit, the synagogue shut down for eight weeks in the spring and then held services outside when it reopened. Rapoport has also held services virtually through Zoom and Facebook Live.

The numbers have definitely been lower, but we ramped up our online presence, he said. In some ways, we have more people engaged with the synagogue (during) COVID, but just not in person.

Before COVID-19, 150 to 200 people would come to regular services in the summer, according to the rabbi. This past summer, only 40 people came for services regularly.

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One of those loyal members is part-time Ventnor resident Phyllis Beresin. To continue practicing her faith, she attended outdoor services at the synagogue.

It wasnt hard at all, she said of adjusting to outside services. Its a beautiful space, and I feel like Im in Israel when Im here. To me, its wonderful.

She commended Rapoport for doing as much as he can with what he was dealt.

He encourages us to come for services by having the space for us. I think hes been providing the right atmosphere for all of us, she said. Were very fortunate to have this available here.

No virtual services will be held for Rosh Hashana because Scripture says no electricity shall be used during the 48-hour holiday, Rapoport said.

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The holiday allows Jews to recognize and celebrate the new year and let in new hope and blessings, he said.

On the Hebrew calendar, its going to be the year 5781; 5780 was a tough one for many, he said. Rosh Hashana is a time of introspection, and I think were living in a time where everyone had a lot of time to stop and introspect.

And with the introspection came new ways to live, and worship.

When COVID started, the thought of reopening synagogue, and servicing our community, seemed impossible. But its amazing how people learn to adapt, to pivot, to figure out creative ways to do things, Rapoport said. In the synagogue weve also adapted and we found safe ways to keep people connected to their religion, their heritage, while also being careful to protect their health.

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Ventnor synagogue adapting to COVID-19 changes ahead of Rosh Hashana - Press of Atlantic City

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