Members of the city’s Jewish community can ring in their new year next week from the comfort of their vehicle during the second consecutive pandemic-style celebration of the High Holy Days.
Instead of gathering inside a synagogue, an event dubbed Shofar in My Car allows people to drive to one of four locations to hear the blowing of the shofar — a ram’s horn — on Tuesday, said Rena Secter Elbaze, lay clergy at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
"There’s an imperative to listen to the shofar because it’s a wake-up call," she said of the blowing of this ancient instrument on Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year.
"It’s to think about your behaviour and things to want to fix in your relationships and how you treat people, and it’s taking stock."
Volunteers will blow the shofar at 2 p.m. at parking lots at Shaarey Zedek, Asper Jewish Community Campus, and two southwest Winnipeg retirement residences. The shofar will also sound at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the parking lot of the Jewish Learning Centre, 1845 Mathers Ave.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Monday and continues until sundown Wednesday. Jews mark Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, 10 days later.
Although the focus of the High Holidays is introspection and reflection about the past year, Rabbi Allan Finkel plans to reframe that message to reflect the challenges of current pandemic life.
"Let’s get away from the weariness and the past and start the world afresh," he said of the theme of his sermons at Temple Shalom.
"The old world isn’t there anymore. Let’s just look forward."
Part of that forward-looking attitude means living with the realities of COVID-19. Finkel and four other Winnipeg rabbis issued a letter last week stating the importance of getting vaccinated because saving or preserving a life is central to Jewish ethics and values.
"Those who are eligible to be vaccinated and refuse to do so endanger the lives of others," the letter said.
Anyone attending in-person events at Temple Shalom, Congregation Etz Chayim or Adas Yeshurun Herzlia during the High Holy Days must show proof of double vaccination. Etz Chayim will limit attendance to 100 people and others can follow services on a livestream, said Rabbi Kliel Rose.
All services at Congregation Shaarey Zedek will be online again this year and free to anyone who wants to participate, said administrator Ran Ukashi.
"We want to be there for the community but in the safest way possible," he said of the virtual High Holiday services streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
Winnipeg’s modern Orthodox community will hold only in-person services, since they do not use electricity or computers on the Sabbath or High Holidays, with services outdoors if weather permits, said Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshuran Herzlia Synagogue.
"When you purchase your seat, you have to show your proof of vaccination," said Benarroch, adding congregants will be physically distanced and masked.
"We don’t anticipate anyone would try to trick us."
No one has protested having their vaccine cards scanned before entering services at Temple Shalom thus far, Finkel said.
"Our right to our health is more important than your right to step through the door," he said. "There’s been zero pushback on this."
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.