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North Shore Temple Emanuel

a Progressive Jewish Congregation

High Holy Days Together@Home Communications

Email sent to NSTE members 3 August, 2020

A few weeks ago I wrote to tell you about how our North Shore Temple Emanuel community will observe the High Holy Days this year - Together@Home.

The amazing volunteer organising team have been hard at work preparing for our High Holy Days Together@Home and have prepared this video to provide a window into what is in store...

It certainly promises to be a memorable experience.


Please note, this year we will be using the new Mishkan Tefilah Machzor. Online access will be free of charge this year HERE, however, if you would like to purchase your own two volume hard copy for $80 (for the set), please click HERE or call the office on 02 9419 7011 as soon as possible.


For security reasons, access to the services will only be available to members or non-members who register in advance. If you know anyone who is not a member and would like to join our High Holy Days Together@Home services please email: so that we can contact them about becoming a member or, closer to the date, how to register as a non-member.*    

Best wishes,
Gwen Harrison

*No one is denied access to membership or services for financial reasons. Please contact the office to confidentially discuss.

Email sent to NSTE members 17 July, 2020

Imagine for a moment that the year is 586 BCE.  The magnificent Temple of King Solomon has been destroyed and the communal leaders gather to discuss how, in the face of such devastation, they can move forward.  

“Perhaps”, says one hopefully, “we can create a new place of worship - a synagogue.”
“But how will we facilitate the required sacrifices in such a place?” asks another.
“What if we temporarily replace sacrifices with prayer?” replies the first, “It’s not ideal but, dear God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight.”
(Psalm 19:14).

Thus the institution of the synagogue and the form of prayer that we know today was born.  Not by a command from God but through forethought, ingenuity and imagination combined with a dash of pragmatism, our forebears adjusted, by necessity, to the conditions of the times.  No doubt, our ancestors struggled greatly with this difficult decision but, in the end, what choice did they have?

This year has been one of great challenge for our world, and all of us have had to find ways to adjust many aspects of our lives in the face of COVID-19, from the personal to the communal and spiritual.  As a community, we now look ahead to the High Holy Day season, knowing that for safety and our foremost Jewish value of pikuach nefesh--preserving life--our practices will need to adapt for this year.


As we approach the High Holy Days, the board and rabbis of North Shore Temple Emanuel have grappled with how to facilitate community High Holy Day worship in the face of the pandemic.

Some of the challenges include:

  1. In a regular year, up to 700 people attend each of the High Holy Day services but under COVID restrictions, we could admit 120 per service at most.
  2. Song is such an important part of the HHD services that we know and love yet, sadly, both choral and congregational singing (because of the larger, forceful expulsion of air required) is considered to increase risk of spread of the virus.  Especially in an enclosed space.
  3. Health guidelines would require thorough cleaning of the sanctuary between every service, which is impractical between, say, Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur Morning Services.
  4. Elderly and other vulnerable people are discouraged from attending services due to health risks.  We must ensure that they are not excluded from our High Holy Day worship.

Many approaches were considered:

Prioritise in person seating for those with honours?  
Not in keeping with our egalitarian values.

Hold a lottery for seats?  
Does not address the needs of seniors or immunocompromised people who cannot attend.

Hold multiple services throughout the day?  
We would still struggle to accommodate all, while posing an increased health risk to our Rabbis, service leaders and volunteers, and incurring a significant administrative and cleaning burden.

Have some attend in person while others view a streamed video?  
How to decide who gets to attend? And the technology and wiring in the sanctuary required for this creates an unwelcoming environment and less than satisfactory experience.  

Wait until closer to the date in the hope that restrictions are lifted?  
Planning High Holy Day services, even in a normal year, takes many months and we must have a service plan that can be delivered regardless of restrictions. 


In this extraordinary year that has been so challenging for so many in our community, we aspire for NSTE’s High Holy Day services to be:

  • Inclusive - everyone must be able to attend,
  • Engaging - everyone must be able to feel involved in the service with opportunities to participate, and
  • Uplifting - we see music and song as central to this. 

Accordingly, we feel that the best way for us to offer meaningful services for these High Holy Days, 5781, is through an interactive, online High Holy Days Together@Home series of services.


We have a large and highly dedicated team working on making this year's services both memorable and profound. The groundwork is being laid and details will soon be forthcoming. We can, however, promise you that NSTE’s High Holy Days Together@Home will be much more than simply a video streamed service.  

It promises to provide an engaging and interactive experience.  We envisage, for example:

  • When we light candles or dip apples into honey, members of the community will be able to do so together, sharing the experience.
  • Our choir will “come together” as one on your screen from their living rooms to yours
  • Honourees will come “up” for an aliyah and chant the Torah blessings, and receive the rabbi’s blessing, in real time.
  • Parts of the service will run live from the sanctuary and others will involve prerecorded special guests and footage . . . all seamlessly blended into a moving and unforgettable experience.


As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we will be sharing details of what to expect and how to be a part of High Holy Days Together@Home. 

In the meantime, please find a number of Questions and Answers here, which we will update as more information becomes available.  We will also shortly arrange a live Zoom call with members of the organising committee to facilitate a question and answer session regarding High Holy Days Together@Home.  Please click here to register your interest and receive the login details, or email for assistance.

We appreciate that many of you will be disappointed that we cannot physically gather together as we have in years past.  We share your disappointment and look forward to the day when we can revert to our traditional in person ways. For now, rest assured that it is, as ever, our goal to touch the soul, whatever the medium. Like our ancestors, we stand ready to embrace a new means of observing sacred occasions as a community, during the coming Days of Awe.  Join us Together@Home as we find a meaningful way forward for High Holy Days 5781. 

Best Wishes,
Gwen Harrison

To view the High Holy Days Together@Home Questions & Answers click HERE

Fri, 14 August 2020 24 Av 5780