The Jewish New Year, 5781, begins Friday, Sept. 18. Temple Beth Torah of Humble, the only Jewish synagogue serving the northeast area of Harris County, traditionally hosts standing room-only services for Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) 10 days later. This year, the synagogue can host an expanded crowd as the services will be presented online.
Since 1983, Temple Beth Torah has been a spiritual home for the Jewish community as well as a source of learning and education for non-Jewish neighbors. Many of the members who belong to the synagogue are interfaith families who enjoy the spirit of welcoming and inclusion.
Rabbi Dan Gordon, who has been the year-round spiritual leader of Temple Beth Torah since 1998, will team with Cantor Vadim Tunitsky for their sixth consecutive year of leading High Holiday worship services. Since March, both have extensive experience with online programming. The temple’s regular Friday night services are held each week over Zoom, and they have experienced good participation. Gordon says the virtual experience has enabled the small congregation to reach out beyond its “Humble” borders.
He said, “We have members who have moved out of town who are able to participate in our programs. Family members who live in different parts of the country are sharing Shabbat with each other over the computer. Elder members who stay home at night have been able to ‘Zoom’ in and be with the community. We try to find the blessings that balance out the limitations of the physical separation.”
For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, members of the temple will participate at home, but some will also be part of the service by sending in videos with greetings and readings so members will be able to see their friends. Some of the members will offer interpretive teachings of the Haftorah.
Jeff Kaufman, who chairs the temple’s Reopening Task Force, said, “We felt it was important during the High Holidays to foster a sense of community even though we are physically apart. In addition to the leadership from the rabbi and cantor, we will also see our members lighting candles, blessing the Torah, and offering teachings, almost as if we’ve invited friends into our homes to pray with us.”
Every year on Yom Kippur afternoon, Temple Beth Torah offers a study session before the Yizkor Memorial service. This will be the one interactive event where Gordon will interview Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, author of “Ramblings of a Texan Rabbi.” Kessler is rabbi emeritus of Congregation B’nai Israel in Galveston and has a wealth of stories about life in Texas as a Jew, a rabbi and a lover of stories. A separate Zoom link will be provided for those who want to participate in this live discussion at 1 p.m. Yom Kippur afternoon.