The High Holy Days: Jews Welcome 5782 Despite Covid
How one Synagogue is reaching out to the whole world with free Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur cyber-casts offering services that touch the heart, mind and soul
By Alex Ben Block
A year ago, as Jews entered the High Holy Day period the traditional gathering of the faithful was wrought with angst over how to fulfill the commandments to pray for atonement and redemption in the era of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills, where my family has long attended, like many others in Los Angeles and around the world grappled with a series of plans that included moving the ritual ceremony into a nearby outdoor public park, to presenting a closed-circuit broadcast over the Internet, to holding scaled down ceremonies in the Temple theater with limited attendance while observing cleanliness, government rules and social separation mandates.
In the end the outdoor venue was impractical and the Temple of the Arts put on a small ceremony inside the Saban Theater (once known as the Wilshire Theater). It was a TV show as well as a religious presentation, with both day and evening programs available online with an access code.
This year for the first time, that outreach effort is being greatly expanded and the paywall has been dropped. That means anyone who has Internet access can share in the Temple’s moving, inspirational services without joining anything. (Donations are accepted, but not mandatory).
That means those far beyond Los Angeles can attend services on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, from the comfort of their own home.
High Holy Day services for 2021(5782) will stream live at: www.templelivestream.com. Erev Rosh Hashanah, Monday, September 6th at 8:00 p.m. PDT Rosh Hashanah, Tuesday, September 7th at 10:00 a.m. PDT Kol Nidre, Wednesday, September 15th at 8:00 p.m. PDT Yom Kippur, Thursday, September 16th at 10:00 a.m. PDT
How We Got To This Point
As Jewry worldwide prepares to welcome the arrival of the year 5782 on Monday evening September 6, enough people are vaccinated to allow larger gatherings but with the Delta variant still an issue, concerns and safety protocols remain at the forefront of all the plans.
Temples, Synagogues and other places of worship across Los Angeles and around the world once again have plans that vary greatly. This repot will focus only on how the Temple of the Arts is handing it under Rabbi David Baron, an inspiring religious and community leader.
Rabbi Baron helped found the synagogue in 1992 with the unique approach of presenting religion through music, drama, art and film, fostered by a membership that includes top talents in American show business.
Over the years, the Temple has raised millions for a renovation of the theater and expansion of the Temple’s activities as The Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center. The efforts include dozens of events each year, including screening series for underserved children. In recent years, the Temple has added a children’s school.
Services That Fulfill the Soul and Touch The Heart
Rabbi David Baron
Rabbi Baron from the start has incorporated into each service music, inspirational readings, and visits from special guests, along with the traditional readings from the Torah and other Jewish works. It has created moving services that fill the soul and raise the human spirit.
From the start, the goal also was to do outreach to those unable to attend in person for health reasons, to members of the military around the globe and others who may never come to a synagogue but still want a taste of the Jewish religious tradition.
To that end Temple services and sermons have been broadcast nationally and webcast internationally via Jewish Life Television and other media for years. Most of those efforts focused on the Yom Kippur services, celebrating the most holy of Jewish holidays.
Last year that changed with the full cyber-cast of both the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, on the opening evening and then throughout the following day. Temple of the Arts is a mix of reform and conservative Jewish traditions so unlike the Orthodox Jews, it does not celebrate a second day of Rosh Hashanah.
As mentioned, this year everyone who wishes can watch and share in the services which include all of the traditional prayers and much more at no cost.
Some Very Special Guests
Each year Rabbi Baron and the Temple host guests with stories that range from deeply personal to those of importance to the world.
“My guests have incredible stories of perseverance and resilience,” Rabbi Baron said in his holiday message this year. “Each of their stories exemplifies the strength of the human spirit, which can serve as examples to enlighten all of us. At this season of repentance and introspection, it is of vital importance to bring awareness globally. We can learn important life lessons from these inspirational and motivational messages.”
This year the Rabbi’s guests include
Masih Alinejad, the renowned Iranian-American Journalist, Television Presenter, Women’s Rights Activist and Best-Selling Author of the memoir, The Wind in My Hair: My Fight For Freedom in Modern Iran, and Mona Golabek, Grammy Award Nominee, Recording Artist, Concert Pianist, Star of the Stage Show, The Pianist of Willesden Lane and Author of The Children of Willesden Lane, Lisa of Willesden Lane, and Hold On To Your Music, as well as Founder of The Willesden Project.
Masih Alinejad said, “I am grateful for the opportunity the Rabbi is giving me to discuss the importance of human rights, Iranian rights and women’s rights. Personal choice and the freedom to speak one’s own truth and voice one’s own choices are primary tenets of my life. Together we are stronger.”
Mona Golabek said, “This great synagogue celebrates the power of the arts and inspires us to triumph over our greatest challenges. A personal thank you to Rabbi Baron for his gracious invitation, affording me the opportunity to share a personal story of resilience and humanity through music.”
This being in the heart of the capital of show business, one of the top talent agents in Hollywood also has a story to share.
On Tuesday, September 7, Richard Weitz, a partner at William Morris Endeavor and co-head of its scripted development department, along with his daughter, Demi Weitz, will talk about how they created an online non-profit, Quarantunes, during the COVID-19 lockdown, which raised $26 million for various charities.
Other guests will include Dr. Hillel Newman, Consult General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Joe Buchanan, a Texas born composer and singer, who writes country music inspired by the Torah. Among the performers will be Mary Hart, longtime host of Entertainment Tonight; Jim Moret of Inside Edition; reknown acting teacher Bernard Hiller; and Adrienne Baron, a vocalist with Broadway credits (who is also the Rabbi's wife).
Among the artists participating will be the Temple’s Cantors, Ilysia J. Pierce and Jordan Bennett, and Emmy award winning Music Director, Sharon Farber. Instrumentalists for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur will include: Murray Middleman, Clarinet, Flute and Saxophone; Alexander Kalamn, Violin; Dimitry Olevsky, Violin; Garik Terzian, Cello and Liesli Erman, Harp. Service Participants will include high profile celebrity members of the congregation doing readings and telling special stories.
For All The Spiritual Who Need Renewal Whether you are Jewish or not, whether you have remained active in your religion or not, whether you are alone or with others, this year presents a unique opportunity to share in a presentation that is largely in English, and designed to appear to the heart, mind and soul, making it a very special occasion in a busy world where some think greed is good and God is dead. Here is a chance at no cost to see there are still those who believe we can have a better world, learn from the past and be inspired to be part of the future.
For additional information contact the temple at 323-658-9100 or log on to www.bhtota.org.