COVID-19 puts damper on Rosh Hashana, Jewish holiday season

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Sept. 18 (UPI) — Rosh Hashana, which ushers in the Jewish holiday season, began Friday, with many traditions upended amid the coronavirus pandemic, including a new lockdown in Israel.

Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, known as the “birthday of the world,” typically marked by family gatherings and other events.

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“We are trying to find ways to replace the communal feeling [congregants] are missing by not gathering in person,” Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Atlanta’s Congregation Bet Haverim told CNN.

The rabbi started the Facebook group “Dreaming Up High Holy Days 2020,” which calls for rabbis, cantors and laypeople to adapt Jewish traditions amid the health crisis.Joel Rubin, the Washington, D.C.-based former Jewish outreach director for Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he worries there may be a disconnect this year.

“These aren’t replaceable events,” he told the Washington Post. “These are life experiences that are temporal.

“For me, there’s a fear of a disconnect from the community. We’re holding on by our fingernails to the infrastructure that helps us to be able to practice and promote Judaism for us and our families. Maybe we can get away with it once.”

Israel entered the holiday Friday with a new lockdown amid an uptick in coronavirus cases.

The country has reported a total 176,933 cases and 1,169 deaths, according to the Health Ministry, with 5,238 new cases on Thursday.

Under the new restrictions, people must stay within about a half-mile of their homes, indoor gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, and schools, restaurants, malls, gyms, hair salons and hotels will be largely shuttered.

The lockdown is in effect through Oct. 11, which will also encompass Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement on Sept. 27 and Sukkot in early October.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new lockdown was needed after hospitals “raised the red flag” following the surge in COVID-19 cases.

President Donald Trump issued a statement on the importance of faith.”As this 10-day period of celebration, devout prayer, reflection and repentance commence, we are reminded of how important faith, family, and fellowship are to each of us,” he said.

“Particularly during these challenging times, the sense of peace and reassurance that comes with these observances has never been more important in helping us seek [God’s] wisdom and understanding as we continue to grow in our faith.”

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