JDS families navigate new in-person services

Sophie Kaplan, News Editor

With an increase in isolation over the last two years, it has become difficult for families to stay connected to their religious communities. Although Zoom has worked for some Jews, others have not had that option due to Shabbat and Yom Tov. 

In the past, Yom Kippur has been a day during which many members of the CESJDS community would spend hours praying in a synagogue. While this was not an option last year, many families were able to return this year. 

Senior Maytal Polonetsky went to in-person services at Beth Sholom over Yom Kippur, with the addition of an option for participants to be outside. 

“I have barely gone to shul in the past two years because of COVID, and since there was no online option we just stayed at home,” Polonetsky said. “We observe Yom Tov and keep Shabbat so we can’t do anything online. We are able to go to our shul and they have an option to be outside, which is safer, but still really good to be in person.”

Jewish Text teacher Rabbi Tirza Covel and her family choose to continue to attend virtual services and take the opportunity to connect with communities across the country. In the past year, Covel’s family has Zoomed with congregations from Long Island, NY, and Savannah, GA. For Yom Kippur 2021, they chose to join a virtual service from Norfolk, VA. 

“We stay home and do not do much in-person beyond school and work. We decided last year to join through Zoom because we wanted to be connected with our communities somehow, but the amazing thing about Zoom is really that you can connect anywhere,” Covel said. “We have a lot of colleagues and friends who are elsewhere and leading congregations, and we are just as happy to connect with them and their communities.”

Even with a shift towards normalcy, some families have still chosen not to go to in-person services. Freshman Will Cashon’s family did not attend since they have an unvaccinated child. Cashon described his experience on a Shaare Torah Zoom as isolating but better than nothing. 

“Online services definitely detract from the prayer experience but they are still a lot better than not doing anything. Not being around the other people singing, and just being able to see the one prayer leader, makes it feel more isolated,” Cashon said. 

Covel agrees with Cashon but believes that there are ways to better the experience. 

“I think there is a level of online services being more difficult to connect with, but I think that just means that people on both sides of the cameras need to do a little bit more to strengthen the connection,” Covel said.