Rabbi Aaron Potek of Sixth & I Synagogue received a shofar as a bar mitzvah present about 20 years ago. At 5 p.m. on Sept. 18, he plans to take that shofar, step onto the synagogue’s roof and blow it, joining what he hopes are hundreds of others across the city in a unique mass shofar blast to usher in Rosh Hashanah.
“People are feeling really disconnected from their communities and from the larger D.C. Jewish community” because of the isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Potek said. “And so I think this is an opportunity for folks to feel a connection to people who are similarly going through a hard time and missing those relationships. I think it also allows people to get excited for the holiday.”
Dubbed “The Blast,” the event is an opportunity for Jews throughout Greater Washington to mark the New Year together, regardless of how distant they are from one another. The idea was born out of the friendship between Potek, Rabbi Sarah Krinsky of Adas Israel Congregation and Rabbi Hannah Goldstein of Temple Sinai, all in the District. In addition to their congregations, 25 area organizations have joined in.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset of Sept. 18. But shofarot have been blown each day in the Hebrew month of Elul leading up to the New Year, as a reminder for Jews to consider their actions in the past year.
Shofar blowing is a highlight of the Rosh Hashanah service and, with a single long blast, marks the end of Yom Kippur service and the fast. This year, few will have the opportunity to hear the shofar in synagogue.
“There’s something precious and simple about sounding our shofar in unity at the same moment with one another,” Krinsky said. “Anyone who’s anywhere is just invited to grab the shofar or a noisemaker of choice and wherever they are to declare and announce the New Year with one another through the shofar blast.”
Organizers say the goal of the event is to create a sound that can “reverberate around the city as we awaken to the coming of a new year and it will remind us that we are all in this together.”
The three rabbis see a communal shofar blowing as a way to connect Jews to a broader community, regardless of denomination. The rabbis aim to connect people through sound.
“The Jewish world can be a bit divided,” said Goldstein, who is a Reform Jew. Working with Krinsky, who is Conservative, and Potek, who is Orthodox, is an attempt at Jewish unity.
Instructions on the event’s website call for participants to blow their shofar outdoors while maintaining social distance. Participants are also asked to cover the end of the shofar with a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When the website went live, Goldstein said she started receiving text messages from rabbis all across the country seeking advice on how to host similar events. Potek said he was taken aback by how many local synagogues and Jewish organizations were willing to sign on.
“I think the most unusual thing about it is how many D.C.-based Jewish organizations are co-sponsoring it,” Potek said. “We basically have every major Jewish organization in the area signed on to this, which speaks to the desire for unity and coming together during a time where we feel really distant from one another.”
To avoid noise complaints, Potek said organizers plan to reach out to publications like PoPville and DCist to give the broader D.C. community a heads up.
“We’re not looking to be a major disruption in people’s lives,” Potek said. “And hopefully, if anything, it just brings a little awareness to this significant day in the Jewish calendar.”
To promote the Blast, the three rabbis filmed a promo video on the field of Nationals Park.
Goldstein said it was the second time she had ever stepped foot on the baseball field (the first was for a Taylor Swift concert).
Goldstein said it was a reminder of last year’s World Series, which she described as a unifying moment for the city, something she hopes the Blast will also accomplish.
“That was such a highlight for the city and its moment of really coming together. I think [the video] was calling that back,” Goldstein said. “Walking out onto the baseball field in this kind of crazy moment, I just felt so lucky. I thought it was just like a real moment of joy.”
When asked if the Blast will become an annual event, Potek said he was open to the idea, but that the organizers are going to wait and see what the future brings.
“I think if we’ve learned anything from this last year, it’s that planning anything more than a month in advance is fairly futile,” Potek said.
The Blast is set for 5 p.m. on Sept. 18. To learn more about the event and register, visit