Overall, Rabbi Warner Ferratier feels that high holiday preparations at Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon are going well, particularly considering how many top staff members are new. Ferratier has been the Conservative synagogue’s rabbi only since July 1. Executive director David Bass began in June, as did Jocelyn Dorfman, the director of Beth Emeth’s preschool program.
“Given that the three of us will be new together, I also ask for your patience as we get our feet underneath ourselves,” Ferratier wrote in the July issue of “Shofar Notes,” Beth Emeth’s newsletter. “We’ll be doing our best to get up to speed as quickly as possible, but there are likely to be some bumps and dropped balls as we learn how to serve the CBE community, and I beg for tolerance and sense of humor as we all get to know each other.”
Despite the changes at the top, Ferratier says he hopes that the high holidays will feel familiar, in the sense of seeming more like the ways were before the pandemic.
“But we hope that they’ll also, particularly with a new rabbi, have a sense of freshness, and that it’ll be an opportunity for people who haven’t felt comfortable coming in person to begin coming in person, and to re-engage,” says Ferratier.
Ferratier began planning the high holiday services “pretty much as soon as I got here,” he says. And there’s much to be done: cleaning the synagogue, setting up rooms, getting enough chairs for attendees, getting the machzorim (high holiday prayer books) out of storage and polishing the silver.
Then there is ensuring that the membership rolls are up to date, which includes making sure that members’ email addresses and phone numbers are accurate, and distributing guest tickets.
Staff also prepare for youth services that take place at the same time as the main service, and ensure that the high holiday Torah covers are “pristine.”
“Just like people want to look their best, we want the synagogue to be at its best,” says Ferratier.
Ferratier expects his high holiday sermons will touch on the need for people to reconnect with each other following the pandemic, and of renewal. In fact, it’s a theme he imagines could apply to the high holidays as a whole.
“One of the themes of a new year, whether it’s the Jewish new year or a secular new year, is the idea of getting to start anew, to renew and to refresh,” he says. “And so I hope it’ll be elements of that.”
A major theme of the high holidays is repentance and returning, Ferratier says, adding that “I hope that there’s a sense of this feeling of a return to normalcy.”