Sounding the shofar online

Daniel, left, and Jonathan Schwartz blow the shofar in preparation for the high holidays, as part of a video project by Congregation Olam Tikvah.

Congregation Olam Tikvah, a Conservative synagogue in Fairfax, has developed a novel way to send a wake-up call to congregants before the high holidays.

Olam Tikvah has asked congregants to video themselves blowing a shofar.

It’s something that we conceived of last year,” said Rabbi David Kalender. “Typically, in the month leading up to the new year, one sounds the shofar every morning at the end of the morning services.”

The spread of the COVID-19 virus put an end to morning services last year, and so the community had to find a new way of coming together around sounding the shofar, Kalender said.

Each day, Olam Tikvah will send out a new video as part of its morning email blast. The video will also be posted on the synagogue’s website and Facebook page, said Erin Dreyfuss, program coordinator for the synagogue.

“It’s accessible in multiple ways; however you engage with your community online, we’re there for you,” Dreyfuss said.

“This way, people will wake up and turn on their computers in the morning, and see and hear a person in their community sound the shofar to help them get ready for the high holidays,” Kalender said.

Dreyfuss said that last year served as an introduction for sounding the shofar online.

“This year, it’s very much, ‘Oh, I did that last year, and I want to do it again,’ or ‘Oh, I saw that last year, and I’ve been practicing my shofar skills and I want to participate this year,’” Dreyfuss said.

The synagogue is also soliciting congregants to submit a video, poem or prayer about something they’ve learned about themselves during the last year and would like to share with the rest of the congregation.

“We wanted to have something that would not only inspire them through the sound, but to inspire them through the head and the heart,” Kalender said.

Kalender said the contributions were so popular with the congregation last year that they decided to repeat it this year.

“People were so moved by others truly sharing from their hearts, that there are people who, to this day, say that it was one of their favorite events from last year,” Kalender said.

Kalender said that the pandemic has inspired members of the community to find ways of developing interconnectedness.

“It wasn’t that COVID made a necessity of this. It was motivated by a way to say how can we get in deeper touch with our Jewish soul within ourselves and each other at a time when we can’t use our typical forms?” Kalender said.

Below is the shofar video for Aug. 9:

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