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Pandemic moves synagogue’s Rosh Hashanah service outdoors

Congregants take a walk along the lakefront to mark the Jewish New Year.

Sounding the shofar during the walk along the lakefront.

Several hundred members of Evanston’s Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation held a “shofar walk” along the shores of Lake Michigan on Monday, for the evening service of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

COVID-19 has forced congregations around the world to “be creative and adapt to the times,” as JRC’s rabbi Rachel Weiss put it.

The shofar is a ram’s horn which is sounded on Rosh Hashanah to mark the coming of the new year, in this case, 5782 on the Jewish lunar calendar.

Congregation members walked from Lee Street Beach to Clark Street, sounding the shofar at seven different locations.

Seven, Rabbi Weiss explained, “symbolizes wholeness and completeness” in Judaism.

Joel Gratch was one of those who sounded the shofar.

“I love it,” he said of the outdoor walking service. “We’re building a new tradition.”

JRC’s other services for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah days, Yom Kippur evening and day) will be online.

Evanston’s Reform Jewish congregation, Beth Emet, is holding indoor services which will also be live streamed.

Anyone attending indoor services will have to be vaccinated. Social distancing will be enforced, masks will be required, and the sanctuary will be limited to 300 people (about 30% of capacity).

Services at the Orthodox Sephardic Congregation will be indoors. Masks and social distancing are mandatory.

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Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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