KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar, begins Sunday night and continues into Monday night.
This year, the religion’s Day of Atonement will look and feel much different for the world’s observers amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the greater Kansas City region, congregations are adapting to serve their worshippers. Synagogues are mounting a combination of in-person, virtual and outdoor services.
« There have definitely been some silver linings of an explosion of creativity, not only at our synagogue, but at synagogues and temples throughout Kansas City and quite frankly throughout the entire United States, » said Rabbi David Glickman of Congregation Beth Shalom. « You’ve seen an explosion of spiritual creativity … But we do need to recognize that it comes with the backdrop of our country alone having lost over 200,000 people to COVID. »
The holiday centers on observers pausing and reflecting on the past year, asking for forgiveness and repentance for the New Year ahead. Traditionally, members of the Jewish community will fast from sundown to sundown, with modifications made for health and well-being.
« It’s more with the time to reflect about the year that passed and also a way for us to think about how we can do better in the next year. We use the word a lot called ‘t’shuva,’ which means repentance, » said Rabbi Javier Cattapan of Congregation Beth Torath. « That’s something that we are all asked to go through at this time of the year, so it’s really a prayerful and retrospective time and then on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a lot of Jews will fast during the day, to help us concentrate on the prayers. »
Yom Kippur is also an emotional holiday, with a key component known as the Yizkor service. This is a time for observers to mourn and honor loved ones who have passed away, not just recently, but in the lifetimes of those who celebrate Yom Kippur.
In addition to readings on the Holocaust and other significant events in Jewish history, prayers are recited for deceased relatives, which rabbis say will be even harder as the pandemic death toll in the U.S. recently crossed 200,000.
« It will be emotionally difficult to be celebrating that and celebrating the memories of the people who we’ve lost at home. It’s much easier to grieve together, so we will try to find ways to bridge that gap, » Glickman said. « It’s actually more emotionally difficult for people than we sort of realize, and especially for people who have lost parents or, God forbid, lost children in their lifetimes. This is a time where we need to have extra compassion towards one another. »
That message of compassion, rabbis say, is a universal theme for the holiday that cuts across all faith communities.
« We live in a time where we need more compassion. We need more forgiveness for each other and we need the ability to have humility in our interactions, » Glickman said. « And so I hope that the practice of Yom Kippur that’s happening in the Jewish community on next Sunday night and Monday creates a ripple effect and that it brings an expansion of gratitude and expansion of forgiveness and expansion of compassion. »
Actu monde – US – Kansas City-area congregations adapt for Yom Kippur observance