November/December 2020


Our High Holidays (5781-2020) were indeed sacred Days of Awe; Holydays for the "record books" as we observed them and worshipped on the "zoom". There has never before been anything quite like it during the one hundred thirty plus years of Johnstown's Jewish community or for that matter, during the many centuries of Jewish life. We express gratitude to the many individuals who helped make this happen. Tammy Fiffick established our zoom, made the link available to all, arranged for the distribution of Prayer books, prepared the Golden Book, fulfilled the JFS duties, etc. and spent many hours preparing us for this unprecedented Rosh Hashannah -Yom Kippur season. Louise Abrams, Marcia Kissel and Julie Katz were steadfast in their efforts to "school" and rehearse me in the use of this unfamiliar technology. Cantor Susan exalted and inspired us with her great vocal gifts and Cantorial talents. Dr. Freda Sattel uplifted the entire congregation with her eloquent recitation of some of the central and most meaningful prayers in our entire liturgy. In this effort she was most ably assisted by Rita Teitelbaum. We thank Barbara and Dr. Larry Rosenberg for their lucid and resonant chanting of our Torah and Haftara readings and Dr. Ian Katz for his fluent chanting of the book of Jonah and for providing the most arousing "sounding of the Shofar blasts". 


Just as a congregation expects to receive inspiration from the pulpit, a Rabbi expects the same to come to him/her from the pews. Clergy need to hear the congregation praying and chanting the liturgy along with the prayer leader. A synagogue is not a concert hall and a congregation should never be an "audience". The waves of inspiration must be mutual and they must flow both ways. The odd and irregular circumstance of reciting a blessing ("Baruch Atta...") and then not being able to hear the responses ("Baruch Hu UVaruch Sh'mo..." and "Amen") is most awkward. It is clearly and patently unnatural for a Rabbi to "mute" his /her flock. He/she wants to hear them as they pray and needs to and must  hear from them as they comment, question, observe and even and especially, if they mock or express uneasiness with the words of the sacred texts.  Yet these are the rules of the zoom. I was instructed time and again, to tell those assembled to "please mute"! This odd and unfortunate requirement of zoom makes it all the more important that you "un-mute" after any future zoom worship service has been concluded and linger with us for a while to exchange thoughts, observations and feelings. Meanwhile, stay strong, keep safe, stay connected with us and may God Almighty bless you all!