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Me and the High Holy Days

A Note from Rabbi David

How unusual. I’m writing from an August vacation. Maybe that doesn’t seem unusual to you, but I haven’t had an August vacation in more than 20 years. Rather, I would be up to my elbows with work prepping for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But this year, even though I will have a role on the bima, I do not have to do all the work of a senior rabbi which is in Rabbi Dev’s able hands sharing responsibility with the other service leaders of which I remain one.

(I thought August would be a good time to get away; usually not much happening — but boy was I wrong. So I have not been there to join with Kehilla folks protesting the messages of hate, racism and antisemitism of alt-right fascists.)

Since I don’t have senior rabbi responsibilities, I will have more opportunity to circulate in the congregation to see everyone up close and sit and daven a bit more in the kahal.

I have watched the Kehilla service evolve over the years. In the earlier period, there was mostly one service leader, Rabbi Burt, and one cantorial soloist, Linda Hirschhorn. We diversified the leadership a bit with what we called a reader’s circle, volunteers who would read some of the prayer poetry or the introductions framing parts of the service.

I came to play a role on the bima 15 years before I served as rabbi. I acted as the director of the services and played a role in bringing in other spiritual leaders such as Avi Rose and Rachel Bat Or. In the 90’s we began to experience services with a more collective leadership, and when Rabbi Zari Weiss left, the lay spiritual leadership was already in position to keep services going beautifully even without a full-time rabbi or cantor.

I came on as Community Rabbi in 1999 encouraging the sharing of the High Holy Day bima with a collective leadership of service leaders and musical prayer leaders. This model for High Holy Day leadership got put to the test in 2005 when post-surgery complications prevented me from being on the bima for almost all of the services.

So now I can relax into my emeritus status and take an August vacation because that process we put together more than two decades ago, is still going strong and does not depend on any one of us to enable our services to be the meaningful, rich and spiritually challenging experience they are every year.

Shana Tova!

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