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High Holidays 2021: Hope for a Post-Pandemic World

Cedars-Sinai Makes Virtual Religious Services Available to All; Senior Rabbi Stresses Importance of Making Personal Sacrifice for the Good of the Community

As the nation heads into the second Jewish High Holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cedars-Sinai Senior Rabbi and Director of Spiritual Care Jason Weiner, PhD, is thinking about renewal, a common theme during the holidays that call for repentance and atonement before the Jewish new year.

"The difference between the high holidays last year and this year has really been the development of the COVID-19 vaccines," he said. "It was a major turning point, and I think this year we can truly look forward to a new beginning."

A new beginning, he said, but one that isn't without restrictions. This year, in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Cedars-Sinai will once again forgo the in-person Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services that, pre-pandemic, had become a standby of comfort for patients, staff and community.

Instead, Cedars-Sinai is making online services widely available through the Spiritual Care Department's website at the following dates and times: 

  • Rosh Hashanah: Tuesday, Sept. 7, available for 24 hours starting at 7 a.m.
  • Kol Nidre: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 4 p.m.-6 a.m.
  • Yom Kippur: Thursday, Sept. 16, available for 24 hours starting at 7 a.m.

Participants can follow along with the service via a downloadable PDF high holidays Machzor (prayer book).

Patients will be able to tune in to the service from their rooms, and Weiner will once again be blowing a traditional ram's horn "shofar" outfitted with a mask in patient rooms for those who request it.

The decision to hold virtual services again this year was not an easy one, Weiner said. But it was something that reminded him of another important theme of the holiday–"Cheshbon HaNefesh"–usually translated as "an accounting of the soul," or, in Weiner's words, "a personal accounting of your past year."

"We want to reflect on whether we've done as much as we can to protect our community, and what we can do better," Weiner said. "Recognizing the importance of community and why we don't gather in large groups, as much as we've missed it, is a way of expressing our values."

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Healthcare Heroes: Spiritual Care