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Pandemic prompts rabbi to take services on the road, to seniors

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The pandemic is prompting a new way to deliver a holiday message. One Jewish congregation is bringing the service to its most senior members.

The Congregation of Beth Shalom has been virtual since the pandemic started. Currently, in the Jewish faith, we are in the high holy days, so the rabbi is going to different nursing homes across the city to make sure every member hears this special service.

Photo of Jewish service. (WISH Photo)

“A day of commemoration by the sound of the shofar,” said Rabbi Justin Kerber as he spoke during the service.

The shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn, is the sign and the sound of a new year in the Jewish faith.

“The shofar is a wake-up call, it’s a call to action. It’s supposed to make us examine not only ourselves but our world,” said Kerber.

What a world we’re in. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerber hasn’t seen his members face to face since March.

“These high holy days are really challenging because they are our major worship services of the whole year,” said Kerber.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, was last weekend and Yom Kippur, day of atonement, begins this Sunday evening. So, the Rabbi decided it was time for the Congregation of Beth Shalom to hit the road. The rabbi made his way to visit their most isolated members at senior centers across the greater Indianapolis area.

“So you get to hear it in person,” he told the seniors at Traditions at North Willow in Indianapolis.

While the seniors stayed inside and watched from a distance, they said it was worth it.

“An online service, it’s just not the same,” said Kerber. “

Photo of a Jewish service. (WISH Photo)

Now, this is a way to enjoy fellowship in person, before the holiest day in the Jewish faith and to spread Shanah Tova, which means a good and sweet new year. It’s a message a lot of people need these days.

“I can’t remember high holy days ever being quite like these,” said Kerber. “These have been more difficult than any. So, I am really grateful to be making it through this, I am grateful we are here. I am really really hoping that next year is going to be a better year.”

The rabbi said this tour, of sorts, will end on Sunday with a socially-distanced, outdoor service open to people of all religions. They’re partnering with the St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Carmel and the service will be held there, at 10 a.m.