Mexico City Jewish community embraces ceremony amidst coronavirus restrictions
Amid coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Jewish community of Mexico City embraces unique ceremony during holiday season.
Arutz 7 | September 29, 2020
As the Jewish world across the Diaspora commemorates a truly unprecedented high holiday season, many communities are searching for ways to ensure the period is marked in a meaningful way despite the obvious challenges.
One community in Mexico, a country that has been particularly hard hit by Corona with over 70,000 deaths, came up with an innovative way to help families feel the holiday spirit while remaining safe.
“People here are scared to come out of their homes and for many they haven’t seen the inside of a Beit Knesset in months. We are making it possible to come and pray safely alongside just their immediate families,” explains Rabbi Shai Freundlich, who serves as a rabbinical emissary to Mexico City for the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program of Ohr Torah Stone.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are well known as the days when Jewish communities across the world come out in largest numbers for synagogue attendance. As a result of the fears over the spread of the virus, this year that aspect of Jewish community life will be largely absent.
Rabbi Freundlich together with his wife Michal decided that they couldn’t let the holiday season pass without finding a way to ensure people could still gather in a meaningful way. They therefore decided that every family who lived together and had limited risk of infecting others in their group would be invited into the synagogue. In a specially designed ceremony, the women would light candles and the group would stand in front of the open Aron Kodesh to sing prayers associated with the high holidays and listen to the shofar blasts.
“So many people have gone for months without coming to the Beit Knesset. We were thrilled that so many people welcomed this idea and be able to pray and hear the shofar in this special way,” Rabbi Freundlich says.
So far over one hundred families have participated in the ceremony in his community and there is a long waiting list which will continue through Sukkot. “We also encourage people to use this opportunity to say the mourners kaddish for loved ones, making it an even more emotional ceremony,” he says.
Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, Director of the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program of Ohr Torah Stone which has nearly 300 other emissaries like the Freundlichs placed around the world saluted the initiative saying, “Corona has presented a challenge to so many of our communities because it has threatened the very routine of Jewish life and even the very existence of some of them. Our emissaries are on the front lines to defend the interests of these communities and ceremonies like this that both protect health but also help inspire a greater connection to our traditions are so greatly needed at this time.”