“But just because someone doesn’t feel comfortable going to shul doesn’t mean he or she should not be able to participate in the traditions of their history, roots and heritage,” insists Yachad Program Educational Director Yigal Klein. “This is why, out of all our diverse programming, the “Shofar in the Park” initiative on Rosh Hashana really stands out,” he explains.
Shofar in the Park – as its name suggests – takes the shofar experience out of the synagogue, and brings it into the public realm: parks, green spaces, public courtyards and, of course, the community centers out of which the facilitators operate year-round.
“A few years ago, one of our Yachad facilitators had the idea of blowing the shofar in the Ramat Gan National Park so people who didn’t want to go to synagogue for whatever reason could connect to the traditional aspect of the chag,” relates Rabbi Riskin. “Although our facilitator had advertised the service, he didn’t expect the blasts to be such a magnet to the people there, who spontaneously left their barbecues and blankets and gravitated toward the sounds.”
In the years that followed, more and more Yachad facilitators have been blowing shofar in the parks, and this year Yachad will be running Shofar in the Park activities in 150 locations all over Israel, from Katzrin in the Golan to the kibbutzim surrounding Sderot.
To promote the initiative, the Yachad Program invited celebrities and politicians to accept the “Shofar Challenge” and attempt to blow the shofar. Among the personalities participating were comedian Gil Kopatch, actor Avri Gilad, soccer player Baruch Dego and several MKs including Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), Eitan Cable (Labor), Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) and Abraham Naguise (Likud).
“We understand that secular Israelis like the idea of connecting to Rosh Hashana in a meaningful way,” says Rabbi Riskin. “If they don’t feel comfortable in synagogue for whatever reason – well, then we’ll bring the service to them.”
(Promotional video for the “Shofar in the Park” initiative; the screen at the end reads “There’s one thing that has connected all of us for thousands of years…”)