Reflection on High Holiday Services by Jana Wernor


Reflection on High Holiday Services by Jana Wernor


It’s bizarre yet true to say that I had one of the most meaningful Yom Kippur’s of my life over Zoom.

I was able to: wear sweat pants, do laundry, take my dogs for a walk (with zoom on my phone), lie down when my back hurt, talk to my daughter, and yet feel so immersed and connected. This made me realize how much more we commit when we: get dressed up, travel to services, sit in one place, sit & stand & sit & stand, maintain social graces. I hope Zoom does not make us lazy. There is a different sort of hardship and sacrifice in sitting by a screen all day – but there is still more freedom than when we congregate in person. At home we are fully accountable to ourselves; there’s no one watching. For me, it was still extraordinary.

That said, what a truly remarkable community. During our Days of Awe together, we heard a man talk about murdering his girlfriend, we witnessed the pain of parents who recently lost their son, we heard stories of men and women getting out of jail and off of probation.

Rabbis Miriam, Joseph, Kerry, and multiple members of our community gifted us with heartfelt and deeply thought themes: God/Higher Power/Source of the Universe already having forgiven us, compassion for one’s self, unconditional love vs. human love (R. Miriam), the inevitable mistakes that will always be made and the inner voice that notices them getting louder each year (Barbara F.), “the Biggest Lie is that we are alone” (R. Kerry), Kintsugi – the gold lacquer in the cracks of Japanese bowls (Barbara S.), the suggestion to lightly pat our chests representing accountability & compassion vs. beating one’s self up, the POSITIVES of getting through the pandemic (Doug R.), assets & liabilities vs character defects, the incredibly moving photos during Yizkor showing the lives lived. Rabbi Joseph just sitting on the platform conversing with us. The SILENCE in the room that we could hear even on Zoom. The incredible music, as always, plus the gorgeous singing of the Quartet (said by a member of choir who misses being there). Harriet beginning to cry sharing feelings she has had of being dispensable and nonexistent.

Harriet telling us in the Gratitude session about Mark’s tender and gentle side. (It was very gratifying at Sayonatra to hear people talk about how Mark spoke their language with his “you’re a fucking asshole” comments to them and that only his style could have gotten through to them. It made sense of a lot of things. It was equally gratifying to hear Harriet speak of his soft parts, though of course they are visible too). The Gratitude group was very sweet this year. It was breathtaking to hear former residents say they were loaned MONEY to help build their lives (someone said “who DOES that?”). I personally felt a progressing softening in the bittersweet transition.

The drashot had fewer “testimonials” and many more personal shares relevant to the themes of the prayers. Positive Ashamnu is always my favorite part of BTS Yom Kippur. This year, watching a female resident in a Pink Floyd t-shirt reading Ashamnu just made me happy. Seeing Chaya & Jillian holding Torahs and knowing their stories made me feel like such a part of a community – a congregation where the sharing of vulnerability really makes us know each other. And I’m not the first to say that the technology of showing the Torah as it’s being read is friggin awesome and we should maintain it even after we are together in person.

Thank you for being so aware of acknowledging and including us in the Zoomiverse. Clergy you did an amazing job of coming together and balancing one another.

Much love for the New Year.

Jana Wernor


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