July 25, 2024
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Ahavas Achim Unites for Havdala B’Yachad

For a few brief moments, it felt like we restored a sense of community to our congregation.

The last few weeks have been particularly hard on shuls, whose regular operations are contingent on sharing sacred spaces at set times. One of those weekly touch points of togetherness prized by many is hearing Havdala recited by your rav in shul, at the end of Maariv on Motzei Shabbat.

In an effort to create a shared common experience that would remind shul members of their bonds to each other, my shul—Congregation Ahavas Achim of Highland Park—planned and promoted a Havdala B’Yachad on Motzei Shabbat, March 21. The shul sent out email messages inviting members to light their Havdala candles, log into a shul Zoom meeting (13 minutes after Shabbat officially ended), and sing along as Rabbi Steven Miodownik made Havdala. The goal was to start the next week as a community with the opportunity to see everyone from afar and illuminate our homes together

When shul members logged in, they were indeed part of a large group of over 200 people, who joined in with 97 distinct devices. Attendees included couples and families with young children. making the likely attendance well over 200 people. Included in the picture windows were a few members who had moved away months, even years earlier, which added a sentimental aspect to the online event.

The singing was heartfelt and the amens to each of the rabbi’s brachot reverberated in the “conference” and in our homes. And then, in short order, it was done and the Rabbi wished us well.

“It was great to connect with our community in this time of social distancing,” said Jeffrey Korbman of Highland Park. “It was incredible to see so many families participating, which showed me that there is a real need for this type of activity. It was probably one of the most memorable Havdalot I’ve had in a long, long time.”

“It was nice to see everybody and a very nice break from reality,” said Avi Eserner, also from Highland Park. “We enjoyed it a lot. Great to see all that our shul is doing to keep people together.”

It’s true that the Havdala B’Yachad didn’t resemble the regular Havdalah in shul; Susan Haber did not dim the lights, Chezkie Benedek didn’t pour the rabbi’s cup of wine and Josh Ostrin didn’t announce Sunday morning davening times. But in our current historical moment, Havdala B’Yachad was a very welcome activity and because of that, made a really strong impression.

By Harry Glazer

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