Synagogues and temples across South Florida will be somber places on Wednesday night as congregants reflect on the past year and prepare to seek forgiveness for the Jewish new year.
But at the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach, Jews in their 20s and 30s will herald the start of Rosh Hashana by singing along to the Black Eyed Peas and by playing on their smartphones.
“People who come to this experience will hear traditional prayers as well as new things that are familiar to them from the contemporary world,” said Rebecca Dinar, director of The Tribe, which is organizing the event at the Jewish Museum.
Several hundred young professionals at Wednesday’s Jewish Museum service — Dinar’s group calls it an “experience” to distinguish it from traditional prayer gatherings — will hear the sound of the shofar that they may remember from Rosh Hashana services they attended as children. But they’ll also read quotes from John Lennon and J.D. Salinger and will be encouraged to send text messages throughout the hourlong event.
Wednesday evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashana and the 10-day period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days, which culminate with Yom Kippur, Sept. 13 and 14. The Jewish new year begins on Rosh Hashana, and the High Holy Days are a time of reflection, repentance and atonement for Jewish people.
Considered to be the holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur often attract to synagogues Jews who may not participate in other religious holidays throughout the year. Dinar said The Tribe, a local organization that has gained national recognition for its innovative programming, wanted to offer something to encourage those people to be a part of their Jewish communities.
“The High Holy Days are a key moment in the Jewish calendar, for sure, a time when may Jews are looking to connect with each other,” she said. “We want to make this holiday as relevant and exciting as possible for a new generation. We hope that experiences like this one will inspire young people to get more involved in all levels of Judaism.”
Morrison will prompt attendees with questions like, “What regrets do you have about the past year?” and “What are your fears for the coming year?”
The congregants will respond silently, with text messages that they’ll send from their phones to a designated number. Their anonymous messages will then be projected onto a five-foot screen behind Morrison. The messages also will pop up on the rabbi’s iPad, allowing her to respond as necessary.
“The congregants are really the ones who drive the content of the experience,” Dinar said. “Rabbi Morrison may look down at her iPad and say, ‘Wow, a lot of you are feeling afraid to move forward this year. How can we deal with that?’ ”
Last year was The Tribe’s first experiment with a multimedia Rosh Hashana service. The response was so positive, Dinar said, that the group decided to repeat the concept this year and extend it to Yom Kippur. She said she has received calls from Jewish organizations in New Jersey and California, and from a Unitarian church in Miramar, about hosting similar events.