Yom Kippur brings rejuvenation to Jewish community

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 18, 2013

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Following the Ten Days of Awe, the local Jewish community celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Sept. 13-14.

“Yom Kippur is an opportunity for the Jewish community to be introspective and take a look at the actions and behaviors of the year past and make promises to be different and better for the year to come,” said Rabbi Josh Bennett, of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.

Bennett is one of seven rabbis at Temple Israel and has served the congregation for 20 years. There is a little bit of misconception behind the concept, he continued, as it is not just time to apologize for your transgressions against God, but also for your transgressions against other human beings.

In efforts to advance in the technical age, Temple Israel broadcasted Yom Kippur services for a third year. 

“We have congregants all over. Some here and not here, and this gives everyone a chance to participate in the services,” said Kathy Armstrong, director of communications at Temple Israel.

The synagogue began streaming Friday services several years ago for those not able to attend, such as college students, the elderly and extended family members. The next step was to live-stream the High Holy Days.

Prior to broadcasting the High Holy Days, Temple Israel had an existing camera system for events. But it was the help of generous donations from the congregation that allowed them to broadcast year-round.

Bennett said that they found a number of the congregation members enjoy the opportunity to watch the services live-stream because it gives them a sense of belonging to the community without the physical presence.

“We don’t find a lot of people using the service because they don’t want to attend service, but because they are unable to attend,” said Bennett.

Fewer than five miles away, Congregation Beth Ahm celebrated the Day of Atonement, emphasizing ways to connect the congregation of all ages and make the holy day meaningful to youth.

For many years, it has been standard for congregations to provide youth services for kids, said Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, who has been the rabbi at Congregation Beth Ahm since 2005.

“We provide activities that stretch kids to get them to think about what the holiday means to them and their Jewish identity,” Rubenstein said.

For the youngest kids, the synagogue offers family services that involve singing, storytelling and interactive conversations about the holiday.

Elementary students participate in services and activities with a service leader.

Besides youth services, Congregation Beth Ahm also set up an activity room with books, holiday versions of games and puzzles, and scavenger hunts. They held outside story time under the trees and a story walk through the Beth Ahm Bible Garden. 

“The day is really full of the promise of a fresh start,” Rubenstein said. “It’s really in so many ways about rejuvenation and starting the year in a positive way.

“There is a promise of being forgiven, and I see Yom Kippur as a very hopeful day because it gives people the opportunity to move forward.”