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1185 Sheridan Road, Glencoe, IL 60022847.835.0724


High Holy Days 2020/5781


 NSCI Announcement: High Holy Days Services and Programming 5781/2020


Dear Friends,

Every year, in anticipation of the High Holy Days, the sound of the shofar rings in our ears, beckoning us to remember and return to the best of who we can be, guided by our highest and most important Jewish values.  For so many of us, our worship together on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a highpoint in our synagogue participation, as we look forward to the grandeur of the Days of Awe, spiritual renewal, and the joy of connecting with so many of our families and fellow community members at the same time. After a long hiatus, many of us especially yearn to worship together in our sanctuaries.

The Challenges of Gathering Safely in the Era of COVID-19

This year, we face a challenge unprecedented in our 100 year history, as our leadership has endeavored to plan for these most significant of days rooted in our congregational mission and our noblest Jewish values amidst the backdrop of the Covid-19 Pandemic.  After consulting with local and national infectious disease experts and medical professionals, along with countless other synagogues, and Jewish and Religious communal institutions, as well as administering our own congregation-wide survey, our clergy, staff and Board of Trustees returned over and over to the realization that we must elevate the Jewish tenet of Pikuach Nefesh -  Protecting life supersedes all else.  

NSCI’s Commitment to Inclusion and Equity for All

Additionally, as inclusion and equity prove among our highest congregational values, we remain committed to the importance of treating all of our congregants equally, doing our best to maintain  access for all congregants to any service, program, or opportunity.  With these priorities in mind, we have a number of constraining factors: The Restore Illinois protocols for Religious Institutions during Phase 4 recommend gatherings limited to 50 people with a clear limit not to exceed 100 people. This restriction makes it impossible to accommodate even a fraction of our congregation. 

Even if the protocols for religious institutions were loosened, permitting us to accommodate 350-400 persons per service, the experiences of worshipping together would be a major departure from what we have known and imagined.  Unfortunately, we would not be able to offer guest passes for non-congregant family members. There would be no group singing or reading, no contact with the Torah, no blowing of the shofar inside the sanctuary, and perhaps most importantly, no contact with each other, no handshakes, no hugs, no physical proximity, and no ability to see the faces of our fellow congregants as all would have to wear face coverings. We still could not ensure appropriate physical distancing while entering, exiting and navigating around our building.  Additionally, we likely could not include all who wanted to attend in person. 

A Complex, Difficult Decision for Worship during the High Holy Days

Having considered all available facts, the mission and values of NSCI, and the wishes of our congregation via survey, the Board of Trustees has concluded we cannot welcome large numbers of people into the building safely and equitably, and as such, has made the difficult and painful decision to hold High Holy Day worship virtually. Since these High Holy Days will be a departure from NSCI’s rich gathering traditions of years past, we wanted to let you know about the decision as soon as possible, in full transparency. We are a diverse community of all ages, identities, and health realities. While we may have some strong opinions and difficult feelings about the decision not to gather in person, we invite you to take pride and responsibility in standing together spiritually as one voice on behalf of protecting our community, particularly those who are most susceptible or especially vulnerable to the severity of this disease.

Looking Forward to Inspiring and Innovative Worship and Learning

Our clergy, staff and leadership are already innovating worship and learning experiences that will bring us new and exciting means of High Holy Day participation exclusively for members of NSCI. We will offer the best of inspiration, reflection, and connection during these holiest of days. We will create uplifting experiences and deeper connections in new ways. All of us will be able to experience these High Holy Days in a variety of new approaches: online, in-home, and safety-controlled prayer and ritual happenings in small group settings. 

Much exciting work needs to be done between now and then.  Staff, lay and clergy teams are developing creative plans for engaging our congregation in new and meaningful ways.  We look forward to keeping you apprised.

Meanwhile, if you have thoughts, questions or concerns about the High Holy Days, or about anything related to NSCI’s response to the coronavirus, please be in touch. 



Rabbi Wendi Geffen

Marilyn Perlman, President

Todd Braman, Executive Director

Message from Rabbi Wendi Geffen


Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780