High Holy Days a Virtual Experience in Abilene


The Jewish High Holy Days are being observed online in Abilene this year, with in-person services being another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monica J. O’Desky, cantor at Abilene’s Temple Mizpah, said in an email that she prepared recordings of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for members to watch. They were filmed inside the sanctuary at Temple Mizpah.

Members did readings on Zoom, which O’Desky recorded and inserted into the recordings, and music was all pre-recorded and put in with translations/transliterations made on PowerPoint.

“It was quite the endeavor,” O’Desky wrote, “but hopefully it gave the congregation a sense of the spirituality and community even if we couldn’t be together in person.”

Monica J. O’Desky

Members of the congregation have been sent links to postings, which will be available through the High Holy Days and for about a week afterward. Rosh Hashanah services are active now and Yom Kippur services will go live on Sunday, Sept. 27.

The High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kipper. This year, Rosh Hashana began on Sept. 18 and Yom Kippur will be observed Sept. 27-28. Normally, luncheons, services, and a cemetery tour are included in High Holy Days observances. O’Desky, who lives in Crowley, commutes to Abilene for services.

In an email interview for an article in Spirit of Abilene in September 2019, O’Desky said that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the bookends of a period of introspection.

“I think of this time almost like you can look at a tax return,” O’Desky wrote.

A time of introspection may not be as neat as a tax return, she wrote, but should be a time to examine what you did with your life the previous year. What worked well and what didn’t? 

“What should I carry forward to the new year and what actions, traits, attitudes should I leave behind?” are questions to ponder, O’Desky wrote. Also, each person should ask whether an apology is owed to someone and then carry that out.

“We are required to ask for forgiveness from others three times,” O’Desky wrote, “but they are not required to forgive us.” 

Often left out, but important, O’Desky wrote, are actions and attitudes for the self. Did I do enough self-care? Was I overindulgent? Am I treating myself as a being made b’tzelem Elohim–in the image of God?

“We remember those who came before us and those whose lives enable us to reach this time and hope to be worthy of their efforts,” O’Desky wrote. “It’s a complicated time that causes many mixed emotions.”

Top photo credit: Photo credit: slgckgc on Visual Hunt / CC BY

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