Celebrating Rosh Hashana at a Drive-in Theater

Celebrating Rosh Hashana at a Drive-In Theater. The English year is 2020. The new Jewish Year, 5781, started this week. The year has been weird, horrific and unforgettable, but it has also achieved some positives.

I am Jewish, and turning 63 on Thursday. I like to think upper middle age, but I know it is in fact lower old age. Yet, even after all these years, I still needed to look up the definition of the Jewish calendar. Why is it year 5781? Wikipedia says, in part, the lunisolar calendar is used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances.

Next, I asked my rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein to explain and he replied, “The standard calendar dates to the birth of Jesus. The Jewish one is meant to go back all the way to Adam and Eve, using the dates in Scripture as reference points (seven days of creation, plus 40 days of the flood, and so on). And, unlike our normal calendar, the starting point is September.”

I was glad to say bye-bye to 5780 (2019-2020) and hello to 5781 (2020-2021). I was excited that we got to celebrate a new year earlier than Jan. 1.

A New Beginning

I was hoping for a bright new beginning, a change in something, or perhaps a miracle cure to end the virus. A girl can dream, right?

Day One of 5781 started great. Our temple, Congregation Shir Shalom, hosted the service at the drive-in theater. My daughter Carly and I planned to attend.

How do you dress for a drive-in holy ceremony? We had no idea what to expect. Typically, we dress up for the holidays, but nothing about this year was customary. We decided to wear casual office attire, although neither of us works in an office.

As soon as we arrived at the drive-in, masked temple members greeted us as they directed traffic. Yes, traffic. There were a lot of people attending. As we drove into the lot, we were surprised by all the cars, and more were coming.

Carly and I were guided to our parking spot by another volunteer and quickly took out our lawn chairs and gazed at the crowd. It was hard to recognize people because of the masks and vastness of the parking lot. We said hello to some members and appreciated the normalcy of greeting fellow congregants on Rosh Hashana, even though we were all covered up and at a distance.

Who is That Lady in the Mask?

To my surprise, nobody recognized me. My daughter summed it up quickly. “Mom, people are used to seeing you push Jessica’s wheelchair (my older daughter Jessica always attends Temple with us and due to Covid and her vulnerability she was unable to join us this year), your hair is now blonde (yes, it was dark brown last year), and you are wearing a mask.” OK, so I was not recognizable.

We looked to the snack bar building, and high on the roof was our beloved Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein and Cantor Arlene Frank. I felt like it was the last Beatles on the rooftop concert. Our radios were set to station 87.9 to hear our clergy as the beautiful service began.

Watching  Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein and Cantor Arlene Frank felt like watching the last Beatles on the rooftop concert.

We participated. We sang. We prayed. We were Celebrating Rosh Hashana at a Drive-In Theater. We blew our car horns instead of raising our hands.

It struck me about the wonder of human nature and how we can take all the difficulty of this past year and create a meaningful celebration to welcome the new year. I wish you a happy, healthy and sweet year that includes a cure for Covid-19. Amen. 

Today’s Essay is Posted in The Buffalo News – for more blogs published in the Buffalo News please click here.

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