Coming soon to a synagogue near you… lines.
Where I grew up it was not uncommon for movie theaters to be used as overflows for the masses that came to pray on the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays). I was reminded of this when I saw that movie theaters are reopening in the coming week(s) here in In New York and got to thinking about how they would manage the long lines that some anticipate upon reopening. Then again, we are getting used to lines everywhere we go, be that the supermarket, the bank, the restaurant etc. With just one month till Rosh Hashana, many synagogues are already experiencing long (virtual) lines as waitlists to attend shul on the Yamim Noraim grow. Many Jews may not get an opportunity to pray with their synagogue of choice – or any synagogue for that matter – unless they signed/paid up well in advance. Even then, there will simply not be enough room to safely accommodate the crowds that want to attend for the Holidays.
So here’s a thought in line with an ancient tradition of matchmaking:
Could individuals or families that can’t easily be accommodated in their home synagogue/town be matched with another that has a paucity of worshippers – perhaps because of demographics skewing aged 60+ that will mostly be continuing to isolate over the Holidays?
A clearing house (an app?) could match communities seeking a satellite to house their abundance of worshippers with shuls that have plenty of space for them – even including suggested Airbnb’s or nearby hotels for “out of towners” to stay. In addition to benefiting the shuls, so many families and individuals are itching to get away for a few days and start their year making a difference.
There’s a Talmudic adage: shluchei mitzvah ainon nizakin – those engaged in a mitzvah will not come to harm. This shouldn’t be construed as an invitation to be taking outlandish risks during a pandemic, however for those on the fence about traveling somewhere for Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot, this extra measure of Divine assurance may provide the needed impetus to move beyond our comfort zones. And isn’t challenging the status quo and moving beyond our narrow confines what so many of our Holidays are all about?
What would it take to make something like this happen?