On the holiest day of the year for people of Jewish faith, congregants of Beth Evergreen Synagogue gathered for one of the first times in more than 18 months.
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The strumming of a guitar and the singing of Hebrew verse mixed with the cool mountain air as congregants began to take their seats.
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement goes from sunset Sept. 15 to sunset Sept. 16. This holiday, which comes days after the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, is regarded as a new beginning.
While not everyone participated for medical and personal reasons, fasting is a hallmark of the day of observance. Those fasting abstain from eating from sunset Wednesday until sunset Thursday.
Led by Rabbi Jamie Arnold, rougly 370 members of the congregation gathered as a group to atone for their regrets through a variety of activities. The day was filled with outdoor meditation, an indoor service, a contemplative hike, yoga, family service and more.
The morning kicked off with meditation on the patio of the synagogue led by Arnold. He led congregants through breathing and mindfulness activities, and peppered in his signature guitar music and songs that make his services unique. Arnold has been known to arrange Hebrew verse to the music of classic musicians like John Denver or the Grateful Dead.
Arnold said the mix of activities for Yom Kippur was reflective of a diverse group of people. He said his services “give a fuller spectrum of the Jewish world” by housing people of varying degrees of faith and orthodoxy.
Laurie Walowitz, CBE's board president, discussed the uniqueness of the congregation that has “a lot of non-traditional ways of doing traditional things.”
For example, the congregation regularly hosts interfaith events with other religious institutions, employs musical programming and has adult education courses about the faith.
Walowitz said that Yom Kippur is a time of reconnecting and resetting, and she believes it is important to consider what you are grateful for during this contemplative period.
Connecting with the community is an important value to the congregation during this holiday and always, as Walowitz explains, “We as a congregation want to be good community members.”
The congregation reaches beyond Evergreen, with members from Conifer, Denver, Lakewood and more. Many traveled to take part in Thursday's Yom Kippur services.
Board member Jay Kramer, who assists with adult education, said he sees the holiday as wiping the slate clean. Kramer views this time as one that refreshes people, and the ability to join together after months apart gives the congregation the ability to reconnect and atone together.
Arnold believes this group mentality is an important aspect of the holiday for his congregation. “The notion of collective responsibility is the primary message I feel,” he said.
He believes that taking away the sense of isolation can make acknowledging sin and regret easier, and he likes to think that “we are responsible for one another.”
Going beyond personal sin, Arnold finds it important to seek forgiveness for the nation. He encourages people to take the time to reflect on regrets and shortcomings in society. Above all, he hopes his congregants come away from Yom Kippur services with a “renewed sense of belonging and community.”
Yom Kippur at Beth Evergreen 2021
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