Has the movie of our lives already been shot? Can we only keep watching it to see how it turns out, pray that it is not cut short and hope that it has a happy ending? One of the most destructive and un-Jewish myths our culture promulgates is that the future has already been determined, that it’s hidden just beyond the horizon. The idea that the future has already been determined is why one of my sisters has been reading her horoscope for years. Life is not bashert nor contained by the Buddhist notion of karma. Judaism has never found comfort in the rationalization that “we didn’t cause it; we can’t prevent it.” When we read, “It is decided on Rosh Hashanah and confirmed on Yom Kippur, who shall live and who shall die, who shall prosper and who shall fail,” that is only half the story.
Have you heard of the man who traveled back in time to try to prevent the sinking of the Titanic? He warns the captain that there are icebergs ahead, in this novel. The captain says, “Don’t worry. We’re professionals and know what we’re doing.” In desperation, he gets his girlfriend to distract the captain and changes the steering wheel of the ship a few degrees to the right, just enough to pass by the iceberg. What he didn’t know was that the captain had told him not to worry because he’d already been warned and had adjusted the ship accordingly, while the seeming hero had now just moved the ship dead on to collide with the iceberg!.
No responsibility, no guilt. It’s not our fault. It was meant to be. It had to happen that way. But Judaism rejects this mindset, this gestalt. We are never resolved of our responsibility. On the contrary, being human is to be responsible. The next episode in the story of our lives is yet to be written as it will be based on the choices we make, the priorities we set and the decisions we carry out in the new year. The never-ending message of Judaism and the High Holy Days is: Choose life! No one else can do the choosing for you. Choose between good and evil, between hope and hopelessness; between healthy and unhealthy, between sensible and risky, between optimism and pessimism, between light and dark.
The High Holy Days are all about the challenge to change so that we don’t repeat the past. “Who shall live and who shall die…” is only the second half of the Unataneh Tokef prayer. It begins teaching us that the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah and all of the entries are in our own handwriting. There will be, as there have already been, things over which we have no control. Each of us has strengths we can maximize and vul-nerabilities we need to compensate for. Each of us has limitations because of our genetic make-up and because we are human. But our High Holy Day fervently remind us that much of what will happen to us will be the re-sult of the choices we make. Our story, true for each and every one of us, is written in our own handwriting. We may not be able to choose the cards we’re dealt, but we decide how to play them. We may be given lemons, but it is we who can choose to make lemonade. We can choose sensibly and wisely and write at least some of the pages in our own Book of Life. A prominent theologian wrote, “I don’t believe God put a “Do Not Touch” sign on human biology. I believe that God wants us to be partners in finishing the work of Creation, overcoming the tyranny of genetic endowment, finding cures and vaccines for diseases, helping infertile couples have children and giving those children every prospect of a full and satisfying life… We are God’s work. God wants us to be co-authors in writing the Book of Life.”
Nature says, take whatever you need to succeed because the good things of life belong to the strong. Lions hunt zebras and cheetahs hunt antelope. Scavengers try to grab part of the kill but the strong animals drive them away until they have finished. Whether about animals or people, that’s nature. But human nature is different. Human nature says to share your bread with the needy. Leave the corner of the field for the hungry. If your neighbor is having problems, help him or her because a meaningful and decent society helps all peoples, rich or poor. The Torah teaches that a mentsch gives ten per cent to help the needy; that is the meaning of tzedakah, doing the right thing. And only a human being can under-stand what that means and why that’s a good thing.
We don’t come to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah to beg God for a good year. We don’t come to peek into the next chapter and hope that it is like a Hollywood PG film. We come to gain strength from our traditions and from one another. We come to hear melodies to give us the courage to travel into the New Year, come what may, with courage and hope, integrity and vision, to make good choices. We come to hear the message, “Choose Life!” Our fate is not in the stars, nor in our DNA, alone.
Our fate is mainly in our hands, to choose and to cherish, to feel and to create. Let us inspire and give strength and love to one another. May we choose wisely in 5775!
-Rabbi David J. Gelfand
Preparing for the High Holy Days (back to top)
Month of Elul
Join us as we prepare for the High Holy Days through study, music, and worship to reawaken your spirit. The journey begins during the Hebrew month of Elul, this year beginning in mid-August. Traditionally, Elul is a month of preparation where we, as Jews, make teshuvah (repentance or turning), turning inward for self-evaluation, turning and reflecting upon our deeds of the previous year, and returning to God.
Reawaken your spirit for the High Holy Days with a program and service that will elevate your soul, bring you closer to God, and set the tone for renewal for the coming year. This year, we will hold a Sweets & Treats event in the Hamptons and a special program at Temple Israel. This evening is open to the entire community. Join us for a Selichot program and Service of Reflection & Forgiveness.
Selichot is the name of the prayers of forgiveness we say during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Selichot is also the name of the service recited on the Saturday night before the start of Rosh Hashanah. In these prayers, we ask God’s forgiveness, much as the overture to an opera which introduces the themes that will be developed in greater depth throughout the Holy Days. Join us for this informal warm up to the High Holy Days. All are welcome.
High Holy Day Services (back to top)
Each Service is meaningful and spiritually moving. Tickets are required for members and guests for all Services, except for afternoon Tot Services, Tashlich, Rosh HashanahLIVE (2nd Day) and Yom Kippur Afternoon/Yizkor Memorial/Neilah Service.
Worship in the Sanctuary and Ballroom
Our Rabbis’ and Cantors’ inspirational and eloquent presence is infused with the warmth and drama of the beautiful music of the Holy Days. We invite all of our families to join us for worship in either the Sanctuary or the Ballroom. Sanctuary worship includes the majestic sounds of our professional choir and musicians while Ballroom worship incorporates contemporary, participatory music with professional musicians.
Worship in the Ballroom is held on Rosh Hashanah Morning, Kol Nidre (Yom Kippur Eve) and Yom Kippur Morning. On Erev Rosh Hashanah we invite the entire congregation to welcome the New Year together in our Sanctuary, at 6:00pm for families with children Grades 2-6 in the Ballroom for a more informal service. On Kol Nidre, the Rockin’ Family Service will be held at 6:00pm and the congregational services will be held in either the Sanctuary or Ballroom at 8:00pm. For Yom Kippur Afternoon/Yizkor/Neilah, we again worship all together in the Sanctuary 3:00-6:15pm.
Rosh HashanahLIVE (Second Day Service)
Join us for a lively, contemporary, dynamic and fresh take on the experience of prayer at Temple Israel. Using the High Holy Day liturgy, Rosh HashanahLIVE brings the second day of Rosh Hashanah to another level with spiritually uplifting music and inspiring remarks by several congregants. The totally musical service is an inspirational combination of new and much loved sounds of the season. A full band helps bring it all to life. It is like no other High Holy Day service you have been to and a very unique way to pray and sing in the New Year.
For our younger ones (PreK-Grade 1), we simultaneously offer in the Ballroom an interactive program and exciting Rosh Hashanah Concert for Kidz performed by “Shira & Friends”.
An informal New Years Lunch for all (including kid friendly food) follows at 11:30am.
Tashlich means to cast or throw metaphorically discarding sins by tossing crumbs of food into a moving body of water. We have prepared a brief, 15 minute, beautiful service for this moving ritual. Attendees often say that this is the most moving ritual of the Holy Days! We meet at Carl Schurz Park @ 86th Street on Rosh Hashanah Day afternoon. Rain or Shine.
For all seeking comfort of body, mind and spirit for themselves and/or loved ones. If you are ill or a caretaker of a loved one, if you are yet pained over the loss of a loved one or trauma, if you live with a broken heart or shattered soul, our special Healing Service is for you.
Ticket Information (back to top)
Tickets will be mailed to members in good standing beginning September 2 until September 16. All tickets requested after this date will be available by pick-up only from the Temple Office or on the day of Services at Will-Call.
The Will-Call table, located in our courtyard, will open 45 minutes prior to the start of Services.
Guest & Non-Member Seats
We have a limited number of Guest & Non-Member seats available.
Guest Seats (available for purchase by Temple Israel Members for family & friends)
- Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur – $425
- Rosh Hashanah only – $275
- Yom Kippur only – $275
Non-Member Seats (available for purchase by Non Temple Israel Members. Purchase tickets here.)
- Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur – $625
- Rosh Hashanah only – $375
- Yom Kippur only – $375
- Rockin’ Family Service (Both Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur) – $180 (includes up to two tickets for adults and two tickets for children)
Not Using Your Tickets?
Please let us know as soon as possible if you will not be using some or all of your seats for the High Holy Day Services. Email Valerie Trawinski and let us know.
Will you be traveling during the High Holy Days? If so, please contact the Temple Office and let us know. Through the URJ (Union of Reform Judaism) & WUPJ (World Union for Progressive Judaism), individuals who belong to a Reform Congregation can attend High Holy Day Services at other Reform/Progressive congregations throughout the world. We can help you with reciprocal tickets at a Reform synagogue in your destination city. As a leader of the WUPJ, Rabbi Gelfand also has contacts with Jewish communities in many corners of the world. Contact Doug Messer for reciprocity at 212-249-5000.
Book of Remembrance 5775 (back to top)
We invite you to honor the memory of your loved ones by listing their names in our annual Book of Remembrance.
The Book of Remembrance also includes The Perpetual Yahrzeit List, which memorializes those whose names are consecrated on Memorial Plaques, Seats, Windows, and our congregation’s ritual items. Additionally, there are readings for comfort throughout the year and Yizkor prayers.
We will distribute The Book of Remembrance at our Yizkor Memorial Service on Yom Kippur afternoon.
We encourage all to engage in this act of thoughtful, generous tzedakah as a sacred way to honor loved ones, so their goodness will bless the lives of others.
If there are no changes, we will print names given last year. If there are changes, we will only print names that are received by Wednesday, September 10.
For Families (back to top)
High Holy Day Rockin’ Family Service (Families with children Grades 2-6)
This intergenerational & interactive service, led by Rabbi Melissa Buyer and our Musical Artist in Residence, Sheldon Low, is geared towards families with children in Grades 2–6. These special services are designed to engage the whole family with music that introduces your children to the High Holy Days, using a child-friendly Mahzor (Prayerbook), as well as stories with themes and messages that will engage your family in meaningful discussion. We hope you will join us. Our service promises to offer your family meaningful opportunities to pray together, but also find time to connect individually to the themes, values, and traditions of our Holy Days.
Pre-enrollment is required using your High Holy Day update form or online. Tickets are included with membership but must be requested for these High Holy Day Rockin’ Family Services. Tickets available for purchase by Non-members.
H2D Project: Interactive • Dynamic • Inspiring
Grades K-8. Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur Mornings
Age-appropriate and celebratory programming for children while parents attend adult Services. In separate groups, children and teens in Grades K-8 join in discussions, create artwork, games and programs that help them delve into the themes of the season. In addition, they participate in a half-hour children’s age-appropriate service within their individual grades led by Rabbi Melissa Buyer. We involve Religious School teachers for this program to ensure both quality and a feeling of comfort for all. Pre-enrollment required. Register here.
Join our Rabbis, Cantors & song leader, along with some surprise guests, for our exciting, interactive Tot Service with our very special colorful, story-filled “A Child’s Holiday Prayer Book”. We invite all our families with young children (PreK – Grade 1) to join in these joyful and creative age-appropriate experiences on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A special holiday gift will be given to each child.
Yom Tov Tots
For children ages 2-5 years old this year we have Yom Tov Tots. It is our goal to provide your children with quality programming so you can participate in our adult services. Check your child(ren) in fifteen minutes prior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.
Our goal is to make the children feel welcome and safe in our synagogue and to enable our parents to worship with the knowledge that their children are enjoying their own High Holy Day experience. There is no fee for this program but advanced registration is required. Register here.
You must pre-register your child(ren) for H2D Project (Grades K-8), as well as Yom Tov Tots. Please be aware that we reserve the right—for safety reasons—to deny non-registered children entry into the program if we feel insufficient teachers are present. The security, happiness and safety of our children are our primary concern. Light snacks will be served. No food may be brought into the program because of our concern for food allergies.
Frequently Asked Questions (back to top)
What is the difference between Services in the Sanctuary & Ballroom?
Sanctuary worship includes the majestic sounds of our professional choir and musicians while Ballroom worship incorporates contemporary, participatory music with professional musicians. Both Services use the same prayerbook and are appropriate for adults and children in Grades 3 and up.
Why do I see only one service listed for Erev Rosh Hashanah?
On Erev Rosh Hashanah at 6:00pm, you can choose to either attend the service in the Sanctuary or the Rockin’ Family Service in the Ballroom (suggested grades 2-6).
Do I need a ticket for my child?
Everyone attending High Holy Day Services, other than the Tot Services, H2D Project, Yom Tov Tots, Tot Afternoons, Tashlich, & Rosh Hashanah Second Day/Rosh HashanahLIVE, Yom Kippur Afternoon Yizkor/Neilah will need a High Holy Day ticket.
Who can attend the Rockin’ Family Services, H2D Project, and Yom Tov Tots? Isn’t there a morning Family Service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that I can attend instead of or in addition to the evening Family Service?
The interactive & intergenerational Rockin’ Family Service is geared towards families with children in Grades 2–6 but all are welcome to attend with their families. We encourage you and your children to take advantage of both Rockin’ Family Services, our H2D Project (Grades K-8), and Yom Tov Tots (Ages 2-4).
Which grade age children are eligible for the Yom Tov Tots/H2D Project and can parents attend, too?
This program will engage children ages 2-4 years in the Yom Tov Tots, and students Grades K-8 in the H2D Project, in age-appropriate and celebratory programming. Students will join in discussions, create artwork, and join in games that will help them delve into the themes of the season. In addition, they will participate in a half-hour service geared towards their specific age group. Students will be involved in the H2D programming and Yom Tov Tots for the length of the Adult Regular Service, giving you (the parent) an opportunity to pray, connect and seek inspiration this High Holy Day season.
What time is the Yom Kippusr Yizkor Memorial Service?
The Yizkor Memorial Service is part of the Afternoon Service which begins at 3:00pm, concluding at 6:15pm
Is there a charge for the Yom Tov Tots or H2D Project ?
No, Temple Israel is happy to provide free, quality programing to our members. Reservations are required. Should you need to cancel please do so at least 48 hours in advance of the holiday.
Can you change the temperature in the Sanctuary or Ballroom during services?
Due to varying room temperatures in our building, we suggest you bring a shawl, sweater or jacket.
Note: Hearing Devices and Large Print Prayerbooks are available at the check-in table, for use in the Sanctuary Services.
Service Schedule (back to top)
Selichot – Saturday, September 20
- Program & Reception | Temple Israel | 8:00pm
- Sweets & Treats | Hamptons| 9:30pm
- Service of Reflection & Forgiveness | Temple Israel & Hamptons| 10:00-11:00pm
Erev Rosh Hashanah – Wednesday, September 24
- Worship in the Sanctuary | 6:00-7:30pm
- Yom Tov Tots (2-5, Pre-K) | 4th Floor | 5:45-7:30pm
- Rockin’ Family Service (Grades 2- 6)| Ballroom | 6:00-7:00pm
- Rosh Hashanah Eve Reception | Courtyard | 7:30pm
Rosh Hashanah First Day – Thursday, September 25
- Worship in the Sanctuary & Ballroom | 10:00am
- Yom Tov Tots (2-5, Pre-K) | 4th Floor | 9:45am-12:30pm
- H2D Project (Grade K) |4th Floor | (Grades 1-8) |5th & 6th Floors | 9:45am-12:30pm
- Teen Social (Grades 9- 12) | Chapel | 12:30-12:45pm
- Tot Rosh Hashanah (Grades Pre-K to 1) Sanctuary | 2:45-3:45pm
- Tashlich at Carl Schurz Park (rain or shine) | 86th Street | 4:30-5:00pm
- NYConnect (20’s & 30’s) Appletinis & Appetizers | Off-site | 8:00pm
Rosh HashanahLIVE/Rosh Hashanah 2nd Day – Friday, September 26 (No tickets required)
- RoshHashanahLIVE Service| Sanctuary | 10:00-11:30am
- Kidz Concert with “Shira & Friends” (Grades Pre-K-1) | Ballroom | 10:00-11:30am
- Informal New Years Lunch| 11:30am | RSVP requested
Kol Nidre – Friday, October, 3
- Rockin’ Family Service (Grades 2 – 6) | Ballroom | 6:00-7:00pm
- Worship in the Sanctuary & Ballroom | 8:00pm
- Yom Tov Tots (2-5, Pre-K) | 4th Floor | 7:45-10:00pm
Yom Kippur Day – Saturday, October 4
- Worship in the Sanctuary & Ballroom | 10:00am
- Yom Tov Tots (2-5, Pre-K) | 4th Floor | 9:45am –12:45pm
- H2D Project (Grade K) |4th Floor | (Grades 1-8) |5th & 6th Floors | 9:45am-12:30pm
- Social Action Lecture | Ballroom | 1:00pm
- Tot Yom Kippur (Grade Pre-K-1) | Sanctuary | 1:45-2:45pm
- Healing Service | Chapel | 2:15-2:45pm
- Afternoon, Yizkor Memorial & Neilah Service | Sanctuary | 3:00pm
- Break Fast Reception | Ballroom | 6:15pm
Wednesday, October 8
- Religious School Special Sukkot Program (Grades K-6) | 4:15-5:45pm
Thursday, October 9
- Sukkot Torah Study with Breakfast| Courtyard | 8:30-9:15am
- Tot Sukkot & Brunch | Sanctuary & Courtyard | 9:30am-12:00am
Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
Wednesday, October 15
- Rockin’ Simchat Torah 75th Street Block Party Celebration | 5:00pm
Thursday, October 16
- Simchat Torah & Yizkor Service followed by breakfast | 8:30am