We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. I’m potentially interested in attending some of the in-person events, but want to better understand the set-up of the venue, and Kavana’s expectations and protocols around Covid safety. Please advise!
We’re with you -- and taking this pandemic very seriously, particularly given the transmission rates of the Delta variant.
First, we’ve chosen a venue for Rosh Hashanah 1 and Yom Kippur days that is new for Kavana this year, specifically because it offers both indoor and outdoor options, access to natural beauty, and ample space on a large campus to spread out. (You may have noticed that we’re not sharing the name of the venue or the address here on the website. That is for security reasons, but if you’re interested in knowing even more detail about it or visiting in advance to scope it out and think about your personal comfort level, just email us and we’re happy to share.)
Our Covid Taskforce has advised us to approach Covid by thinking about offering as many layers of protection as possible. For our in-person High Holiday activities, this will include maximizing time outdoors, ensuring that indoor spaces are well-ventilated, maintaining social distancing, and wearing masks.
Although nearly every adult and teen in the Kavana community is fully vaccinated, we know that younger children are not yet. As a result, our High Holiday community will be -- by definition -- a mixed community of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Our aim, of course, is to ensure the collective safety and well-being of all. We will ask everyone who attends any High Holiday activities in-person to confirm that they have no Covid symptoms and no known exposure to Covid. (If you are in doubt, we ask that you err on the side of caution and stay home.) In addition, masks will be required indoors under all circumstances, and outdoors during programs or whenever people are in close proximity to each other. If you need a mask break at any time, or whenever you are eating or drinking, we request that you be outdoors and step away from other people who aren’t part of your household. The only exception to this masking rule is that -- for accessibility reasons (e.g. lip reading) -- leaders of some programs and services will unmask while speaking/leading. These leaders who unmask will be both vaccinated and have received a negative result from Covid test within the days leading up to each holiday.
Lots of our programming will be happening outdoors. For the offerings that are scheduled to take place indoors, the room in question is a large rectangular multi-purpose space with 7 sets of double-doors along the long side that will be propped open; we anticipate that it will be used at under 50% capacity, and it will be set up such that participants can choose to sit either indoors or immediately outside those doors.
Bottom line: we’re doing our best to create in-person options that will feel both safe and meaningful. If, however, you aren’t feeling comfortable with these plans, we understand (really, truly) and encourage you to participate in the online offerings.
The venue sounds pretty great, but what will happen to all of the outdoor programming in the case of rain (or extreme heat, or a very smoky day)?
We’re hoping for beautiful weather, and if that happens, these High Holiday “urban retreat” days are going to be amazing beyond words!! If the weather is less-than-ideal, it may indeed put a damper on some of our plans. Some of the events we’ve scheduled to happen outdoors will take place rain or shine (for example, the Shofar Service and Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah); some small groups can be moved to covered outdoor spots (for example, youth discussions); some events may need to be cancelled or moved to Zoom, especially in the case of extreme heat or smoke. We strongly encourage you to register in advance so that we can send you last-minute updates if weather necessitates changes to our plans.
I’ve never been to a High Holiday “Retreat” before. Should I really plan to stay for the whole day? What do I bring?
We’ll be honest… we are super excited about this! For many years now, Kavana has talked about our High Holiday offerings using the language of “urban spirituality retreat,” but practically speaking, that has always meant moving back and forth between a couple of church buildings. This year, we have a venue that’s designed for this sort of thing… and we can indeed imagine folks coming and spending a whole day moving in and out of services, discussions, and programs! There are many naturally beautiful spaces to explore, including both gardens and trails to the water; there are shady nooks where you could hide with a book; there are courtyards where we can imagine small groups hanging out and chatting. If you’re on the fence, we strongly encourage you to take the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off from work and come… we’ve all been deprived of communal experiences over the last year and a half, and this promises to be a beautiful one.
In terms of what to wear and bring, in order to set yourself up for success, here are some ideas:
- Dress comfortably and for the weather (whatever it may be). We suggest sturdy shoes for walking. Kavana’s vibe is more casual than fancy, but Rosh Hashanah will feel a little festive and on Yom Kippur, many people choose to wear white.
- Bring a tallit (prayer shawl) if you wear one.
- If you’re planning on participating in some of the outdoor events, think about what you will need to feel most comfortable. You’re welcome to bring a picnic blanket or camping chairs to sit on, if you like, or a yoga mat or towel to use for yoga.
- On Rosh Hashanah, we want everyone to be well-fed and happy! Kavana will have some snacks and drinks available, and we also encourage you to bring your own water bottle to carry with you as you move around throughout the day. For lunch, you have two options -- you can bring your own, or we’ve arranged with caterer Mangia Bene to deliver boxed lunches that have been pre-ordered by date TBD. Link coming soon to view the menu of options (including gluten free, vegan, and kid-friendly choices) and to order.
- On Yom Kippur, many adults will be fasting so we will not be providing food. If you need to eat/drink, though, please bring whatever you need and make yourself at home.
- Coming with kids? Wonderful -- we want them to be happy too! We will not be offering childcare this year, but will have coloring supplies and some books available for the times when they’re not directly involved in programming. However, we encourage you to bring along whatever else might make for a great day for your child(ren) -- snacks and lunch, card games, sunscreen, etc.
Can I come? Can I bring a guest?
Short answer: YES. If you're looking for Jewish community and a meaningful High Holiday experience, you are more than welcome, whether you are a Kavana partner or not. Guests are also welcome. However, we do request that everyone (including children and guests) register in advance.
What are the services like?
At Kavana, we reject a one-size-fits-all approach to Judaism, and we encourage you to choose the service that will be the best fit for you.
- The services described as "traditional" will follow the outline of the traditional High Holiday machzor, with prayers recited mostly in Hebrew, although of course we'll attempt to make the traditional liturgy accessible and approachable in a number of ways.
- The service described as "musical & contemplative" will be shorter, with a mix of Hebrew and English, and will include more kavanot/intentions, and will have guitar accompaniment; it may incorporate short meditative moments as well. In short, we say fewer words but savor them through song, contemplation, and... kavana (intention)!
- Family Services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mornings are designed with preschool and elementary school aged children in mind, with lots of singing, stories, and opportunities for movement and engagement. However, we know that they resonate for many adults too, and we’re happy for anyone to access these.
How can I get the most out of my High Holiday experience? (i.e. I'm concerned because I don't know anyone / I don't have a strong Jewish background / etc.)
At Kavana, we believe that everyone is responsible for their own Jewish experience -- in other words, YOU have the power to make the High Holidays work for you. A few words of advice from Rabbi Rachel:
A) It's really helpful to prepare before you come. First, to prepare at home, simply consider the year that's gone by and what "work" you want to do during the holidays this year. The goal of these holidays is to reconnect with your best self; what do you need to think about in order to get there? Second, take some time to look over the schedule in advance and map out where you want to be then (just like you would if you were attending a conference with lots of sessions happening simultaneously).
B) Introduce yourself to the Kavana staff and to the people sitting around you. Kavana is a really friendly community, but you may have to take the initiative.
C) Because people in our community are coming from so many different backgrounds, it's impossible to create services that are the perfect fit for everyone. We may use too much Hebrew, not enough Hebrew, the "wrong" tunes, etc. for your personal taste -- whatever the case, we encourage a go-with-the-flow mindset, and a spirit of appreciation. You have our permission to be on any page you like, to bring your own favorite prayerbook, to get up and check out a different offering, etc. -- whatever it takes to make this communal experience the right personal fit for you.
Why is the cost for non-partners so high? (Or, common variations on this theme include: What if I am only planning to attend the online events? What if I’m only coming for Yom Kippur? What about for children - do I need to pay for them too? What if I just want to come check it out, want to bring a guest, etc.?)
We recognize that the requested registration amount of $250/person may seem like a lot. In truth, this amount reflects the real costs of the infrastructure Kavana needs to be able to offer our holiday services and programs (think: providing rabbinic and other staffing, educators, administrative support, renting venues, hosting multiple Zoom accounts, prayerbooks and materials, etc.) -- and as a non-profit organization, we are simply aiming to cover our costs. We ask Kavana partners to pay significantly less at the High Holidays because their annual contributions already help to cover our operating costs. Ultimately, we hope that everyone who wants to can participate in Kavana's High Holiday experience. We would much rather have you attend than pass up the opportunity because you are concerned about the cost! We hope that you will consider paying the "fair share"/requested amount if you are able; this is the time of year to be generous and communal-minded, and it is your support that allows us to keep our services and programs open to the community. But, if the requested amount feels daunting for whatever reason, please think about what you can afford and enter that amount on the registration form. (We don't need to get into the details of your finances, and we trust you to figure out an appropriate amount for you.)
Is this a good time to join Kavana as a partner?
Yes, we would much rather have this be a long-term relationship and not a transaction, and for many people, the High Holidays are indeed the perfect entry point! If you've already explored the Kavana community as a participant and have a sense that this is a good fit for you, by all means please email us about becoming a partner. (We'll send you a Partner Intake Form, get a meeting for you on Rabbi Rachel's calendar, and then of course you can register for the High Holidays at the partner rate.) Or, if the High Holidays this year will be your first Kavana exposure, we actually would encourage you to register as a non-partner, check it out, and then decide whether this community is the right fit. If you choose to join as a partner before the end of calendar year 2021, we will happily credit any High Holiday payments you’ve made beyond the partner rate of $18/person towards your first partner contribution.
How can I help?
Yes, please! Kavana is a cooperative, and we consider everyone a volunteer! This year, given that we’ll be in a new venue, we are particularly in need of greeters to help welcome and direct folks on-site (outdoors) at our RH1/YK day venue. In addition, we anticipate needing some support before and after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with schlepping/transporting of materials (prayerbooks, food drive contributions, etc.) Let us know what you’d like to do to help out. Whether you end up with a formal volunteer slot or not, please join into the "community spirit" of Kavana by pitching in whenever you see an opportunity, building relationships with other attendees, and sharing your feedback with us.