We have been experimenting with Yom Kippur afternoon for a long time. It is really a hard time to get through. This year was the best we've ever had. We are lucky enough to have several members of the Cleveland orchestra in our congregation, and they have started performing during a "meditation hour" in our sanctuary. People were asked to arrive before it started and to avoid moving around or making any noise, to avoid disturbing others. The music was rich but solemn, and very conducive to contemplation. At least 200-300 people sat very still for an hour, and all agreed that it was wonderful. It also covered the worst dip in people's metabolisms.
The next hour-plus was a rousing Social Action lecture. This has been a long-standing tradition in our congregation, but this year it was held a little later in the afternoon because of the music, so people were a little more awake to begin with. We also had a very dynamic speaker who used Talmudic texts about Hillel vs. Shammai to talk about ideals of discourse in the community between factions that have fundamental disagreements. It was originally intended to address pluralism issues in Israel, but since this was just after the World Trade Center attack, it had even greater resonance.
After those programs, we were able to abbreviate the afternoon service (in Gates of Repentance) quite a bit, and then we went right into Yizkor and N'ilah.
Vivian 1700 Family Units
Regarding Minchah/Ma'ariv on Yom Kippur, we do the following: the section entitled, From Creation to Redemption, is read by members of our Temple Youth Group. Presented as a whole, rather read in pieces, creates the feeling that we are really making the journey. Plus, it's a great way for those who recently became a Bar/t Mitzvah to keep up with their Hebrew skills. The congregation really enjoys seeing the youth group in this fashion.
Fran 80 Families
At our synagogue, for the last two years we have had discussions moderated by congregants - the first by a psychologist and the second by a rabbi (not ours). These were attended by about 60 people, most of whom participated in the discussion.
A few years ago, our rabbi chose three people to speak about their journeys "from there to here" - their Jewish upbringing (if any) and what led them to become Reform Jews. This session was more sparsely attended, less "professional" and participatory than those in the previous paragraph, but in some ways more resonant.
Edward 425 Households
On Yom Kippur afternoon, we offered a Meditation service with music led by Para-Rabbinic Fellows (of which I am one). The clergy had asked us to develop a service that consisted of both readings and music. We decided to divide the service into three parts - T'shuvah, T'fillah and T'zdakah. In the end, the pamphlet that we created included the readings/prayers, a play list and the bios of musicians (a cellist and pianist) that would be assisting us.
Each of the three sections took about fifteen minutes and consisted of readings as well as music. Everyone in attendance (about 80 - 90) really enjoyed the service and loved the blend of music and meaningful readings.
Jonathan 1200 Families
We were fortunate enough for many years to have a musical director who was also an excellent composer. He set large sections of From Creation to Redemption as an oratorio with narration, which was performed by our volunteer choir and several other members.
We are trying to find something to replace the colloquy we have had for many years. It had two or three current topics of importance to Judaism and Israel in the past year. It began right after the end of the Morning Service and lasted about an hour or so until the Children's Service began. It was not well attended and was getting to be deadly. What do other temples do? Kathy
For many years the temple I used to belong to offered a program in the sanctuary after the Morning Service called "Reflections." Typically, three congregants were selected by the rabbi several weeks prior to Yom Kippur to prepare their comments. Often, the congregants spoke of their paths to Reform Judaism. Often the rabbi would choose three congregants whose stories were particularly interesting, amusing, or poignant when placed next to each other. Attendance never compared to that of the Morning Service, but the group that assembled was always very appreciative. For many, "Reflections" was a highlight of High Holy Day observance. Beth
We have had a discussion group for many years, too. It has attracted a loyal group including many people who never come to anything else during the year. Topics have varied (Jewish Ethical Wills is one I remember). One constant that might help is that we always have some handout/text for people to work from. This provides a concrete basis for discussion and that discussion has always been vigorous. The program is led by the rabbi for the first hour or so. Then he needs to go to lead the children's service and the program continues under lay leadership until the afternoon service. Jeremy 250 units
You might want to check the programs in the Union's Reaching for Holiness books. They have some wonderful programs we have used for YK afternoon study. You can find the books in downloadable format on the Union's Web site at www.urj.org/holidays/highholidays. Iris
We use the time from the end of the morning service (about 1:15--1:30) till the start of children's service to do a meditative service of healing. Our congregation is approx 650 families. Between 50 to 75 people attend the healing service. There were more on the YK following Sept 11 because so much was happening and we include a section on healing of our world. If you would like to see the draft we work from, let me know and I will ask to have the office send out a copy of our service. We change the guided imagery each time and have incorporated a sort of Tashlich of depositing our hurts and needs for repair in a basin of water at the conclusion of the service. It has been well received. Paula
After the morning service at [our temple], (just under 500 families), some of us take a walk to a nearby park--some as a group, others individually--and some watch selected films in our Adult Lounge. Starting at 1 or 1:30, before the afternoon service, we have what we call "Music and Meditation". This is a series of meditations read by lay leaders and instrumental and/or vocal musical offerings, usually by members of the congregation but sometimes including other local artists. Our cantor coordinates these musical offerings. It's a very comforting, quiet, thought-provoking interlude. Jeanne
At [our congregation] we offer several programs, each of which lasts about ninety minutes. We have a service of healing; we have the former editor of our Jewish newspaper (The Jewish Light) who speaks on current events and their impact on the Jewish community; and we have a program of music and meditation during which musical selections (performed by two very gifted musicians) are alternated with readings by selected congregants. The readings have been compiled from a variety of sources by our rabbis. Youth group services for Yom Kippur are also held during this time and many congregants choose to attend this service. This programming has been well received. We also have an area where parents and children may go to play games and occupy themselves before children's services. Many congregants find a quiet place to read by themselves or to sit and enjoy the peace and rest of the day and the opportunity for self-reflection. Carol
We are planning an innovative service this year for the afternoon of Yom Kippur, and I am wondering if anyone else is taking a risk of making change during the HHD this year.
The afternoon service, with the Avodah and Jonah has always been the low point of the day, both in terms of people's energy level and in terms of the effort to make the service itself more interesting than just a group of congregants getting up and reading passages that they have not reviewed or necessarily put any effort into preparing. Jonah has for the past several years been read by kids whose command of English does not seem to be any better than their Hebrew. It has been nap time for me and many others.
After participating in the Synagogue 2000 (S2K) gathering in Dallas [in October 2002], our leadership and rabbis agreed that we could make changes in the Avodah Service. We have selected different readings from the Gates of Repentance and are stringing them together with our own narration. The service will be presented by a group of rehearsed readers who will read from different positions on and about the bimah. The narrator will have a remote lapel mike and be in the congregation.
We are also doing a modified reading of Jonah using the same group of rehearsed readers.
We are a congregation of 1300 family units. This service normally starts with around 500 people and grows to 2000 as we gear up for Yizkor which follows.
At worst we expect to wake some people from their naps; at best we will bring a new understanding of this most powerful (and in many cases most ignored) service of the day. Just participating in the development and rehearsal has greatly increased my sense of awe.
What other new ideas are there out there?
In response to Paul's question about YK, I was amazed with his comments about Jonah. When we allocate our mitzvot for the Yom Tovim, Jonah is always our starting point. We choose two readers, one who has good Hebrew and one who can read "mit feeling". The morning and additional services finish about 2pm. when there is a break of about an hour. This is followed by a Family Service led by children in the Yachdav class (post bar/bat mitzvah) and is very well attended. Another break of half an hour and then we have the afternoon, memorial and concluding services which are all well attended. So for us, Jonah is one of the highlights for YK. Phyllis
I led services for HHD the last three years...For the last two years we used one of the Union publications for HHD and S?lichot as a resource for much of the Yom Kippur afternoon service. While attendance did not change because of it (we had a very small congregation there), those who did attend found service much more meaningful than G of R text. Dave
We, too, participated in Synagogue 2000 ("S2K"). At our last conference in October 2002 in Dallas, the S2K team modeled a version of the Musaf service for Yom Kippur (the afternoon service, up to but not including the Torah and Jonah. Gates refers to this as the Avodah) using some of the texts from Gates. To this very streamlined version (basically Creation, The Priestly Ritual, and The Martyrology) was added some modern texts. These texts were specifically to bring the Martyrology up to the Holocaust, Israel, and the events of September 2001. They then set these texts to music, mostly songs that are of the more participatory feeling that many of us feel makes worship more engaging to the congregation.
Our cantor has worked with a group of laity to adapt this service for our congregation. He even produced a CD with all the new music (all tunes used with permission) that was sent out in our monthly bulletin. We are using rehearsed lay readers, some who will read from the congregation, and some singing voices that are not part of our normal cantorate or choir. We will be using guitars. We are holding an informational session...to discuss it and teach the music.
Max 900 +/- MU
...A lot of things that we have tried under the S2K rubric have come in for criticism, some fair, so we are not putting that rubric on this change.
[Max is] going further than we are, because we have elected to rely on the text in G of R for our source material together with original narration for transitions and to provide page numbers.
We are using the choir, our soloist and a trio for piano, violin and flute?
Paul 1300 + - MU
Our Ritual Committee is looking into the presentation of the Additional Service for the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Traditionally it is a service that is presented by the members of the Temple (this also gives Rabbi a chance to catch her breath, sit with her family, and prepare mentally for the N'ilah Service). We think that it has become stale--one reader after the next reads a few paragraphs, then sits down.
Are there any congregations that are doing something different that is more beautiful and meaningful--special? We are also studying the presentation of Jonah. It has traditionally been "owned" by one member--he has recently moved. We feel we have an opportunity to do something special, beautiful, and meaningful...is someone doing something special?
David 300 Families
Some years ago (probably twenty) a group of lay leaders in our shul prepared a new afternoon service for YK because the service in Gates is so dull. We have gone back to Gates, and experimented with removing different portions of the service. This has not been totally satisfactory either.
We also experimented with cutting portions of the Jonah reading, and perhaps this was more broadly accepted.
Different strokes for different folks! I find this service particularly nourishing, especially when the entire afternoon is integrated, as it is at [our congregation], with relatively seamless transitions from mincha/Yizkor/N'ilah.
In years gone by, my rabbi used to refer to specially created liturgies as "Kleenex services"--you use them once and throw them away (as you have apparently done with what was put together twenty years ago). Since there is more text in GOR than any congregation is likely to be able to accommodate in the framework of a single day--the option of picking and choosing is viable, even though that doesn't appear to be working for your group either.
Like a great deal else in Gates, or any other siddur or machzor, the presentation is what makes it or breaks it, not the words on the page. This might also be a good time to remember the two elements in worship, keva, the fixed ritual, and kavanah, the personal understanding and insight each worshiper brings to the process...
This last year, a group of congregants with a little help from our sh'liach tzibur (me) and rabbi presented the afternoon service in a different way, but used the same liturgy. The "staging" was based on a service we'd seen in Dallas as part of a Synagogue 2000 conference.
In short, the presentation (1) used fewer readers, (2) incorporated songs and music, and (3) used small pieces of movement to enliven what has, in my experience, been a seemingly endless series of dull reading by unprepared people who aren't close enough to the microphone. Examples:
Fewer readers: Two readers took primary responsibility for the service. They read most of the service. One is an actor. Perhaps four to six others read short bits to break it up.
Music: During the first part of the service, we recount our history starting with creation, through Abraham, giving of Torah, the martyrs, etc. We chanted from Torah those verses in the prayer book. Songs included MahGadlu (creation), Lechi Lach (Abraham, go forth). Music during the tale of the Temple set the Hebrew texts to nusach.
Movement: We read Torah from a table set within the congregation, not from the bimah. Readers stood at microphones on the floor or on the bimah. At the end of the martyr logy, we invited Holocaust survivors up to recall one or two relatives and light a memorial candle.
In short, it worked. The congregation was moved, sometimes to tears, and those who came felt rewarded for having been there. We'll see if attendance rises next year.
Alan 525 members
We have study sessions in the afternoon for those who want to remain in the synagogue between services. Morning services end at 1:00 P.M. Study sessions are from 1:30 P.M.--4:00 P.M. (usually two sessions, either Torah related or sometimes more personal/spiritual topics). About twenty-five to fifty people attend the study sessions (depending on who leads them). Our afternoon service begins at 5:00 P.M. We have a Torah service and also slip in Yizkor at that time and end with N'ilah. We are packed for the afternoon service, but at least 25% of the people leave after Yizkor.
Estherose 1,000 families
Several years ago, at [our congregation], we decided to add a meditation based Healing Service on Yom Kippur Afternoon. It takes place immediately after the morning service and before the Children's Service. The Healing Service takes about an hour. Anyone interested can obtain a copy of the service we use by either writing to the Administrator or by e-mailing me and giving me a mail address to which we can send it. The healing service is smaller, perhaps sixty people, and is held in the chapel rather than the main sanctuary. Last year was our fourth repetition and it seems to be holding the test of time.
Paula 700 families
We have developed a program for two years now for Avodah on YK afternoon. This is the part between the Afternoon Service and the Torah reading and Jonah.
We use material directly from Gates of Repentance, so far. We have added narration to bridge the material we do not read and we use B'reshiet barah Elohim as a further bridge between Creation and Revelation and between Revelation and Redemption.
We use a group of readers who volunteer to help develop the selections and narration and we rehearse the group at least three times before the HHD's. We have done this two years now and look forward to making it part of the YK day each year going forward. It is my hope that this will not become static, but will be revised and revisited each year with a fresh group of volunteers.
I have taken the leadership role for two years, and I will follow through for another year, but I hope to change the volunteers and soon the leadership so that it will stay fresh. This year our group ranged from the narrator, a very involved 14-year-old, to a senior in his 80's, who used to give a stirring reading of Jonah and was "forgotten" somehow, who was delighted to be involved again.
The congregational reaction has been entirely favorable to this change.
There's an article on the CCAR Journal Web site you might find interesting. [Ed. Note: The article is "Yom Kippur Worship: A Missing Center?" by Rabbi Herbert Bronstein. The site is www.ccarnet.org. Click on publications, then journal. The year is 2004. The link basename ends in /804.] Robin
Two years ago, a group of our members organized the Yom Kippur afternoon service based on a service they'd seen Rabbi Richard Jacobs lead at a Synagogue 2000 conference.
The changes, though simple, were profound.
First, there was a moment of silent meditation at the beginning to separate the preceding service from the Avodah liturgy.
Second, the paragraphs from Torah were chanted from the Torah, which was placed in the middle of the congregation.
Third, they introduced music the congregation could sing to the service. Most additions were linked to the theme of preceding readings. After the Torah reading about creation, we sang Mah Gadlu (Gold). After the portion from Lech L'cha, we sang L'chi Lach (Friedman). Other songs included Mah Tovu, and Eili Eili.
Fourth, there were fewer readers than in the past. The entire service was read by three or four people. The singing and Torah readings broke it up.
Fifth, they extended the liturgy at the end by introducing a Holocaust Memorial and some readings about contemporary terrorism. This ending draws the line from the martyrs of ancient times to the martyrs or our own day. This part culminated with readings about 9/11 and New York, and it would have to be updated before next year because it no longer has the immediacy it had in 2003.
We finished with "Hatikvah" and something celebratory before the Torah service.
The congregation found it very moving, but it took several people a fair amount of time to plan it, coordinate it, rehearse it and manage it. We planned to repeat it in 2004, but the volunteers didn't have the time.
I have attached the cue sheet and the handout which contains the readings. [Ed. Note: These may be obtained from the Union's Worship Department (firstname.lastname@example.org).]