Abbreviating Prayer Services for the High Holy Days of 5781/2020

Prepared by Rabbis Steven Kane, Robert Scheinberg, and Deborah Silver and Hazzan Scott Sokol

Please note that this is not an official responsum of the CJLS.


An in-person High Holy Day experience for the year 5781/2020 is likely to need to be as short as possible. Current medical understanding tells us that — even under conditions of physical distancing — the longer the in-person gathering, the greater the likelihood of infection.  Additionally, many synagogues contemplating in-person services are considering having multiple seatings in synagogue spaces with cleaning and disinfecting in between, as an additional motivation for having shorter prayer experiences. Communities that have already decided to have their High Holy Day services take place primarily or exclusively on-line may also have motivations to make those experiences shorter than a standard synagogue service would be, because of the limitations of the on-line format. 

We hope these recommendations provide tools for the decision-makers in each community to make decisions appropriate for that community to shorten the experience, in line with our tradition’s guidelines about what are the indispensable elements of the experience.  Below are some principles for consideration when planning the length and content of High Holy Day services this year, followed by some sample outlines that some communities may choose to use, understanding that each community’s decisions are likely to be different.

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