November 10, 2022

Thanks to High Holy Day Volunteers

In congregations throughout the world, volunteers make our services flow. They take turns being ark openers, ushers, readers, etc.

This year, I was honored to open the ark at our Kol Nidre service. By happenstance.  I got to synagogue early. So Steve, our wonderful organizer, asked.


Sensory Feast

What I didn’t know was that I’d be on the bimah surrounded by sensory stimuli beyond anything I could have imagined.

Our Rebbitzin played the haunting Kol Nidre melody on her magnificent flute. . . just to my left.  Really, less than two feet away. And to my right, within inches, three congregants held Torah scrolls, the bells on the rimonim tinkling, tinkling, as they swayed slightly with the weight of those scrolls.

Immediately in front of me, the holiday candles were glowing. I could smell their light. (Well, maybe it was the lighter that had been used. But there was a distinctive fragrance wafting my way.) I was absolutely transported.


Gift of the Volunteers

And it made me wonder, again, about those who volunteer for longer roles during services.  Like Steve, who is virtually on call throughout the holidays, to make sure everything goes smoothly. And to figure out a solution-on-the-fly if something doesn’t.

When we belonged to a huge temple with a large choir, I didn’t know any of the singers.  So I didn’t think about who, exactly, was giving up the opportunity to pray, to nourish the rest of us.  But when we joined our current synagogue, I saw Linda sitting at the piano for hours at a time, for many years. And I wondered how she felt about missing the introspective moments for herself.  (Linda - if you’re reading this, let us know.)

Sarah Lazarovic, a filmmaker, animator and illustrator, explores this subject in a visual essay in Tablet Magazine called “The Serenaders of Yom Kippur.” She asks, “Who volunteers to sing in the synagogue choir for Kol Nidre? This year, I joined and found out.”


Heartfelt Thanks

Here’s a shout-out of thanks to all the congregants who share their time and talents to enhance the services for the rest of us.


If you like thinking about prayer in your life, you might enjoy this post.


  1. Linda Yonteff says:

    It was a mixed blessing to sit at the piano during the High Holy Days services. While music is always contemplative for me, I was distracted from many of the readings I enjoy each year. Overall, it was a good experience and when I really wanted to experience the service itself, I was certainly able to. Accompanying Kol Nidre was always my favorite part.

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