Photo Credit: courtesy

Where I grew up in England it was not uncommon for movie theaters to be used as overflows for the masses that came to pray on the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays). I was reminded of this when I saw that movie theaters are reopening in the coming week(s) here in New York and got to thinking about how they would manage the long lines that some anticipate upon reopening. Then again, we are getting used to lines everywhere we go: the supermarket, the bank, the restaurant.

With less than a month till Rosh Hashana, many shuls are already experiencing long (virtual) lines as waitlists to attend shul on the Yamim Noraim grows. Many Jews may not get an opportunity to pray with their synagogue of choice – or any synagogue for that matter – unless they signed/paid up well in advance. Even then, there will simply not be enough room to safely accommodate the crowds that want to attend for the Holidays.


So here’s a thought in line with an ancient tradition of matchmaking:

Could individuals or families that can’t easily be accommodated in their home shul/town be matched with another that has a paucity of worshippers – perhaps because of demographics skewing aged 60+ that will mostly be continuing to isolate over the Holidays?

A clearing house (an app?) could match communities seeking a satellite to house their abundance of worshippers with shuls that have plenty of space for them – even including suggested airbnb’s or nearby hotels for out-of-towners to stay. In addition to benefiting the shuls, so many families and individuals are itching to get away for a few days and start their year making a difference.

There’s a Talmudic adage: shluchei mitzvah ainon nizakin, those engaged in a mitzvah will not come to harm. This shouldn’t be construed as an invitation to be taking outlandish risks during a pandemic. However for those on the fence about traveling somewhere for Rosh Hashana or Sukkot, this extra measure of Divine assurance may provide the needed impetus to move beyond our comfort zones. And isn’t challenging the status quo and moving beyond our narrow confines what so many of our Holidays are all about?

What would it take to make something like this happen?


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Rabbi Daniel Coleman, MBA, is sought after for his creative and strategic approach to career preparedness, transitions, and success. In addition to presenting to high school groups on career/financial preparedness, Daniel coaches college-bound students on navigating the admission process and crafting an excellent application. He is a popular scholar in residence in communities across America and beyond. Connect with him at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.