Shofar in the Park
Shofar in the ParkOhr Torah Stone

As Israel and the world continue to struggle with the effects of the ongoing Corona crisis, organizers of the annual “Shofar in the Park” have again expanded the program's scope to cater to increased interest for outdoor shofar blowing in hundreds in locations around the country. Marking Rosh Hashana on September 7th, the specially expanded outdoor programming from the Ohr Torah Stone network's Yachad Jewish Identity program in partnership with the Tzohar Rabbinical organization will accommodate as many people as possible within the Ministry of Health guidelines. The family friendly events, which annually attract tens of thousands of Israelis, most of whom have no established connection to a local synagogue, will allow people to hear the traditional shofar blasts alongside singing, storytelling and other educational activities for children and adults.

“The shofar is a prayer that is unshackled by words,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “Over the past year, we have seen just how much pain and fracture words can cause. But at the same time, words are often not powerful enough to articulate how what divides us is overpowered by that which unites us as a people and a civil society. The piercing sound of the shofar shatters the barriers between ourselves and God; between ourselves and our loved ones; between us and believers of other religions; and even between us and ourselves.”

“This year, more than ever, we need to develop the power of listening and hearing,” said Rabbi David Stav, Founder of Tzohar. “The significance of hearing the shofar blasts is to be attentive to what is happening around us, to our families, our communities and in the world at large and in so doing help us to become better people. Part of this individual and social responsibility is to acknowledge the crises which have defined our past year like the pandemic, the disaster in Meron, the violence in our society and the recent fires, alongside many other events that have challenged us all.”

Rabbi Shai Naveh, Director of the Yachad Jewish Identity program, notes the universality of the shofar. “From the shofar of Isaac to the shofar that will blast calling everyone back to Israel, from inside the synagogue or out, for those with a kipa or streimel and those with a bare head or tank-top – the shofar speaks to and belongs to us all.”

For those who stay home, either by choice, or because they will be in isolation, Ohr Torah Stone has re-released an updated version of their halakhically condensed, “Corona-oriented” high holiday prayer book (machzor), available for download from their website. The books, available in both Ashkenazi and Sephardic formats, abridges the text while maintaining all the elements of the halakhically mandated service Jewish including the spiritual and liturgical highlights. Last year, the machzor was downloaded over 13,000 times in communities around the world.