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How COVID-19 has disrupted Judaism’s most sacred High Holidays

09/10/2020 10:44:58 AM

Sep10

Trent Toone

Rabbi Samuel Spector and Cantor Laurence Loeb review the materials before prerecording the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur service at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020.

Under “normal” circumstances, Rabbi Samuel L. Spector might find preparing for Judaism’s most sacred High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to be more fulfilling and joyful.

But because of COVID-19 and gathering restrictions, Congregation Kol Ami is prerecording this year’s services weeks in advance and the rabbi says he’s working around the clock to complete preparations.

“This year it’s insane. I’m like in my freakout mode right now. I’m mega stressed,” he said. “I’m working over 100 hours a week, that’s what this time of year is like. I say it’s my tax season. ... This is the month when I question all my life choices, but we’ll get through it.”

Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year” and is referred to as the Jewish New Year, begins on the evening of Friday, Sept. 18, and ends the evening of Sunday, Sep. 20.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts the evening of Sunday, Sept. 27, and ends the evening of Monday, Sept. 28.

For Jews, the period connecting these important dates means an opportunity to gather, reflect and celebrate with family and friends. During a typical year, Jews take time off from work and large crowds assemble at their respective synagogues. Yom Kippur includes more prayer and a daylong fast.

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Jews welcome Utah’s Ancestry making millions of Holocaust records available

08/30/2020 11:08:29 AM

Aug30

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Seventy-five years after World War II ended, connections to the Holocaust keep fading as more and more survivors die. And the relatively few remaining find themselves at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salt Lake City businesswoman and writer Faye Lincoln has been searching unsuccessfully for some of her relatives, even reaching out to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the millions of victims, and getting no response.

“As the child of Holocaust survivors from Auschwitz, most historical memories of those killed have been lost,” said Lincoln, who is on the board of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami synagogue. “It is challenging to access records during the occupation in order to trace relatives.”

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‘Mormon Land’: Utah rabbi talks about life in an LDS Zion, meeting an apostle, his views about Christians holding Seders and more

08/13/2020 06:54:36 PM

Aug13

he Salt Lake Tribune

Rabbi Samuel Spector at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.

Rabbi Sam Spector of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City has been in Utah a little more than two years but has already built strong relationships with members and leaders of the state’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Just last week, the 30-something rabbi was on hand to oversee a group of Latter-day Saint volunteers who spent five days working alongside Kol Ami congregants to xeriscape the synagogue’s six-acre plot.

On this week’s podcast, the young and energetic rabbi discusses coming to Utah, meeting a Latter-day Saint apostle named “Jeff,” traveling to Jerusalem with Brigham Young University professors and engaging in an interfaith dialogue that doesn’t tiptoe around big differences. He also addresses why Christians doing Passover Seders can make him uncomfortable and who uses the term “Zion” more — Latter-day Saints or Jews.

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Why Latter-day Saints and a Jewish congregation joined forces in a major landscaping project

08/13/2020 06:45:25 PM

Aug13

Trent Toone

Volunteers spread gravel outside of the Congregation Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Highland South Stake has partnered with Congregation Kol Ami to xeriscape the property around the synagogue. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — During the first week of August, the 6-acre property surrounding the Congregation Kol Ami Jewish Synagogue underwent a major transformation.

In the span of five days, hundreds of volunteers worked around the clock in 100-degree heat and clouds of dust to remove old, overgrown trees and shrubs and replace them with new trees and drought-tolerant plants, decorative rock, concrete paths and patios, as well as a new drip irrigation system.

Along with a refreshing and colorful xeriscaped look that will save money and conserve water, a new bond of friendship was forged between synagogue members and Latter-day Saints of the Highland Utah South Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Latter-day Saint volunteers help xeriscape Salt Lake City Jewish synagogue in interfaith project

08/06/2020 01:26:11 PM

Aug6

Peggy Fletcher Stack

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Highland Utah South Stake help xeriscape the grounds around Congregation Koa Ami on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020

Early this year, the Highland Utah South Stake, a group of Utah County congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was looking for a service project.

In chatting with a member of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City, they came up with a plan: Xeriscape the Jewish synagogue’s six-acre site.

They spent months planning, budgeting and calling businesses to provide goods and services for free or at a deep discount.

This week, about 50 members of the stake met up with about a dozen synagogue members every day at 7 a.m. to help rip out the lawn and bushes and replace them with rocks, succulent plants and trees hooked up to a drip system. They created pathways and patios with concrete.

“With all the volunteer hours and items that were donated or purchased at a reduced price,” said Rabbi Sam Spector, overcome with gratitude, “we probably saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

See all the pictures here.

Sun, September 20 2020 2 Tishrei 5781