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High Holidays

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Shalom Chaverim (Friends)!

The month of Elul is here, and that means we are preparing for the magic of the High Holidays at Congregation Etz Chaim. This is a time for us to connect, honor, reflect, and set our intentions for the year in a way that feels most authentic to ourselves. I am grateful to be a part of this community and experience the welcoming and spiritual connections.

Our clergy, staff, and volunteers have been working with kavanah (intention) to create this year’s High Holiday experience for our community. As we enter 5784, we are all working hard to build and create a community, including all of you, that we are proud to call MY CEC.

We welcome you and your family, guests, and prospective members to join us for the High Holidays. If you know of any prospective families who are interested in attending any of our programs or services, please connect me with them so that I can welcome them personally.

Below is a comprehensive schedule of our High Holiday programming and services, which kicks off with our annual Selichotapalooza—a free, family-friendly Selichot celebration in our parking lot.

Please note that you must have your 2023-2024 Membership Commitment Form submitted in order to complete the High Holiday Registration Form. If you have questions, or need help completing your membership commitment form, call or come to the office and we will be happy to help.

On behalf of Rabbi Cosnowsky, Rabbi Wainer, Marla Aviva Bentley, Cindy Michelassi, Jason Hill, Rachel Wood, Cameron Trejbal, Barbara Benezra, Kenric Rimoni, CJ & John Conway, Javier & Luz Vega, Katia Vega, Elmer Suarez, and myself, Shana Tova (Happy New Year) - may you and your loved ones be happy, healthy, and safe in the year ahead.



Executive Director, Congregation Etz Chaim 


Registration for 5784 High Holiday Services is now open. Members need to be logged in to their ShulCloud account and have their 2023-2024 Membership Commitment Form submitted in order to complete the High Holiday Registration Form. 

If you have any questions, or need any help with registering for these services, please contact the office at, and we will be happy to complete the form with you either in the office or over the phone.

In order to best prepare for the holidays, please complete a High Holiday Registration Form for your household. In the form, you will be able to select services to attend, add guests, babysitting, parking accommodations, additional names for the Yizkor Scroll of Remembrance, purchase prayer books, and make a contribution to the congregation.

We will set out reusable name tags for those who have them, and we will print temporary names tags based on the names provided in your registration in lieu of a ticket.

Guests are welcome to participate in all of our High Holiday Services and Programming for a fee of $360 per person. Family Members who are members of other URJ (Reform Movement Congregations) can submit the official HHD Reciprocal Seating Form and there is no charge for them to attend. Please do not include these individuals in your count and skip that section.

For Congregation Etz Chaim members: most URJ congregations offer reciprocity for members in good standing. Please let us know if you need us to submit a reciprocity form on your behalf. Please note: congregations’ policies on visitors vary and are beyond our control. You can contact if you need financial assistance as a guest or for a guest.



*Indicates Live Streaming Available     -Indicates Free Babysitting Available Upon Request


September 9, 2023

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM


September 9, 2023

5:30 PM – 7:00 PM


September 9, 2023

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM


September 15, 2023

7:30 PM – 9:00 PM


September 16, 2023

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM


September 16, 2023

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM


September 17, 2023

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM


September 17, 2023

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM


September 24, 2023

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM


September 24, 2023

7:30 PM – 9:30 PM


September 25, 2023

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

September 25, 2023

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

September 25, 2023

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM


September 25, 2023

5:00 PM – 5:45 PM


September 25, 2023

5:45 PM – 6:45 PM


September 29, 2023

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

October 6, 2023

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM










Elul is the month in which we prepare for the High Holidays. This month helps us to turn inward and reflect on the past year, as we prepare to welcome in our new year. The High Holidays have the power to transform our lives. If we see these holidays as only an obligation to be fulfilled, we miss the inherent opportunity. These are the overall themes of services to help you find deeper meaning in the strands of belief that are woven together in the High Holiday liturgy and practice.

The High Holidays are referred to as Yamim Noraim - the Days of Awe. What are we in awe of?  

• The splendor and beauty of the leaves changing? Nora could also be translated as reverence - when Religion is observed more than any other time of year.  

• Starts with Elul/Selichot - goes until the conclusion of the Harvest festival of Sukkot (Simchat Torah)

Sephardic Communities recite Selichot at the beginning of Elul for 40 days (Think Moses on Mt. Sinai!)

Ashkenazic Communities do Selichot services the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashana UNLESS it’s less than 3-4 days before.

The themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur: 

1. There is an order to the way we are commanded to contemplate and recognize God's sovereignty. 

2.  Life is short and there are no guarantees that we will be here next year.

3. God ‘remembers’ us and metes out our judgment about how the next year will go (Unetaneh Tokef prayer)

4. We examine our lives, make reparations where necessary, repent, atone and forgive others.

Rosh Hashana focuses on judgment - kingship and remembrance. RH focuses on human responsibility and Divine judgment.

Yom Kippur focuses on human failure and Divine forgiveness. We can sin, but atone and attains forgiveness. (Jonah Haftarah)

These commandments to observe this as a time of commemoration is found in Leviticus, a day of observing and 10 days later, of fasting and Atoning. 

Judgment and forgiveness is connected by repentance (Teshuvah), Charity (tzedakah) and Prayer (tefillah) can temper a harsh decree. This is not to be confused with deterministic view of life. We don’t believe in preordination. We have free choice. High Holidays is all about choosing to to teshuvah and return to the right path where we have veered.


Overview of Components of Holiday:

Rosh Hashana Liturgy developed over centuries. No Hallel recited - Hallel is only for pilgrimage holidays which are temple centered. Later sages claim it was to not have too much joy on RH. 

Rosh Hashana is a serious holiday with an Erev service (Arvit), morning (Shacharit), Shofar and Torah service, Afternoon (Minhah) and Tashlich.

Shofar Service - hear the shofar blasts 3 separate times followed by Areshet S’fateinu


Malchyot - kingship - We sing Aleinu

Zichronot - remembrance,

Shofarot - Shofar - revelation of Torah at Sinai AND Akedah - rams horn.

(Think coronation ceremony where King is praised with horns and pomp and circumstance.)

Yom Kippur - root word כפר (KPR) - atonement. Lots of different ways we atone. Flogging, swinging a chicken or rooster/hen above your head, scape goat in Torah. Although there was great rabbinic opposition - custom still prevails in some communities.

Meal (festive but subdued) - Shir Ha Maalot (said on shabbat, holidays.) Then e light Yom Tov candles - holiday officially begins, say Shehecheyanu, light memorial candle for loved ones who are no longer with us. 

Customary to give Tzedakah before the evening. 

Have made amends to those we’ve harmed. 

Forgive others, end bitterness and grudges. 

Clean Slate. 

Prepared to enter most sacred and holy day

Kol Nidre - All vows - for some - most important service of All HH services. Israel - Secular Jews will stand outside a synagogue while it’s being chanted, but not go inside!

Prayer itself is controversial. Some groups interpreted it to mean that Jews cannot be trusted because we can annul vows once a year. But it’s not about that. Legal formula, recited 3 times. That nulls vows made under pressure, incentive vows and erroneous vows.

Thirteen Attributes of God - Exodus formula reminding us that God is compassionate and forgiving.

Vidui - Communal Confession - elaborate formula uttered by High Priest and now for everyone to say so no one person is embarrassed.

Ashamnu - lesser confession. 

Sukkot - which comes 5 days after Yom Kippur is a time of celebration - Yom simchateinu - a day of rejoicing.  Once we are done with the affliction, we are commanded to rejoice and be happy.




If you plan to join us for in-person services, you will be greeted by a volunteer or staff member who will check you in, and provide you with a name tag. As this is a busy time of year, please allow extra time for this process. Name tags help us get to know each other and keep our community safe.


Available services will be streamed via our YouTube channel, which can be accessed through our website via the 'Watch Online' button. Friends and family (including prospective members) are welcome to stream our services and we invite them to make a donation to help support the ongoing costs of providing this experience.


Congregation Etz Chaim has a great tradition of volunteers who welcome our community into the building. Designated volunteers will be available to help assist with any concerns, or questions, you may have during your time at CEC.


Rosh Hashana - We begin with the greeting “L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu” or “L’shanah Tovah u’Metukah” - May you be blessed with a sweet new year. You can also say “Shanah Tovah” (Happy New Year) or “Chag Sameach” - Happy Holidays

Yom Kippur - We say, “G’mar Chatimah Tovah” - May you be inscribed in the book of life or “Tzom Kal” - May you have an easy fast.


It is important that all families are able to participate in services at Congregation Etz Chaim. We are offering babysitting (free of charge) upon request for select services. You can register children, 7 and under, for services where babysitting is indicated.


We will have parking attendants supporting traffic flow and providing additional security. Please arrive with enough time to park. Please drive slowly, and carefully, as you enter and exit the parking lot. There are a limited number of spaces, with extra space, reserved near the door for those members for whom this is a necessity. Requests can be made during the registration process.


We hope you can join us for a community oneg following Erev Rosh Hashana services, Yom Kippur Break Fast, Sukkot services, and Simchat Torah/Consecration. Do you have a special recipe or just like to make food? We are looking for yummy food for the Rosh Hashana Oneg or Yom Kippur Break Fast. Contributions to the Ritual and Religious Fund for Oneg are also welcome. You may donation to our oneg fund and co-sponsor these moments for as little as $18 and as much as $360.


You can purchase a Mishkan HaNefesh, the High Holiday prayer book of the Reform movement, from our inventory. This two-book set is available for you to purchase for $40. There is also a Kindle version available from


COVID Protocols

The CEC Covid-19 Task Force has recently met and indicated we will be "masks optional." There will be a mask and vaccination required space in which to stream services for those who want to be physically present but are more comfortable in one of these settings.

Safety & Security

The safety and security of our members is of utmost importance. We continue to review and update our safety and security policies and assess any risk to our community. Congregation Etz Chaim welcomes all people, of all backgrounds and abilities, who choose to join us for the High Holidays. Please help support our welcoming community by introducing yourself to individuals you do not know. We have name tags for each person that registers upon arrival to assist with this process.

In case of a medical emergency, please note that there are two AEDs in the building. Armed security officers will be on premises during our High Holiday services, as they are during all school programming, religious services, and other major events. If you see any suspicious activity or behavior, please inform one of our senior staff members or security officers immediately.


Children, 7 and younger, are welcome to join our babysitting room during select services. Children 8 and older are encouraged to participate in the main sanctuary service. Additional material will be available for them during this time. Our services are expected to be about 2 hours. We understand that children may need to move their bodies during this time, or take breaks from the service. This is ok. We have a sensory room that children can access (with parental or adult supervision), where children can take appropriate breaks while still watching the service. 

The Union for Reform Judaism has developed a children’s activity book, Our Story, Your Table, that can be used by families with children grades 1-7 to reflect and prepare for the High Holidays. Use this link to get your free resource!


We welcome all people who choose to join us for our High Holiday programs and services. We encourage you to include pronouns on your name tag when you receive it upon arrival. Please click here to learn more about pronouns and why we are including them. We also know that we may have individuals join us for whom this is their first Jewish experience. Please help us to welcome them with open arms, and help them to navigate our building and our prayer experiences. We invite you to include your pronouns on your name tag. Why are we asking about pronouns?

For any accommodations for those who are joining in person or remotely can contact and we will try to meet those requests. There will be closed captioning and sign-langauge interpretation available for all adult services in the sanctuary. We are looking at making this available via our stream, but we have not yet confirmed the technology. The congregation also has limited large font books available to borrow.


We are preparing our Congregation Etz Chaim Scroll of Remembrance for Yizkor Services. This booklet will be used for the Yizkor Service on Yom Kippur. We will include any names of loved ones that you have in your ShulCloud account. If your family wishes  to adjust, or add, names of your loved ones in the Yizkor Scroll of Remembrance, please email no later than Wedneseday, September 28. It is common for families to make a donation in honor of their loved ones at this time and on the anniversary of their passing. Click here to make a donation.


Please Help Support Congregation Etz Chaim’s Annual
High Holiday Food Drive

CEC is asking for your help in collecting food for the People's Resource Center of Westmont! Please take a bag (or two or three!) and fill it with non-perishable food items. Donations should have an expiration date minimum of six months from now; diapers and baby formula are always appreciated! High need items include: cereal, tuna/canned meats, canned pasta, soup, canned fruits & veggies, peanut butter, jelly, laundry detergent, dish soap, and other cleaning supplies.
Please return your bag to CEC by Monday, September 25. Donations brought prior to Yom Kippur morning should be left is the designated area in coffee bar. On Yom Kippur morning, people will be available in the parking lot to collect the filled bags. You are also welcome to donate online to "High Holiday Food & Sukkot Diaper Drive". If you should have any questions, or would like more information, please call or email Rabbi Wainer. Thank you for supporting this worthwhile cause.

“Let your voice resound like a Shofar…share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your home.” Isaiah 58

Mon, May 20 2024 12 Iyar 5784