Jewish temple hosts first outdoor Yom Kippur service in Central Park 

Yom Kippur service in Central Park
Temple Emanu-El hosted an outdoor Yom Kippur service in Central Park on Sept. 16, 2021
File photo/Dean Moses

The Temple Emanu-El held its first ever Yom Kippur service under the open sky in Central Park on the day of atonement, Sept. 16.

Thursday marked the first and only time in the temple’s 176-year history that the house of worship commemorated the high holy day outside. With the option to also stop by the Temple Emanu-El on E 65th St and 5th Avenue, the outdoor venue was developed to provide worshipers with a comfortable and safe space to observe Yom Kippur amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is observed through intensive prayer. Photo by Dean Moses

The service was open to those who pre-registered for the event with adults showing proof of vaccination and children under 12 required to display a negative PCR result within the past 72-hours. 

Commencing at the SummerStage in Central Park, reciting the Yisker (the Jewish mourning prayer), Rabbi’s read from the Machzor (high holy days prayer book).  From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., dozens of individuals participated in intensive prayer for atonement and repentance while also fasting.

Senior Cantor Mo Glazman. Photo by Dean Moses

The afternoon featured teen services led by youth members, who focused on inspiring the younger generation through music and dance, as well as educating them on the pillars behind Yom Kippur: t’shuvah (repentance), t’filah (prayer), and tzedakah (charity). 

During the afternoon family service, religious leaders introduced a goat named Sven the scapegoat, so that attendees may place a note card with a list of their sins into the farm animal’s harness pack, which symbolically allowed their mistakes to be removed.

Worshipers were invited to pre-register for the outdoor prayer services in Central Park.Photo by Dean Moses
Prayer books were distributed to guests. Photo by Dean Moses

“Now we’ve got something amazing planned, something we could only do in Central Park. As some of you may know, the origins of Yom Kippur reach back to biblical times when the Israelites would recall all of the mistakes they had made during the past year. All the times they were not their best selves, the times they were impatient or selfish, stuff like that. They would symbolically place those mistakes onto a goat and send that goat into the wilderness to carry off those mistakes,” Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson said. 

All those who participated were given a sticker stating, “I left my sins at SummerStage.” 

Associate Rabbi Sara Y. Sapadin. Photo by Dean Moses
The outdoor religious service was created as an opportunity for worshipers to observe Yom Kippur safely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Dean Moses