Rabbi Lazarow said usually there would be 1800 people at Saturday morning services, a choir of 30 people and six or seven people leading the main service.
This year will be “more bespoke” with clergy leading services from their homes, congregants watching online and an only a pianist and four singers in the synagogue.
Synagogues say the pandemic has affected their finances, with fewer congregants paying annual memberships, and with no rent or venue hire income.
Rabbi Lazarow said income was down by 35 per cent this year and the synagogue looks like losing $400,000.
He stressed it wasn’t because people were “disengaging or not valuing what we’re doing”, rather that that they had no discretionary spending, after losing jobs or decreased incomes.
However, those able to contribute were being more generous “because they feel a responsibility to support others”.
Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann said being Modern Orthodox, members of his synagogue, the ARK Centre in Hawthorn East, don’t use electricity on holy days, including this Saturday, and so Rosh Hashanah services can’t be live streamed for his congregants.
But at 4.30pm, before the Holy Day and sabbath starts on Friday night, he will lead a service on Zoom.
Rabbi Kaltmann said his own dinner this Saturday will involve “just me, my wife and our four kids” compared to up to 50 guests in previous years.
“The grand final’s been called off – that’s what it’s like for us, with families not being able to celebrate together,” he said.
Rabbi Daniel Rabin, of South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, is among supporters of Project Shofar, under which on Sunday September 20, hundreds of volunteers will go out to street corners across Melbourne, to blow the shofars, or rams’ horns that are traditionally sounded in synagogues to usher in the new year.
The aim of the project, for which the Rabbinical Council of Victoria has gained state government approval, is for every Jew to hear the shofar, while adhering to health guidelines.
It will run all day on Sunday September 20 in suburbs from Caulfield to Doncaster and Dingley.
It’s part of the Rabbinical Council’s Project High Holy Days, a community connection initiative.
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.