High Holidays at the JCA are multifaceted experiences, blending traditional prayer with contemporary melodies, and providing meaningful and engaging opportunities for all ages. Our services are led by Rabbi Benjamin Weiner and Hazzan Diana Brewer, along with a small group of singers and musicians, and they combine a spirited preliminary shacharit with full Torah reading and musaf.

In addition to attending in our main sanctuary, the services can also be accessed through a Zoom broadcast, which features ASL interpretation much of the time.  Members of the congregation play important roles as Torah and haftarah readers and meditation leaders, and also offer probing personal reflections and inspiring original poetry, alongside Rabbi Weiner’s thoughtful sermons, to enhance the relevance of the holidays.

Our family services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and the day of Yom Kippur, are geared more specifically to the needs of our younger children and their parents, and include songs, age-appropriate discussions, craft activities, and a variety of other educational programming.

We gather together in a single service for all of the evening events, including the first night of Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidrei, and a rafter-raising Ne’ilah service at the close of Yom Kippur.

In addition to services, there are a variety of other community programs that take place over the course of the High Holidays, including our second day Rosh Hashanah Mountain Service, opportunities to bake in our outdoor wood-fired oven, celebrations in the community sukkah, and more.

High Holidays 5784

From the Rabbi


Dear friends,

Welcome to High Holidays 5784 at the JCA!

As some of you know, during the depths of COVID I began an almost daily Talmud study group, which has attracted a hardy band of devotees and several drop-in fellow travelers. As of this writing, we are almost done with the section we set out to finish: Tractate Berakhot. Much like the other great text to which I devoted years of study, James Joyce’s Ulysses, this book, as it nears its finale, is also falling asleep.

What I mean is that, following page after page delving into all manner of minutiae regarding Jewish prayer traditions, we’ve all of a sudden encountered a sprawling passage treating upon the interpretation of dreams. It’s helpful to bear in mind that our ancestors considered dreams visionary experiences of omen and portent. Whatever you saw while sleeping—whether animal, vegetable, mineral, or action—was distinct from its waking appearance, because it bore some significant, if obscure, revelation from the Divine. The conscious process of interpretation that followed was not simply one of discerning what fixed meaning the revelation contained, but of seeking to shape its implications toward the most desirable outcome. The same dream image might radiate a negative or positive charge. It was the interpreter’s job to articulate the best version of the story.

In the later pages of the Talmud’s dream lexicon, we found the following: It was said before Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak—One who lets blood in a dream, it is a sign that his sins have been forgiven. I had an initial moment of confusion, thinking the allusion was to “spilling blood”, before I recognized that “makiz dam” referred to the dubious therapeutic practice of drawing blood from a patient to rebalance their “humors.” As for the connection between “blood” and “sin”, it was established through a color coordination, by way of the prophet Isaiah: “Though your sins be as scarlet…though they be red like crimson, they shall become white as wool. (1:18)” “Consequently” read the commentary on the Gemara’s teaching, “bloodletting can symbolize transgressions leaving a person.”

But there was a problem, a negative charge to offset the positive one, in the form of another teaching: Didn’t we learn elsewhere, said another voice in the Gemara, that when one sees bloodletting in a dream it is a sign that his transgressions are being presented before him one-by-one?  Which is it? When one has such a dream, should they be relieved or concerned? Is it a sign of sin being released or sin being painstakingly enumerated?

The resolution, the best version of the story, came by answering this dilemma, in classic Jewish fashion, with the word “yes.” The dream means both, and that’s as it should be: when one dreams of such a thing, it is a sign that one’s transgressions are being enumerated, in order to be forgiven.

I was charmed by this teaching, finding it an oddly effective way of explaining what it is that we are doing here. Whether or not you stay awake throughout the services, the High Holidays are a kind of slumber party. We sink down together, through our individual and collective consciousness, to the place where the thoughts and images that clutter our minds really mean something—hold the omen or portent of who we are and who we might be. We are invited, in this space, to participate in a strange, anachronistic healing practice. We become both patient and practitioner, dreamer and interpreter, measuring out, drop by drop, the contents of our conscience, so we might release them to take the form of their best story.

And so, I thought, we might consider adding one more salutation to the traditional litany of High Holiday greetings that we offer each other:

“pleasant dreams”.

l’shana tova,



Service and Program Registration Information: In-person and Zoom

Thank you for your interest in attending JCA High Holiday services.  We will have a single service track this year, combining elements of the Ne’imah and Lev Shalem approaches into one cohesive experience in the main sanctuary.

Our main sanctuary seating capacity is 325 people at each service, and our family service capacity is 100 people at each service.

We are making these seats available through a registration process, first-come-first-served, with priority given to JCA-members in good standing.

In-Person registration is distinct for each of the services–meaning you can register to attend all or some of the High Holiday events.  Zoom registration is also available for all services.

While both members and non-members are welcome to complete this registration, non-members will be placed on a waiting list until September 1.

As of September 1, any non-members who are already on the waiting list will be allocated remaining available spots, anybody who registers after this date (regardless of membership status) will be allocated spots on a “first come first serve basis”.



*Masks are optional.

*We ask that if you are ill, have tested positive for Covid-19, have been in close contact with someone with covid within the last 72 hours, or are experiencing symptoms of the virus, that you refrain from attending services in person and instead join us via zoom.

High Holiday Donations

While all events at the JCA are free of charge, we ask that you consider making a donation to support the work of the JCA. In particular this year, high holiday donations will go to support Youth and Family programming and education, helping to grow the future of the JCA.  Make a Donation Today

Schedule of Services


Saturday, September 9 – Evening Program 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm 

This year, the JCA is hosting the annual joint Selichot service for the Upper Valley communities including: CBI, Beit Ahavah, and Temple Israel.  Selichot is the special evening service held on the Saturday night before the beginning of the HIgh Holidays–giving us an opportunity to start getting into the spirit of the season.  Zoom access will be available.


Friday, September 15 – Evening Service 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm 


Saturday, September 16 

Morning Services* 9:30 am – 1:30 pm 

Family Service 10:00 am – 12 noon 


Sunday, September 17

Morning Services 9:30 am – 1:00 pm 

Hike and Mountain Service 9:30am (see community programs section for details)


Wednesday, September 20 – Afternoon Services 5:30pm

We will meet at the entrance to Amethyst Brook Conservation Area and walk together to the stream. See community programs section for more details.


Sunday, September 24 – Evening Services* 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm 


Monday, September 25                 

Morning Services* 9:30 am – 2:00 pm              

Family Service 10:00 am – 12 noon

Mincha and N’eilah* 4:30 pm – 7:06 pm 

* American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation available at these services, with the  exception of Musaf for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Note, also, that interpretation  is not available at the Family Services. 

About our Services

We will be having hybrid services this year, with in-person attendance available to those
who have pre-registered, and also a Zoom broadcast.  Masking will be optional this year.

Service structure: we will have one track of High Holiday services this year, combining
elements of both our Ne’imah musical and Lev Shalem traditional services, complete with
full Torah reading and musaf.

We are also pleased to be offering ASL interpretation, available through Zoom, for many of
our services this year. This is indicated on the list of services.

Family services will be led by Aviva Strong, with additional educational programming led by Lead Educator Marian Parker, Executive/Education Director Keren Rhodes, and members of the Kesher teaching staff. 

Community Programs

Family and Friends Friday Night and Challah Bake – For All Ages!

Friday, September 8, 4:30-8:00 pm

Join baker Sam Coates-Finke, Kesher teachers, and Rabbi Weiner for a joyful welcome back from the summer.  Beginning at 4:30 we will offer round challah braiding for Rosh Hashanah, bounce house, children/family high holiday poetry workshop, and more.  Followed by a short Kabbalat Shabbat Service at 6pm and then a community dinner.  We invite people of all ages, from tots to adults, to join us.


Sunday, September 17, 9:30 am (second day Rosh Hashanah)

We are delighted to welcome Cara Michelle Silverberg back to the JCA to lead this service. We will meet at the Mount Sugarloaf Parking Lot in Deerfield. Hikers can park in either free lot down below. There is an accessible option to drive to the top rather than hike. The upper parking lot has a fee of $5. We will begin with group introductions in the parking lot, then make our own way to the top. All meet at the observation tower for singing and sounding the shofar at the summit. Dress comfortably, wear good hiking shoes, and bring water and whatever sun protection you prefer. Rain or shine, except in severe weather. Youth must be accompanied by an adult. Please bring snacks, challah, apples and honey, honey cake, etc to share.


Wednesday, September 20, 5:30pm at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area

This simple ceremony is performed at the water’s edge, when we throw bits of bread or lint from our pockets into the stream as a symbolic casting away of our sins. We will meet at the entrance to Amethyst Brook and walk together to the stream.

Pre-Rosh Hashanah Poetry Workshops

Elul Workshop: Poetic Preparation for the Days of Awe

With Jena Schwartz

Experiencing poetry as part of our services brings depths and dimension to the Days of Awe. 

So why not write your own?

For the second year, JCA’s High Holiday “poet-in-residence” will be facilitating two sessions to offer community members a double opportunity:

  • preparing for the High Holy Days by putting an ear to your soul and a pen to paper
  • offering your own poetic voice as one of the inspirations in this year’s services

With Jena’s guidance, participants will choose from a variety of prompts, selected from both our own associations and traditional aspects of the liturgy, and enjoy a shared, contemplative space in which to write and connect.

After the sessions, participants may choose to share their words with Jena, who will pass them along to Rabbi Weiner for inclusion in our services. Please note that although this is not a “selection” process—everyone who wants to be included will be included. Rabbi Weiner will likely take some liberties in excerpting and arranging the generated work to best fit the circumstances, resulting in a High Holiday experience resonant with the heartfelt words of our community, as we experience this season together, in these times.

The two sessions will take place in person at the JCA, with Zoom access fully available, on the following dates. Note that the sessions will be identical, so you only need to attend one to participate.

Sunday, September 3
10-11:30 am

Tuesday, September 5

Sign up by completing the form at: https://form.jotform.com/232154263862051 or call the JCA office Tuesday-Friday 10am-3pm.

Machzor (Prayerbook) Pick Up

For JCA community members who will be attending High Holiday services online via Zoom this year, Rabbi Weiner will be hosting a Mahzor (High Holiday Prayer Book) pickup (and High Holiday Food Donation Drive) in the JCA parking lot on:

Wednesday, September 13, 4-6pm 


High Holidays Food Drive

In the JCA parking lot (at the same time as prayerbook pick up)

Wednesday, September 13, 4-6pm and

At this time of year, the JCA Tikkun Olam Committee hosts a food donation drive in support of the Amherst Survival Center Free Pantry: please consider bringing a food or hygiene item for donation to the Survival Center.

The Survival Center’s “most requested” list is a good guide for donations:

  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Hygiene items (toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper)
  • Gluten Free items
  • Snacks
  • Peanut Butter

Please also note that there are other ways to support this year’s food drive. If you’d like to donate but cannot get to the drop off, a pickup can be arranged by reaching out to Judith Souweine at judithsouweine@gmail.com or to Amy Rothenberg at DrAmyRothenberg@gmail.com

If you wish to support the Survival Center directly with a cash donation, visit the following link online: https://amherstsurvival.org/donate, and please mention “JCA Holiday Food Drive” in the comment section.

Yom Kippur Yizkor (Memorial) Book

As a member of our community, you are invited to submit the name(s) of deceased loved  ones for inclusion in the Yom Kippur Yizkor service. Each year, we generate a new list. Even if a name has been included in previous years, you must resubmit the information. All names will be listed in the memorial booklet, which is available in print at Yom Kippur services and on the website.

Please note the date of death (month and year) if the person to be remembered passed  away in the Jewish year 5783. Only the names of those who passed away in 5783 will be  read aloud at the Yizkor service that takes place after the Torah is read. 

It is customary to offer a tzedakah donation in memory of those persons whose names are  listed. We suggest a donation of $18 for a listing. However, all names are welcome as part of  our community’s Yizkor service, whether or not a donation has been made. 

To submit names for inclusion in the Yizkor Booklet, please complete the form at https://bit.ly/jcayizkor by Wednesday September 13th.

High Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

One of the joyful and fulfilling elements of High Holidays at the JCA is the opportunity to  help build community as volunteer ushers and greeters. Many participants have told us how  much they appreciate the feelings of connection and safety created by greeters and ushers. 

Please consider serving in one (or both) of these roles during one or more of the services: Rosh Hashanah, September 15, 16, 17 and Yom Kippur, September 24, 25. 

To sign up as a High Holidays volunteer use this link: 


This link will guide you through a few simple steps to sign up. You can use the same link if  you need to change your time slot (or delete it altogether). The link will also show you when  other JCA members are volunteering. 

Questions about volunteering?

Any questions about the time or job description please contact Tobi Sznajderman at tobiandjoel@gmail.com.

If you have any issues with the sign up form itself please contact the JCA office at info@jcamherst.org

Transportation and Parking

Whenever possible please carpool with family, friends and neighbors, particularly on the 1st day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur when parking will be more difficult. Also consider walking and biking if you live nearby.

Arriving at the JCA
Look for the JCA sign! There is only one way to enter and exit the JCA parking lot and access the building. If you do not see the JCA sign as you turn into the driveway you’ve got the wrong turn. So look out for this:

JCA Parking
Parking volunteers will be present to direct the flow of cars, help maximize parking and avoid congestion and potential mishaps in the JCA and field parking lots. Here are some things to know so you too can help make things smooth:

  • When we have so many people coming to the synagogue at once the JCA parking lot is designated for elderly and handicapped drivers.

  • Absolutely no parking in fire lanes, although passengers may be dropped off at the JCA entrance.

  • Please avoid parking between the entrance signs for the overflow grass lot at the JCA so as not to block cars entering and exiting from the lot. 

Overflow Parking (see map below)

  • Fort River School parking lot is available for parking during all services.

  • Street parking on South East Street Service Road and Salem Street is available during all services. These streets are posted as “no parking,” but we have obtained permission from the Amherst Police Department to park on  these roads during services so you will not be ticketed. When parking on streets, please do not block driveways.

Public Transportation to JCA
Bus Route 30, N. Amherst/Old Belchertown Road, is the main bus that stops at the JCA. During the school year it runs every fifteen minutes from 7:30 am until 7:00 pm and every half hour thereafter on weekdays, and every hour on weekends. Schedules are online at: ww.pvta.com.