Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rabbi Cohen and congregants at an early bird service at Cummings Park.

Rabbi Daniel Cohen, senior rabbi of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, invited the community to join together for “Sounds on the Sound,” an early bird service on the water held on Sunday, September 22, at 6:15 a.m. at Cummings Park. 

As Rabbi Cohen explained, “Many of us have been praying together at this early morning service for many years. When you see the sun coming up and you are standing together and praying and the shofar is blown, it is an awesome experience and a beautiful way to connect with God. We were blowing the shofar to hear the ‘Sounds on the Sound.’”

In Rabbi Cohen’s book, “What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?,” he described an event that occurred several years ago at this early-morning service. Lamenting the challenge of arising at 5:00 a.m. to prepare himself for Shacharit, Rabbi Cohen arrived at the parking lot and watched his congregants slowly arrive. He then saw a man in his 50s, wearing shorts and a shirt, greeting the group. “My mishpacha, my family, Shanah Tova! Happy New Year!”

The man explained that for the last several years he had watched this early morning service happening on the waterfront and wondered whether he’d be needed to make the minyan. Because he was wearing shorts, he was embarrassed to join the group. “But,” said the man, “I thought I’d approach you and introduce myself with the word mishpacha.” 

Rabbi Cohen continued, “Here was a man who was looking to connect to his Judaism. He was looking to be part of our group.” 

When asked if he had a place to daven for Rosh Hashanah, the visitor said he didn’t have money for membership, but hoped he might be treated like Elijah, “with the doors being opened for me.” Of course, Rabbi Cohen extended an invitation for this visitor to join the shul for Yom Tov. 

In addition to “Sounds on the Sound,” Agudath Sholom’s pre-Selichot stories and songs, kumzitz was presented by Rabbis Cohen, Zweiter, Yaakov Faratchi and Tani Polansky, followed by a musical Selichot led by Rabbi Polansky. The Selichot service provided an opportunity to harness the power of music and voices to set the tone for the High Holiday season.

As we approach Yom Kippur, Rabbi Eli Kohn at Young Israel of Stamford offered a reminder that YIS’s 40-plus-year tradition of offering free holiday seats remains in effect. As he explained, “We take a lot of pride in being able to offer everyone a place to daven for the Yom Tovim. Our shul is for everyone…we have a warm and open ‘hemische’ environment and we don’t want costs to get in the way of people being able to daven. People have so much on their minds around the holiday season, and our free holiday seats takes one more worry away from people.”

YIS is also continuing its monthly morning minyan for parents and young children. This friendly minyan is particularly geared to expose youngsters to the joy of davening, with music, singing and craft activities. Celebrating his fifth year as rabbi of YIS, Rabbi Kohn is proud to say that the shul has doubled in size, with many new, young families and children.

By Yvette Finkelstein



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