Amid coronavirus pandemic, Jewish New Year to be heralded, noisily, with #theblast

WTOP's Neal Augenstein reports the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, may be a bit different this year.

The loud, warbly sound of a shofar — a ram’s horn used as a musical instrument to usher in the Jewish New Year —  is blown in synagogues around the world on Rosh Hashanah.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many high holiday services will be held virtually, reducing the number of people who hear the shofar in person — enter #theblast.

The coordinated effort by D.C.-area synagogues and Jewish organizations is inviting people to simultaneously blow the shofar at 5 p.m., on Friday, Sept. 18. Rosh Hashanah begins that day, at sundown.

On the group’s website, organizers said being unable to observe the holiday in person prompted the effort: “Though we find ourselves isolated and unable to safely gather to usher in 5781, it feels more important than ever to mark the sanctity of this time and to affirm our connectedness as a Jewish community.”

While most people don’t have a shofar at home, the organizers suggest any horn-like instrument will suffice. And, they point out, “This ancient ritual is about hearing the sound of the shofar, not sounding it yourself.”

And, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers say precautions should be taken: “We know it takes tremendous force of air to blow a shofar. We know that the more forceful we exhale, the more droplets and microdroplets we produce.”

That means blowing the shofar outdoors.

The group suggests observers stand 20 to 30 feet away from the person sounding the shofar, and recommends wrapping a cloth face mask around the wider end of the horn.

“While it might look strange, it is 100% legit to blow this way.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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