Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Ex-Obama health official gives Coronavirus Rosh Hashanah pep talk

(JTA) – As the High Holidays approach, Jews across the country are preparing for a Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur like none they’ve ever experienced.

Andy Slavitt, a former Obama administration official who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017, wants to encourage his fellow Jews to look on the bright side.

“This is a year for maximum creativity,” Slavitt said in a conversation with Leah Jones, host of the Finding Favorites podcast and the president of her Chicago synagogue.

Slavitt, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic who hosts his own podcast on the pandemic — In the Bubble With Andy Slavitt — emphasized that the main job for synagogues this year is to protect their elderly members who are most at risk of dying from the coronavirus.

“When I say use creativity, don’t lose the spirit of what makes the holiday special,” he said.

Most synagogues across the country have been closed since stay-at-home orders were imposed across the country in March. While many Orthodox synagogues are planning to hold in-person services this year, most Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues this year will conduct High Holiday services over Zoom or other livestreaming platforms.

Jones asked Slavitt to give Jewish listeners a pep talk as they contemplate a High Holiday season without in-person synagogue gatherings.

“It’s undeniable that we’ve made the right choice, but it’s hard to deny people the chance to pray together,” Jones said.

Slavitt encouraged synagogues to reinvent rituals and consider in-person gatherings held outdoors. He mentioned the Kaddish, the memorial prayer, as having a particular resonance this year and as a way to commemorate those who have died in the pandemic.

“Find those special touch points,” he said. “Replace every negative with a positive so if you can’t do an X, don’t just say let’s feel deprived, say let’s do Y instead of X.”

The post Ex-Obama health official gives a Rosh Hashanah pep talk on dealing with coronavirus appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.