RH Around The World: Ship On The Danube & Dual-Border Shofar Blowing In The Caribbean

The Óbuda shul in Budapest built in 1820-1821. (Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

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Jews around the world marked Rosh Hashanah in a manner they wouldn’t have envisioned a year ago, with almost everyone at least davening in smaller minyanim while wearing masks and many davening in outdoor minyanim.

But in some countries, Rosh Hashanah minyanim was even more unusual and in at least one country – non-existent.

In Hungary, a recent surge in coronavirus infections led to the government tightening restrictions right before Rosh Hashana, banning all religious activities in indoor houses of worship.

Instead, Hungary’s Jews davened in a variety of open-air locations, including a boat on the Danube River, in tents, and on the deck of a floating hotel, JTA reported.

As the Zsilip shul in downtown Budapest is located on the Danube riverside, its Rav, Rabbi Shmulik Glitzenstein, decided to rent the deck of a floating hotel on the Danube to hold open-air tefillos.

The Rav of another shul, the 200-year-old Óbuda shul in Budapest, which normally hosts about 700 mispallelim on Rosh Hashanah, arranged for a huge tent to be set up outside the shul with room for a few hundred mispallelim.

“We have decided to proceed with all the holiday celebrations as planned while taking all the necessary health and safety precautions to protect our community,” Rav of the shul and Chabad shaliach Shlomo Koves told JTA.

Koves added that shofar-blowing was arranged in open-air locations in each of Budapest’s 23 districts.

In the Caribbean, Chabad Rav Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz, blew the shofar on the national border of St. Martin, enabling Jews on both sides of the island to hear the shofar, The Jerusalem Post reported.

St. Martin is the smallest land mass in the world which houses two separate countries, with the northern part of the island being French St Martin and the southern part being
Dutch Sint Maarten.

The division was always a friendly agreement, with citizens freely moving across the border in both directions – that is until the coronavirus pandemic. When the Dutch side decided to lift their tourist ban, the French side opposed the move and subsequently closed its border to their southern neighbors.

“It created real chaos,” says Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz, who co-directs Chabad-Lubavitch of S. Maarten/Martin with his wife, Sara. “People live on one side and do business on the other, while others go to school on one end away from their homes on the other end. It’s really one country, and no one ever looked at the border as anything other than a symbolic marker. The only difference is the electric company, really.”

Rabbi Chanowitz decided to blow the shofar on the border itself and stuck with his plan even after the French government retracted its move following heavy protests and opened its border on Thursday.

“Right now, we feel so apart from each other,” Goldman said. “This split has really kept us away from one another, and we are all so happy to have this chance to gather and be a community again.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)