Previous gathering for Tashlich on the Detroit River
This year will be nothing like in years past where hundreds gathered for Tashlich on the Detroit River. (JN File Photo)

The Well previously has drawn thousands to the banks of the Detroit River for creative observances.

In recent years, The Well, Metro Detroit’s nationally recognized organization for Jewish young professionals, organized large public Tashlich services leading up to and during Rosh Hashanah.

Tashlich, the custom of ceremonially throwing one’s sins into a body of water as a way of starting with a clean slate for the New Year, is a ritual that has evolved over the centuries and is one that is easily accessible to Jews of all observance levels.

The Well previously has drawn thousands to the banks of the Detroit River for creative observances.

In 2017, Jews gathered on Belle Isle to watch drones drop hundreds of biodegradable papers containing handwritten reflections into the Detroit River.

Because of the pandemic, The Well has scaled back into a program called “A Tiny Tashlich.” It will take place over 15 sessions in Royal Oak between Sunday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Sept. 27. Each session is limited to 10 participants and COVID distancing rules will be strictly adhered to. Tickets are available at a subsidized price of $15.

The Well’s Marissa Meyerson said the service will be a “customizable, immersive experience” making use of high-tech enhancers such as headphones, which will introduce participants to the origins of this Rosh Hashanah ritual. Participants will also receive a potted herb or vegetable and a gift bag of snacks that are symbolic of the High Holiday season.

The Well’s Executive Director Rabbi Jeff Stombaugh said integrating the traditional readings like Micah and Psalms into the program while taking advantage of today’s latest sound technology makes for a “100 percent kosher” interpretation on Tashlich.

“Tashlich is a ritual that is built on customs that have evolved over time, versus a holiday that is mandated to look a particular way built from Torah,” Stombaugh said.

“This year, by using technology and safe-gathering practices, we are bringing this ritual to life as an immersive shared experience.”

Stombaugh added that the program is consistent with The Well’s mission of connecting Jewish ritual to young adults.

Though smaller in scale, organizers say it will still be the type of meaningful and transformative experience that people expect from The Well.

To assure everyone’s safety, masks will be worn while entering and exiting the program or coming within 6 feet of another person. Program supplies will either go home with the participant as takeaways or be sanitized between use.

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com