CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- Temple Emanu-El held its first-ever Yom Kippur services in Central Park.
The outdoor services were being held in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Beneath the morning sky, away from the skyscrapers of Midtown, there were prayers for forgiveness and words of gratitude.
"How grateful we are to be able to be here together, out of doors, surrounded by the beauty of nature-God's gift to us? To cherish this setting, in this day, call us to acknowledge all God's gifts to us," said Senior Rabbi Joshua Davidson.
For the first time, members of New York's historic Temple Emanu-El worshipped outdoors on Thursday. They gathered by the hundreds in the middle of Central Park for Yom Kippur services.
Board member Nicole Frankel was among the organizers.
"We wanted to provide a safe way for all of our members to be able to worship, not everybody, whether they're vaccinated or unvaccinated is comfortable being inside," Frankel said.
The temple felt the outdoor services would ensure that all members and their guests would be able to worship on the High Holy Day in a way that feels inspiring, as well as comfortable and safe.
For people like Eliot Raven, the outdoor option was the only option.
"Fabulous-beyond fabulous," Raven said. "It was emotional, the sun shined on the rabbi and the cantor and on the Torah. I'm blessed because I just came out of surgery, day before yesterday. I'm really blessed."
Staff checked vaccination cards just outside the gathering and masks were optional, but encouraged.
"I think it was a great idea to bring people out," said Billy Apfel. "It's a beautiful day and I think yes, people were a little bit reluctant to worship inside."
"Not everybody wants to worship indoors -- whether it's for a medical reason or they have unvaccinated family members -- so this was another great option for our members that we could provide," said Chief Operating Officer Cara Glickman.
Yom Kippur is considered one of the holiest days in the Jewish religion.
In addition to the outdoor services, Temple Emanu-El also offered in-person indoor services within its sanctuary on Fifth Avenue.
All Temple Emanu-El services, including those at Summer Stage, were live-streamed and available for public viewing on the Temple's broadcast page experienceemanuel.org, Facebook, and YouTube.
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