Even after Susie and Mark Kashetsky decided not to attend services this Rosh Hashanah, they knew that come what may, they would hear shofar.

And hear shofar they did, along with their daughter and hundreds of others in a park near their home in the heavily Jewish Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

“It was absolutely perfect!” gushed Susie Kashetsky. “It brought a sense of normal and tradition in such odd times.”

They were among the 800 people who heard shofar from Rabbi Leibel Fine—co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Dollard—who, together with his family, trekked 16 kilometers shofar-in-hand to five parks and numerous private homes on Rosh Hashanah afternoon.

According to Fine, more than 10,000 people heard shofar at more than 102 public shofar services scattered around the Island of Montreal, as well as at hundreds of home visits or impromptu blowings in parking lots or on street corners.

The services were included on a specially built website, shofarmontreal.com, which listed shofar blowings organized by Chabad centers and other congregations that were safe, open to the public and did not require pre-registration.

On an international scale, shofar-blowings in hundreds of cities were listed at www.chabad.org/shofaroutdoors, providing Jews all over the world with an easy way to find a socially-distanced shofar-blowing near them. The global directory was publicized in pre-Rosh Hashanah news reports from dozens of outlets, ensuring that awareness of the public blowings spread across the Jewish communities on six continents.

Blowing shofar in parks, street corners, in hospitals, prisons, elderly-care facilities, military bases or nearly anywhere else you can think of—is nothing new for anyone influenced by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who launched his Shofar Campaign prior to Rosh Hashanah of 1953 (5714). At the time, there was almost no concept of bringing Judaism to the streets or wherever else Jews found themselves, and blowing shofar outside the synagogue was a revolutionary concept.

This year, for the first time, it was replicated by the entire Jewish world. While many congregations operate on a membership model that necessitates the sale of High Holiday seat tickets, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically restricted in-person participation and led them to adopt the Rebbe’s model: focusing on the Jews beyond institutional walls.

Chabad’s effort this year allowed millions of Jews from Johannesburg to Jerusalem to hear shofar outdoors, where they could safely fulfill the mitzvah without subjecting themselves to increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

In Johannesburg, South Africa, Chabad House circulated a QR code that took people to an online platform where they could enter their details, requesting either a home visit or information about their closest socially distanced public shofar service. They also distributed shofars and provided an online shofar-blowing course so that people could blow shofar for themselves and their families.

Local guidelines allowed synagogues to hold services for no more than 50 attendees and for no longer than two hours.

In the Johannesburg suburb of Savoy, Chabad Rabbi Eitan Ash conducted four consecutive truncated services to allow as many people as possible to attend. But many could not. To serve them, he teamed up with the two other congregations in the area to dispatch 15 teams, who blew shofar for more than 300 residents.

“Due to ill health, I was unable to attend Rosh Hashanah services,” attests Savoy resident Gary Soicher, who was home alone with his elderly mother for the holiday. “Rabbi Ash popped by and the two of us were the recipients of his shofar-blowing. It was probably the most uplifting and spiritually enriching experience of the year.”

In Chicago, the major campaign was branded as Shofar on the Street, and it featured shofar-blowings on 200 street corners and other locations that attracted approximately 10,000 attendees, some of whom gathered on the sidewalk and others who listened through open windows.

Several weeks before Rosh Hashanah, lawn signs were placed on all corners where shofar would be blown, each one marked with the time when shofar would be sounded there, ensuring that everyone in the heavily Jewish neighborhoods would be aware of a shofar-sounding within a five-minute walk from their home at a time good for them.

“The campaign was a success beyond our wildest imagination,” says Rabbi Eliyahu Rapoport, who coordinated the effort in Chicago. “The trick will be that next year, when G‑d willing people are back in the synagogue, the Jewish nation will continue to share the same care and concern to ensure that every Jew hears the shofar.”