KITCHENER -- Rosh Hashanah will look a bit different this year when it begins on Friday night.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to adjust their plans to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Elisse Bierstock was preparing soup for the event on Friday afternoon.

"Most of our holidays all centre around food and that's what brings everyone together," she said.

This year, only the Bierstocks will be eating the brisket and homemade challah.

"We could go to my family in Toronto, but my kids are in school and we don't want to risk anything," Bierstock said.

Even though a big celebration isn't on the menu this year, many other traditions remain, including the blowing of the shofar, a musical instrument made of a ram's horn.

"It's a spiritual alarm clock, a primal scream that comes from the essence of your being, beyond all words," said Rabbi Moshe Goldman with the Rohr Chabad Centre for Jewish Life.

He's transformed his backyard into an outdoor synagogue. It won't be a typical service, with only 50 guests spaced two metres apart.

"Usually everyone is inside, more squeezed together," said his son Mendel Goldman.

Visitors need to preregister online and wear a face mask. They'll also be screened before entering.

Goldman said it's important to come together, especially during difficult times.

"There's a lot of isolation and we are trying to thread the needle to ameliorate all that loneliness," he said.

There will be service throughout the weekend for the two-day holiday. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a 10-day period of introspection that culminates with Yom Kippur.