(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association is holding prayer services in 295 locales around the country for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur this year, and expects to host 55,000 people for these services.
The organization has, for the past 15 years, conducted it’s “Praying Together” Yom Kippur services, intended specifically for people who do not regularly attend synagogue.
It contains explanatory elements for the various practices and traditions of the High Holy Day prayer services.
With it’s new “Listening Together” program, Tozhar is bringing the same format to the Rosh Hashana, which will be held not in synagogues but in “neutral” locations such as community centers, in order to make the services less daunting.
Attendees are all to be provided with the same prayer books to make it easier to follow along, as well as with explanatory pamphlets written by Tzohar about the customs, prayers and meanings of the High Holy Days to help guide the participant throughout the services.
A list of locations is available on the Tzohar website.
“Going to a synagogue can be an intimidating and sometimes off-putting experience for someone who doesn’t regularly attend or associate with that particular community,” said Rabbi David Stav, chairman and cofounder of Tzohar. “But we have seen such an outpouring of desire for Jewish connection by the secular community, especially relating to the High Holy Days, that we knew something had to be done to accommodate them.
By moving these important Jewish life-cycle events to a neutral locations – such as community centers or event halls - it becomes more much inviting and accessible for anyone interested in connecting with their Jewish tradition.”
Another Rosh Hashana initiative is Shofar in the Park being run by the Yachad Program of the Ohr Torah Stone network of educational and social-justice organizations.
Shofar in the Park, as the name implies, brings the traditional shofar-blowing ceremony of Rosh Hashana, as well as other activities, to local parks, community centers and public institutions, so that people who do not attend synagogue but are interested in the holy day’s customs and rituals can experience them outside of the more traditional and formal religious settings.
There are approximately 150 locations where the Shofar in the Park programs are being staged, which are listed at http://www.yachadzehut.org.il/about-us/?id=13.
To promote the initiative, the Yachad Program invited celebrities and politicians to attempt to blow the shofar, a notoriously tricky skill to master, and post videos of their efforts on the Shofar in the Park Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OtsYachad.
Among the personalities participating were comedian Gil Kopatch, soccer player Baruch Dego and several MKs including Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) and Abraham Naguise (Likud) all tried their luck.
“The Yachad Program aims to foster a sense of strong Jewish identity and pride in all Israeli Jews, and the Jewish holidays provide us with a natural take-off point for raising the consciousness of average Israelis to the symbols and traditions of their heritage - and to their own role in Jewish history,” said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief municipal rabbi of Efrat and the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone.
“We understand that secular Israelis like the idea of connecting to Rosh Hashana in a meaningful way. If they don’t feel comfortable in synagogue for whatever reason – well, then we’ll bring the service to them.”