Congregation Beth Hatikvah is offering free tickets to first-time guests at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services this year. The unusual move is part of the Summit synagogue’s commitment to welcoming anyone who wants to take part, especially young families who may not have decided to join a synagogue yet.
“Traditionally, synagogues who admit non-members for the holidays charge a fee to help defray the cost of maintaining a congregation year-round so it will be there for the big days like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” said Beth Hatikvah president, Cindy Wetter of Chatham. “We’ve done so in the past, and the income is really helpful. But it felt more important for us to reach out to people who might enjoy coming but haven’t because of the cost.”
High Holiday services draw many Jews who do not belong to a synagogue or attend formal worship at other times of the year because they want to mark these days of reflection and renewal. Congregation Beth Hatikvah, or CBH, as its members refer to it, sees its attendance shoot up from 25-40 at weekly services to 200 on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Hannah Orden attributes the spike not just to the season, but to what she sees as something special at CBH. “So many people contribute their passions and talents to make this a vibrant community,” she said, “and it’s really evident in our High Holiday celebrations—They’re joyful and spiritual and have such a strong sense of connection.”
Orden plans to underscore the themes of joy, connection, and community during High Holiday services, with particular emphasis on how we can come together, across political divides, in this fractious time in America. A Yom Kippur panel discussion will put into practice the Talmudic concept of “an argument for the sake of heaven,” that is, that people of good faith can have different opinions about important subjects, and argument about them is a path to finding the common good. “We need to relearn how to do that and still see each other as part of one community,” Orden said.
High Holiday services at CBH are appropriate for all ages. Young children are welcome to come and go as needed; books, toys, and crayons are available; and a special children’s program and youth service, plus break out discussion groups for teenagers, are planned.
To share the holidays beginning September 20th with the members of CBH, text the word HHtix to 22828 or go online to www.cbhtickets.org. Everyone is welcome, and anyone who has not already been a guest at previous Beth Hatikvah High Holiday services is eligible for free tickets.