Synagogues add seating, services and low-price tickets to welcome non-members on the High Holidays.
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
The reasons non-members seek out Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur services run the
gamut from socializing to following a tradition
to a search for spirituality to a deep-seated super-
stition of what might happen if they don't go.
"I think they attend because in Kabbalah, the
mystical school of thought, the 10 days between
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the time
when the essence of God is closest to the soul,"
said Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg of the Orthodox .
Sara Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center.
"Everyone is stirred this time of year, and they want
to be in a Jewish place."
For others, it's much simpler. "There are people
who come to services because Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur fall naturally into the regular pattern of
their lives," said Rabbi Daniel Syme of the Reform
Temple Beth El.
"I also think some come out of a sense of indebt-
edness. They may be fulfilling a promise made to a
parent or a grandparent — or even to God, in a
time of crisis."
Rabbi Syme, whose Yom Kippur sermon this year
will explore why Jews come to services on the High
Holidays, also sees this as a time when some come
Illustration by Bob Burne tt
harles Usher of Royal Oak does not
attend Shabbat services regularly nor is
he a member of a synagogue.
. But when it comes to the High Holidays, he
says, "I feel it's where God wants me to be. To
me, it's part of keeping the faith."
Usher is not alone. At the High Holidays,
many of the 44 percent of American Jews identi-
fied by the 2000-2001 National Jewish
Population Survey as "unaffiliated" feel the syna-
gogue is where they should be.
But what accommodations will Detroit-area
congregations make for nonmembers in the
overcrowded sanctuaries and social halls.
The bottom lint for Detroit's unaffiliated is
that they can attend nearly any synagogue on the
High Holidays because it is rare that a congrega-
tion will not accommodate the non-member
looking for a place to pray.
"We always make High Holiday seats avail-
able for people looking to join our davening,
who would not otherwise be able to pay for
seats," said Rabbi Reuven Spolter of the
Orthodox Young Israel of Oak Park. "We see it
as a communal responsibility to ensure that any-
one who wants to join us for davening feels wel-
Those Who Come
Debra Yamron of Royal Oak looks forward to
that meaningful experience each year.
"A lot of why I go is tradition — to be with
my family who do not belong to a synagogue but
have gone to Beth El's unaffiliated service togeth-
er for the last six years," said Yamron, who
attends with her parents and adult siblings. "It's
the only time all year that I go, and it's a time
when I know we will all be together."
Yamron also enjoys the feeling of being part of
a community on those days.
"Even though most of the people there are
strangers, there is a familiar feeling I like in being
there," she said.
"I also like the idea of starting out the New
Year asking for forgiveness for those I may have
unknowingly offended. It's a cleansing of the
Charles Usher hasn't been a synagogue mem-
ber for as long as he can remember. Yet the
events of Sept. 11, 2001, are what brought him
back to Rosh Hashanah services.
"I felt the need to be near other Jews in a spir-
itual way," he said.
For the last two years, his involvement with
the Orthodox outreach group Aish Detroit in
Southfield has brought him there for the High
"Because I don't attend year-round services,
Aish is a comfortable place for me to be since it
is geared for those who want to learn," Usher
Gary Rosenberg of Huntington Woods agrees.
"Being able to interrupt and ask questions
makes the service at Aish right for me," he said.
"I like that a lot of the service is in English, and I
don't feel I have to follow along every single sen-
tence. The rabbi says if something grabs you, go
with it, and I do."
Rosenberg's attendance at Aish's services is part
he calls his "journey up the ladder of
to renew a relationship with God.
that began with a single lunch-
"They may have an inner yearning for that rela-
tionship on the High Holidays," he said. "The High
"Being at High Holiday services is a continuation
Holidays provide a setting in which they can do that
of that learning," he said, adding that it's also good
for a few hours, even if it's once a year."
role modeling for his children.
Roslyn Schindler, president of the
"I don't mind showing them that we are never
Reconstructionist Congregation T'Chiyah, sees
old to learn and to change and to glean and
High Holiday synagogue-goers as those with a
something new — of value — into our lives,"
strong tie to Judaism and its traditions.
Rosenberg said. "They knew me as some-
"Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
one not particularly interested in Judaism,
often evoke meaningful childhood mem-
but now see that my Judaism is meaning-
ories, and this special time of new begin-
ful to me. They've even come with me to
nings often inspires the need and the
once or twice."
desire to feel part of an organized Jewish
community," she said.
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