Just a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, there are still many Jews who have no plans to attend synagogue services, notes Lubavitch Rabbi Mendel Rubashkin of .
"Some of these Jews are not affiliated with a synagogue; others will be traveling on business; and a sizable percentage simply don't feel comfortable in a synagogue setting," said Rubashkin. "Another alarming issue, particularly in light of today's flailing economy, is that many cannot afford the cost of services, which these days can run a whopping thousand dollars or more for a family of five."
Whatever the case is, many of these would-be worshippers are feeling the pangs associated with being left out of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, he said.
That's why Chabad of Brandon, the local branch of the largest Jewish outreach organization in the world, is presenting its own High Holiday services option, providing free Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in a warm and inclusive setting.
Rubashkin says Chabad's services are "user-friendly," making it enjoyable and meaningful for both the beginner and the advanced. Song, commentary and the use of English-Hebrew prayerbooks enable those of all levels to become active participants in the services.
"According to Jewish tradition, on the Jewish New Year, the doors of Heaven are open. G-d accepts prayers from everyone," said Rubashkin, who is hosting free services in Brandon. "The least we can do is open our doors as well to the entire community."
Rubashkin is hoping that, by making services accessible and affordable, more Jewish people in the area will opt to observe the High Holidays.
"The Lubavitcher Rebbey insisted that Judaism is accessible to all Jews. During the Jewish High Holidays, accessibility can translate into different factors for different people, such as a nonjudgmental atmosphere, affordability of the services or the ability for a beginner to follow along," said Rubashkin. "Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry and encourage each and every Jew to actively participate in these most holy and introspective days."
Rosh Hashanah begins this year after sundown on Sept. 16 and extends until nightfall on Sept. 18. Yom Kippur begins this year after sundown on the eve of Sept. 25 and extends until nightfall on Sept. 26.
Chabad of Brandon will host both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the Chabad Jewish Center, 3005 Waylon Ln., Valrico.
Rosh Hashanah services will take place Sunday, Sept. 16 at 7:15 p.m., Monday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.
Yom Kippur services will take place Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.
Register online at Chabad of Brandon or call 813-657-9393.
For more information about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, visit www.ChabadBrandon.org/newyear.
To find High Holiday services in hundreds of cities throughout the world, visit www.ChabadBrandon.org/HighHolidayServices.