September is right around the corner, and for the Jewish community that means getting ready for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). While these holidays attract many Jews who otherwise never attend synagogue, save for maybe the occasional Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they also ignite a debate within the Jewish community that’s been going on for years: charging for attendance at High Holiday services.
We believe, as do a growing number of synagogues and congregations across the US, that there should be no “pay-to-pray” stipulation for the High Holidays. As the holidays get closer, we anticipate more being written about this issue. The magazine Jewish Living has inaugurated this year’s debate with a short article that mentions a very funny video making the rounds on YouTube, in which a couple hurries up to the doors of a temple only to realize they forgot to buy tickets. As luck would have it, though, there is a ticket scalper lurking in the shadows.
Titled “Bad Karma on the Kippur,” the three minute video, which is similar to this typically cringe-inducing clip from Larry David’s HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is an intelligent mix of humor and social commentary – even addressing interfaith relationships and race. Ticket scalping at High Holidays will never be as blatant as portrayed in this video, but it does raise many questions about how this practice affects the unaffiliated members of our community (or those who can’t afford dues) who view high ticket prices as a major barrier to participation. Chabad charges nothing for their High Holiday services, and their attendance at this time of year skyrockets. Isn’t it time for the rest of the community to lower or remove this barrier and open our doors for all who would like to enter?