“Open Seats” on the High Holidays

Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. As we have written about in the last couple of days, this is a holiday in which most synagogues will only allow you inside if you have paid in advance. The same goes for Yom Kippur, which begins in 10 days. Hopefully everyone, especially the unaffiliated or unengaged, who wants to go to synagogue to celebrate, has found a place to welcome them in. While we have already blogged about where to pray for free during the High Holidays (in both New York and nationwide), we would like to mention a few more options for people who still might be looking.

In the New York area, thirteen Reconstructionist synagogues (four in Westchester, nine in the metropolitan area) have set aside seats for “non-members who wish to attend High Holiday services.” They are calling this the “Open Seats” campaign. Their goal, according to an article on, is to open the holidays “to Jewish participation and inclusion, a strong theme in Reconstructionist synagogues.” The article continues:

“The Reconstructionist movement, which strives to make Jewish tradition, theology, and spirituality relevant in modern times, has been on the forefront of Jewish outreach since its inception,” said Hannah Greenstein, outreach coordinator for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation of Metropolitan NY/NJ. “Its spirit and longtime practice of inclusion has made Reconstructionist Judaism an appealing home for interfaith and multiracial families and gay and lesbian Jews,” she added.”

JOI has been working with the Reconstructionist movement in recent years. Our associate executive director Paul Golin has worked a marketing consultant, playing a large part in their strategic outreach approach. We both believe Judaism should be open for anyone who chooses to affiliate, and it’s great to see these Reconstructionist synagogues walking the walk on the Holiest days of the year. Shana Tovah (Happy New Year)!

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