The High Holidays are Free

Somewhere along the way in Jewish history in North America, we created a myth. This myth continues to be perpetuated each year in most communities, though there are a few bold, practical thinkers who attempt to shatter it. The myth is that it costs money to pray, requiring advanced-purchase tickets. I wonder what would happen if American synagogues changed their financing structure to open their doors, free of charge—no ticket required—to anyone who wanted to pray on the High Holidays. An article in The Jewish Week highlights some of the synagogues in New York that are leading the way.

As we study community after community through our Outreach Scans, we continue to encounter some institutions that offer discounts to select groups like students, older adults, newlyweds, and newcomers, but most of these discounts are advertised internally, or at best, in the local Jewish newspaper (which is only read by “insiders”). I wonder if we could transform the High Holidays (despite the sometimes inaccessible worship services) into a vehicle to reach those on the periphery. Are free services enough? What would it take to reach people who are not currently involved?

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