(lubavitch.com) Chabad-Lubavitch of Israel is expecting to greet an additional 130,000 Jews—many self-described as non-observant—at prayer services this Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Lubavitch Youth Organization of Israel is setting up 200 venues throughout Israel, many of them tents which will serve as open synagogues during the High Holidays. These are in addition to services that will be conducted at the 230 Chabad centers in Israel, open as well, to all.
“Our intention is to ensure that any Jew who wants to come to shul on the holidays can do so easily, without making reservations or paying any fees,” explains Rabbi Yosef Aronov, director of the Chabad Youth organization in Israel.
In the days leading up to Rosh Hashana, Chabad representatives Israel-wide are fielding thousands of calls from Israelis who routinely do not attend synagogue. They specifically want to attend the Kol Nidrei services at the beginning of Yom Kippur, and the Neila services at its close, but are reluctant to find themselves in uncomfortable circumstances.
Research polls found that 75 percent of Jews in Israel who describe themselves as non-observant, fast on Yom Kippur. But many found the experience intimidating: they didn’t make reservations ahead of time, they didn’t pay fees, they didn’t know how to follow along with the congregation, they didn’t know when to rise, when to sit, or when to bow.
Chabad plans to change that on a dramatic scale this year. Visitors walking in to any of its shuls will find a warm greeting in an air-conditioned tent, a comfortable seat, prayer books with easy-to-follow instructions, kippahs, and plenty of rabbinical students to assist newcomers.
“Yom Kippur unifies the different elements among the Jewish people,” says Rabbi Aronov. “We’re preparing a place for every Jew who wants to come pray—no fees, no reservations,” and no prior knowledge required, says the Rabbi.