By The Denver Post
An Evergreen rabbi is just saying no to “pay to pray” at high-holiday services.
Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are occasions of peak attendance at synagogues. Many congregations allow only dues-paying members to attend, or they charge for tickets.
Orthodox Rabbi Levi Brackman of Judaism in the Foothills, an outreach and cultural center, said many Jewish families must come up with a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars this time of year to attend. Or they miss out.
“Being Jewish in America can be very expensive,” Brackman said.
The rabbi said he has always held services that are open and free. This year, with all its economic stresses, he is publicizing that he will make no appeal whatsoever for donations.
Everyone is welcome, he said, including those who attend only twice a year.
“People can keep their checkbooks at home this year and instead focus on the inspirational and interactive service,” Brackman said. “This is a time for people to connect to God, their families and community.”
This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sept. 18. Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins at sundown Sept. 27.
Unlike many Christian churches, synagogues don’t pass the collection plate or require tithing. To help pay the bills, many Jewish congregations must charge dues — either a set amount or a percentage of a member’s income. Most synagogues will reduce amounts for families who can demonstrate they are experiencing hardship.
For some Jews, especially those who wish to attend only during the high holidays, Brackman said, it can be a pricey ticket or an embarrassing situation.
His “no pay to pray” plan is not meant as a rebuke to other congregations, Brackman said. Everyone has to raise money to keep the lights on. He said he raises funds other ways, such as by appealing to fewer, large donors.