solemn holiday with fasting and prayer. At most of those synagogues,
including Glendale's Temple Sinai, congregants must purchase tickets
that often cost more that $150 per person.
At the Glendale Hilton, Chabad of Glendale and the Foothill
Communities will offer free services tonight and Saturday. Tickets
are not required. Kol Nidre services begin at 7 tonight, and Yom
Kippur services begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"Religion shouldn't be commercialized," said Rabbi Simcha Backman
of Chabad of Glendale. "The second you commercialize religion and put
a price on prayer, people get a bad feeling. In no way are we
discouraging people from supporting religion -- that's an absolute
must. But we don't put a price on holiday seats because it
commercializes it and, in a certain sense, trivializes it."
David N. Myers, a history professor at UCLA and director of the
school's Center for Jewish Studies, says the concept of paying for
tickets for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana emerged over the past century
and is essential for independent synagogues -- which don't collect
donations at weekly services like many churches -- to survive.
"Unlike previous times, Jews go to synagogue on only the High
Holidays," Myers said. "This is the sole opportunity for the
synagogue to collect the revenue that can provide for the
professional services that it offers.
"I couldn't imagine a synagogue would turn people away, and lots
of synagogues have reduced rates for people who need it."
Chabad chapters can afford to offer free services because, unlike
independent synagogues, they are part of a nationwide network with an
impressive fundraising mechanism, Myers said. The organization
targets wealthy donors and raises money through its annual telethon,
which draws celebrities like Adam Sandler and Michael Douglas.
"The movement can afford to set up outposts from Glendale to
Nepal," Myers said. "There should be a place in the Jewish community
where people can go without having to have a ticket. It's also
important that there are other synagogues that reflect different
levels of observance and prayer rituals than Chabad. We're fortunate
to live in a city or county with a range of options, from the free
option of Chabad to the pay-to-pray options of the other