“She’s Got a Ticket to Pray–But She Really Don’t Care”

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When people who aren’t Jewish hear that Jewish people buy tickets to attend High Holy Day services, they typically think this is bizarre. I’ve been Jewish my entire life and I still think it’s bizarre… and somewhat unconscionable.

I truly understand the temptation to charge, and charge big, for High Holy Day tickets. Many Jews who go to services at Reform and Conservative synagogues don’t attend much the rest of the year. It’s a captive audience in the fall: “In case we don’t see you again for the next 11 months, could you give us a check now so we can try to run the synagogue while you’re gone?”

4 comments on ““She’s Got a Ticket to Pray–But She Really Don’t Care”

  1. MissTrudy on

    I agree wholeheartedly. The thing is, if they’d pass a collection plate, people give what they can (or even nothing) and it’s voluntary, right? I mean, no one would be denied entry. I can’t believe what they did to you when your mother died. At the shul we go to, there are assigned seats but nobody really follows the assignations, one sort of sits in a first come, first serve basis even when full. But yes, people who can’t pay are “supposed” to sit in the back. Yet, no one is denied entry who want to attend the holidays.

  2. Stephanie on

    Passing a collection plate is a non starter though. Shabbat and holy days forbid the exchange of money. Even if everyone is breaking that law (and plenty of others) that day, doing that *inside* synagogue is a bridge too far.
    As the author notes, chabad has found another way. But it comes at a price. Those big synagogues, gold plated ark full of scrolls, etc. don’t come cheap. I was raised conservative and have happily gone to chabad for 9 years, because I like services in a modest storefront, paying what I can when I can, and knowing that nobody is ever turned away at the door because their mom died (or in my case because a hurricane hit) and they were too out of sorts to buy a holiday ticket.

  3. Lonna Kahn on

    I have always felt that if a synagogue must sell tickets in order to pay its bills it is spending too much money on itself, its buildings, its Torah decorations (golden calves).

  4. Lisa on

    GREAT ARTICLE! It’s about time we explored the “affordability” issue in depth. A good first step would be widespread sharing and discussion of fine essays like the above. (Let’s continue this conversation even though the High Holy Days have passed; planning for next Fall should start now–in matters spiritual as well as political.)

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