So high holydays time.. shall we gather at the synagogue, say hello to forgotten faces? Want to daven in the holidays? Sure thing, that’ll be £100 please. Seems modern Judaism learned a few tricks from the Catholic church: these days we Jews can also buy an Indulgence, I mean ticket, as recompense in the next world.
Certainly, synagogues need financial support. Yet call me old fashioned but isn’t it incongruous that celebrating Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur comes down to money? Are we going to a gig, theater performance, “Let’s treat ourselves, pay a little extra and get good seats to see the chazan”..?
What would happen if someone just turned up at shul without at ticket – a warm welcome? Or some hemming and hawing awkwardness while signaling frantically to security to escort this lunatic off the premises? What happened to asking for contributions, instead of demanding payment?
So when I heard about a grassroots offering I perked up my ears. Yes! A celebration of the holidays at their essence, minimal cost with everyone contributing by their own means. But lo, what’s this, entry to this ‘grassroots’ is a princely sum not dissimilar to synagogues… I squint and peer closely. Can it be, £45? What kind of grassroots is this? Or perhaps a contribution to a reputable Jewish charity?
Don’t be silly, it’s vital that simple unpretentious celebrations have a real live chazan flown from Israel, marquee with pillows and jugglers, caterers hired… Did I stumble across an invitation to a middle class North London tea party, or Rosh Hashana services? And though reduced tickets are available, why it should be so expensive that the need for a discount even arises?
So, quite impressive this radical ‘alternative’ of the younger generation.. The opportunity to buy a Jewish holiday experience as a commodity, a festival in every secular sense of the word.. I can’t wait for Grassroots Christmas, I mean Hunnakah.
Don’t get me wrong, let anyone celebrate the holidays in any way they like. But I’m not sure how hiring this that and the other and charging a whopping sum for the privilege can be called ‘grassroots’. You want grassroots? Go to the park. Enjoy the splendor of the natural world, consider what the holiday is about, instead of how to make and spend money.
So all the more surprising that real grassroots movements like Wandering Jews (which costs nothing but a contribution to communal meal) should get involved with such an event. When the Haggadah says “Our door stands open to receive any friend to strangers and neighbours, a hand we extend”, I don’t see any mention of shaking down guests for payment at the door..