Jewish High Holy Days will be celebrated in new quarters this month for members of Utah's fledgling Jewish Orthodox organization.
Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch said his organization has signed agreements to lease a large building for the group's Utah headquarters. The building, at 1433 S. 1100 East, will house a synagogue, classrooms for religious school, lecture halls, a Jewish library and a gift shop for Jewish religious articles.The Chabad headquarters is named Bais Menachem in honor of the organization's world leader, the late Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who died just months ago. Rabbi Schneerson was renowned for his scholarly studies and for introducing modern technology in outreach efforts in bringing Jews back to observancy.
"He was the most non-judgmental man. He never made Jews feel guilty but made them feel 100 percent comfortable in becoming observant again," said Rabbi Zippel.
While the official dedication of the center will be held later this fall, the first activities at Bais Menachem will be to celebrate the 10 days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kip-pur - called teshuva, the days of repentance. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the New Year for Jews, this year falling on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6-7.
`Head of the year'
"The Hebrew words literally mean, `head of the year,' " said Rabbi Zippel. "Just like in a person's body, the head gives commands to the limbs, this day directs the year. It is the two days we take stock of our lives and make resolutions to be better. We think about who we are and what we've done. On Rosh Hashanah we begin our process of repentance." When asked about the Jan. 1 tradition of making New Year's resolutions, the rabbi noted that Jews have been resolution makers for 3,000 years.
The rabbi will sound the shofar or ram's horn. "The sound of shofar resembles the crying of a child. We are like children standing before God our Father, begging for forgiveness," said the rabbi.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atone-ment, Jews will abstain from food and water and will not wear leather shoes. "On Yom Kippur, our not eating or drinking and not wearing leather shoes is like going basically barefoot. We show our removal from the material world. We walk to services. We believe that on Yom Kippur, God opens all our files and looks into our accounting department and makes decisions about sealing the books. We say, `Ketevah vahatimah tovah,' meaning have a good inscription and a good sealing," he said.
One of the differences between liberal Jewish Reform or Conservative congregations and the Orthodox Chabad is in strictly following the Torah. Said Rabbi Zippel, "In our services we are proud to use the mechitza - separation between men and women. This separation helps us maintain our level of concentration on a higher level. There is no problem in men and women together in social settings, but not at the time of services, when we sit down and pray to God Almighty."
No charge for services
Orthodox Jews from around the intermountain area are welcome to observe the High Holy Days at Bais Menachem. "It is Chabad policy to not charge to attend Holy Day services," said Rabbi Zippel. "Whether a Jew is a paying or non-paying member of a congregation is totally irrelevant. While we definitely need some financial support with the upkeep of our building and if people offer help we thank them for it, but no Jew will be turned away for lack of money." Rabbi Zippel said that after the High Holiday season, the Bais Menachem Chabad center will offer a full religious program for area Jews. Those interested in religious instruction for adults or children may call Chabad Lubavitch of Utah at 467-7777 or 582-0220.