Singles options for High Holidays in NYC

From jazz services to a green carpet, shuls are keeping things lively in the new year

Used to be, if you were single in New York at High Holidays, you had limited options: spend hundreds of dollars for tickets, join a synagogue in a hurry (and cough up a hefty membership fee), or try to crash services (and run the risk of being turned away).

The past several years have ushered in a plethora of options for the unattached and unaffiliated at High Holidays. They include not only services but also parties, dinners, even music and theater as part of ringing in the new year, with opportunities to buy tickets a la carte or for the whole holiday season from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur (a.k.a “The Big One”). Nor are the High Holidays off limits for scoping out attractive members of the opposite sex, say rabbis.

So check out the sampling of options at the venues below. And happy new year!

 

Lab/Shul

Formerly known as Storahtelling, this shul is indeed a type of laboratory: for unique Jewish worship. For its theatrical High Holidays services, Lab/Shul enlists performers, musicians, playwrights and other artists to dramatize Torah readings from the Hebrew Bible and bring the holidays alive.

This year, Lab/Shul is rolling out a “green carpet” of Astroturf for the first night of Rosh HaShanah, and inviting worshippers to come dressed up in “something new” – replacing the modern tendency to dress to the nines with the suggestion to be creative, according to Amichai Lau-Lavie, spiritual director of Lab/Shul.

On Rosh HaShanah day, Lab/Shul’s volunteer actors in costume will enact the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and their two sons Isaac and Ishmael. Following Kol Nidre, Lab/Shul will present a staged reading of “Becoming Israel,” a play by Lau-Lavie bringing the story of Jacob to modern life. Yom Kippur afternoon will include an interfaith prayer for peace with rabbis, ministers, imans, and performance artists from different faiths.

Jonathan Evan Goldberg, 43, an Upper West side attorney who has attended and performed in Lab/Shul’s services in past years, cites the “dramatic translation of Torah readings” and “interaction with the congregants” as comprising an “educational, entertaining, and uplifting” experience.

“The Torah service is sometimes the most boring part of the service but at these services it’s extremely exciting and interesting,” said Goldberg.

Lau-Lavie stressed the diversity of those in attendance.

“Singles is part of our scene, yes,” he said. “We get LGBT, hetero, Jew, non-Jew—we get a very big mix.”

Tickets are available on a sliding scale.

For service times and details visit:

http://labshul.org/high-holidays-2014/

 

Manhattan Jewish Experience

This popular Jewish outreach organization, founded by Rabbi Mark Wildes in 1998, specializes in making Judaism accessible to singles, especially the 20- and 30-something crowd.

Known for its charismatic young rabbis, MJE offers an array of holiday services and also classes, Friday night dinners, trips, and speakers on hot topics at three separate locations throughout Manhattan. The services have a modern Orthodox but highly accessible, welcoming vibe.

This year’s MJE High Holiday services will focus on “reflecting and recharging,” according to Rabbi Avi Heller, who will co-lead High Holiday services at MJE’s Upper West Side location along with Wildes.

“Our messages are always very contemporary, growth-oriented, positive,” said Heller, who added that MJE has “a nice Kiddush afterward where people can socialize. We make a point of giving people space to get to know each other after services.”

Plus MJE rabbis are stimulating, according to Chloe Stein (named has been changed), 37, of Murray Hill, a past year’s attendee who says, “It’s always easier to pay attention in shul when there’s eye candy.”

Tickets for services at MJE this year are $50 for first-timers, $100 for others. MJE will also offer two dinners and one lunch for singles (cost is separate from services) at this High Holidays. Details available at www.jewishexperience.org.

 

Congregation Sim Shalom

This year Sim Shalom, known to some as “the jazz synagogue,” will hold High Holidays services at “a jazz musicians’ hangout” in Chelsea, according to Carole Blane, operations coordinator for the shul.

Congregation Sim Shalom is a “Jewish universalist synagogue, liberal in thought and traditional in liturgy,” according to Blane, who is also wife to the synagogue’s founder and spiritual leader, Rabbi Steven Blane. She added that Sim Shalom’s services offer “traditional melodies set to a jazz vibe,” and said, “as liberal as we are, liturgical melodies are aligned with traditional melodies because he is a conservative cantor.”

Sim Shalom will host about 300 people for High Holidays this year, an estimated 20 percent of whom are expected to be singles, according to Blane.

All services for both High Holidays will take place at 223 West 28th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Rosh HaShanah morning services are sold out, according to Blane, who also noted that, because services are on the second floor, they are unfortunately not handicapped accessible. For service times, cost, and other details visit simshalom.com.

 

Hineni

Featuring services led by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis that are, according to one staffer, “welcome to all with an open heart,” Hineni services have an Orthodox approach, according to some singles who have attended. Men and women are seated in separate sections for the services, but are free to mingle at Kiddush and meals afterward.  There’s a special section for singles, according to Jungreis, who says she personally goes “from table to table finding out who everyone is” and making introductions.

“It is a very good time to look at your life with maturity,” said Jungreis, a prolific author and Holocaust survivor who has been spiritual leader of Hineni for many years. “I have many couples whose Shidduchim I have made on the holidays.”

Jungreis added, “I work it. That’s the secret.”

Typically Hineni’s services, which are free, attract several hundred people. Services require registration. Hineni also offers High Holidays meals for $100 each.

For details and to register visit hineni.org.

Manhattan Jewish Experience

Lab/Shul

Congregation Sim Shalom

Hineni

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