Rabbi Kasriel Kastel tells of a Jewish family he knew in the Bronx years ago. They couldn’t afford to join a synagogue. So they didn’t go to High Holy Days services. Instead, on one day of Rosh HaShanah each year, they would go to a body of water and do Tashlich, the symbol casting away of sins. “Tashlich is free,” the rabbi says. The children “keep up the tradition.”
He also tells of senior citizens from the former Soviet Union, not religious, not shul-goers, who spend Rosh HaShanah playing chess at benches along Ocean Parkway or walking on the Brighton Beach boardwalk. Young Orthodox men, shofar in hand, approach and offer to blow the ram’s horn for them. “They say OK,” Rabbi Kastel says. “They may not know to ask for it.”
The Bronx family and the Brooklyn émigrés have different reasons for not being in synagogues, but are among a large part of the Jewish community who miss out every year on a major yom tov tradition: hearing the blowing of the shofar.
This year, in the middle of a recession, many families can’t afford High Holy Days tickets or synagogue membership and will miss the shofar again.
Several local Jewish organizations can arrange shofar blowing for people — the indigent, the unaffiliated, shut-ins and individuals in hospitals — who won’t hear it in shul.
“The main mitzvah of Rosh HaShanah is hearing the shofar, “It’s from the Torah,” says Rabbi Kastel, program director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization.”
Bikur Cholim of Boro Park ( 438-2020) arranges shofar-blowers in that neighborhood or nearby areas. Local Chabad Houses throughout New York also do this; for information, call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 953-1000; or Agudath Israel ( 797-9000, ext. 266).