How to Find a High Holiday Community Wherever You Are

Jane E. Herman

Some families have tremendous longevity within one congregation l’dor vador – from generation to generation. Sometimes that means parents, children, and grandchildren find themselves sitting next to each other in the same pew on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur year after year.

For others, the Jewish New Year presents a different reality.

Whether you’re new to a Reform congregation and need to "learn the ropes," traveling – for business or pleasure – during the High Holidays, studying at a college or university far from home, or otherwise not able to attend services where you usually do, can help you find a High Holiday community and have a sense of what to expect -- wherever you worship.

1. We’re new members in a Reform congregation. Do we need to do anything in particular to make sure we can worship there for the High Holidays?

Practices and policies vary from congregation to congregation, so check with yours to find out such things as whether or not you will need to choose between attending “early” or “late” services, if you’ll need tickets to enter the synagogue, or by when you should submit names for the memorial booklets some congregations publish for the YizkorYizkorיִזְכֹּר"Remember;" memorial service held on Yom Kippur and on the last day of Pesach, Shavout, and Sukkot. service on Yom Kippur. Here are other things you should know about attending High Holiday services.

2. I belong to a Reform congregation, and I’d like to worship at a different North American synagogue for the High Holidays.

Members of Reform congregations are entitled to a number of privileges at other Reform synagogues throughout North America. During the High Holidays, when space allows, members of Reform congregations are typically welcome to worship in other Reform communities if they’re traveling during the holidays or want to be together with family.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) offers a High Holiday courtesy seating request form to help facilitate connections for its members. Please provide as much advance notice as possible to the congregation where you wish to visit, and check with your local synagogue for more information about how to obtain High Holidays tickets because policies vary by congregation.

3. I don’t belong to a Reform congregation, and I’d like to attend High Holiday services.

Even if you’re not a member of a congregation, you still can attend services at one. Ever since Abraham welcomed three men into his tent in the desert, hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) has been an important tenet of Judaism. Some Reform congregations offer tickets and other High Holiday opportunities so that non-members can join the community during the Days of Awe. There may be a fee for guests who are not members of the congregation - but this fee may also be waived if the cost is a financial hardship to your family. 

4. I belong to a Reform congregation, and I’ll be traveling abroad during the High Holidays.

Your congregation, as a member of the URJ, also is part of the international World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). If you’ll be traveling internationally, download this app from the WUPJ to help you find Reform, Progressive, and Liberal congregations in cities around the world – during the Days of Awe and throughout the year. For security purposes, WUPJ congregations outside North America may require you to complete a visitor form and provide valid photo identification prior to attending services, so the more advance notice you can provide, the better. For more information or if you have specific questions or concerns, email WUPJ.

No matter where you worship this High Holiday season, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet, wonderful New Year!