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Rabbi to provide a place to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur for free

By Isaac Olson

With seats in some local synagogues costing hundreds of dollars during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath said not everybody in the Jewish community can afford to pray at some of the more expensive synagogue-based-celebrations.

So, he's looking to provide a space to pray and eat together totally free of charge at the Rohr Chabad of NDG & Loyola Campus.

This free service, he said, is possible thanks to the centre's new larger location at 4020 Hingston Ave. Formerly based on Monkland Ave., he said the Rohr Chabad's Yom Kippur opening prayer was standing-room only because of the tight space. This year will be different, he said, as he gave the Free Press a tour of the full-sized social hall. Currently, the rabbi noted, the centre is occupying the new space as the facility's owner looks to develop the church grounds next door. The hope is the Rohr Chabad will eventually raise enough funds to purchase it. He said the organization has been given 18 months to raise the money, but, despite the need for some serious funds, he won't be charging people to pray over the holidays. If people insist on paying, he said, he won't accept more than $36. 

"We believe in creating meaningful, Jewish experiences for people," said Bernath, noting his organization has about 200 members, but the focus has long been on students and young adults. Now, he said, the organization is reaching out to families.

"One of the exciting things about acquiring this new space is being able to invite the community in. I want to reach out to the community. We have the space now and my dream to make a Jewish centre in NDG for the NDG community and get the community to come out."

There will be all the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, including dinners on both nights of Rosh Hashanah, which starts this year on September 24. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, also called Day of Atonement, the the holiest day of the year. It is usually celebrated wth fasting, intensive prayer and spending most of the day at synagogue.

At Rohr Chabad, all of the services will be "very fun" and all the traditional Hebrew prayers wil lbe explained in English, said Bernath, noting that there will be a world-class cantor leading the services.

There will be services for kids as well, he added, that will not just be a babysitting program. Kids, he said, will be celebrating as well in an age-appropriate service. For the dinners, he said, people are going to have to reserve in advance "so weknow how many people that are going to be there."

The rabbi said there will even be a "shofar slacker" service on September 25, from 6 pm to 7 pm. this will give people the full shofar (ram's horn) expereince in an hour rather than a day. 

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