Yom Kippur Program to reach over 50,000 Participants Around Israel

— by Dena Wimpfheimer

Even as Israel faces criticism that society is becoming increasingly polarized between the religious and secular populations, this Yom Kippur, tens of thousands of secular Israelis will join in prayer services all around the country as part of the Tzohar Praying Together on Yom Kippur initiative.

More than two thirds of Israelis observe the sanctity of the High Holy Day, yet many secular Israelis choose to stay home since they do not belong to a synagogue or have a place to pray. As part of its mission to bridge the gap between religious and secular, Tzohar will be organizing close to 200 free explanatory Yom Kippur services in Kibbutizim, Moshavim and Cultural Centers across the country – Sefardi and Ashkenazi.

More after the jump.
“Our goal is to help secular Israelis feel less alienated when it comes to religious practice and show them that there are many ways to embrace religion and become spiritually involved with one’s Judaism,” said Rabbi David Stav the Chairman of Tzohar. “We know that despite being classified as secular, this segment of Israeli society often has a burning desire to demonstrate their love for Jewish tradition and we strongly believe that this effort will help feel closer to their identity as proud Jews.”

In its 12th year, the Praying Together program is bigger than ever, reaching more communities and participants than ever before.  Participants are provided with a special Machzor Yom Kippur  and detailed handout explaining the rituals, meaning of the prayers and process (when to stand, when to bow, etc.) that takes place during the reverent day to ensure it is a meaningful and encompassing experience for all.

“There are many Israelis like me who do not label themselves religious, but are proud Jews,” says Yoav of Moshav Eshtaol. “Our family has been coming to this program for several years now and really appreciate the unifying Jewish experience.”

It is the success of initiatives such as this one that have inspired Tzohar to undertake their Tzohar Communities Program. As opposed to the standard in North America , most Israelis are not members in any synagogue and do not have a relationship with religious community leaders. By placing qualified Rabbinical leaders at the forefront of communities around Israel, the Tzohar program works to establish the synagogue as a community center where the religious and non-religious are openly accepted and feel welcome.  

Purim Bridges Religious Gaps in Israel

Tzohar to Hold Purim Celebrations in over 100 Locations across Israel

— Dena Wimpfheimer

As Israel’s leading organization working to bridge the gap between the religious and secular communities, Tzohar will be hosting Megilla readings and Purim celebrations in more than 100 locations throughout the country.

“All Israelis love the fun costumes and the traditional Purim partying” says Nachman Rosenberg, Executive Vice President for Tzohar. “Our programs aim to enrich the celebrations with meaningful Jewish values and show how Jewish Identity can become a source of national unity rather than separation.”

More after the jump.

Approximately 200,000 participants will be provided with a special Megillat Esther including the traditional text, pictures and explanations of the story of Purim and where the specific practices of the holiday, including giving charity and sending food baskets, come from.  Some readings even get theatrical, like the one organized by Steve Schwartz of Ginot Shomron, where acting and costumes are used to convey the Purim stories to those who might have limited familiarity with Jewish observance.

The Tzohar readings primarily take place in community centers or school gyms rather than synagogues to make it a more open and welcoming environment for the whole community. “Having it in a neutral place makes it a lot more comfortable for those who typically do not join religious services,” said Schwartz, formerly of Brooklyn, New York.

“Our goal is to help secular Israelis feel less alienated when it comes to Jewish practice and show them that there are many ways to embrace tradition and become involved with one’s Judaism,” said Rabbi David Stav, Chairman of Tzohar. “Purim, which has a social aspect on top of its religiosity, is the ideal time to spread that message.”

The “Together for Purim” program was inspired by Tzohar’s “Praying Together” Yom Kippur program which has been taking place for over 10 years and grows by thousands of participants each year.

“Israelis welcome a refreshing opportunity to embrace their Jewish Identity in a way that is not coercive or forceful” Rosenberg says.  “Programs such as this promote Jewish unity, a national value that is deeply existential in our eyes”.

Tzohar is an organization comprised of over 1000 Religious Zionist volunteer rabbis and educators working towards promoting and enhancing Unity & Jewish identity in the State of Israel.