Even if you’re a regular at services at your synagogue, the services of the High Holy Days are different.
First, there’s the dramatic increase in attendance: People suddenly appear for the first time all year. Then there’s the music: Modes familiar year-round are often eschewed for more operatic styling. Some congregations even relocate to larger venues for the Days of Awe.
As always, the Bay Area Jewish community will be offering a number of free and low-cost services for Rosh Hashanah, which begins on the evening of Sept. 13, and Yom Kippur, which begins on the evening of Sept. 22. A full list is included at the end of this article.
One option is Magain David Sephardim Congregation, which opens its High Holy Day services to all, free of charge. The San Francisco congregation was founded in 1934 “by Sephardic members of the community who were gradually moving into the Richmond District,” said Jacob Levy, a current Magain David board member who grew up going to the synagogue and had his bar mitzvah there.
The building, located on Fourth Avenue between Clement and Geary, was originally a Baptist church, and for a time served as an early home of Congregation Beth Sholom. After a 2007 renovation, the sanctuary interior is now arranged in a traditional Sephardic style, with service-goers seated facing in toward each other rather than toward the ark.
“There is lots of light and many chandeliers,” Levy said. “It gives it a feel of something different, with a lot of light and reflection.”
Congregants at Magain David represent a wide range of Sephardic communities, with heritages from “North Africa, Spain, Turkey, all over the Middle East — Israel, Iraq, Iran — and as far afield as Burma,” according to Levy. “We’ve always had a tradition of having a mix of melodies and traditions that combine all different influences from around the Sephardic world.”
Hazzan (cantor) Uzi Shazzo has become something of a one-man High Holy Day tradition at Magain David, which has flown him in from Israel every year for the past 10 years for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “He’s a phenomenal singer and musician,” Levy said. “He evokes a sense of Sephardic tradition in his songs. You can hear centuries of history come in to the service through his music.”
If the Yizkor memorial service is important to you, take note: “We don’t do Yizkor,” Levy said. Some Sephardic congregations have adopted the Ashkenazi practice, he said, but not Magain David.
Magain David does hold a Rosh Hashanah seder on both nights of the holiday, a Sephardic tradition only just starting to become widely known among Ashkenazi communities. It costs $30.
A Rosh Hashanah seder — much shorter and “less intense” than a Passover seder — features a number of symbolic foods, such as pomegranates.
“The names of all the foods are puns in Hebrew, words for each food that have some kind of connection to the season,” Levy said. For example, there’s always a head of something — traditionally a sheep’s head, though fish heads are more common now — because Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.”
Magain David Sephardim Congregation is located at 351 Fourth Ave. The schedule for services is 7 p.m. Sept. 13, 8:30 a.m. Sept. 14 and 15, 7:15 p.m. Sept. 22 and 8 a.m. Sept. 23. Advance registration is requested. For more details visit www.magaindavid.com.
The following list highlights free and low-cost services that are open to the public. All Chabad services are free; a number of them are included below. For a complete list and more details, visit www.chabad.org.
Chabad of San Francisco. Services with Hebrew/English prayerbooks. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Chronicle Building, 925 Mission St., S.F.; Sept. 14 and 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St., S.F.; Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F. Free. Donations accepted. www.chabadsf.org
Keneset HaLev. Participatory indoor/outdoor services in Golden Gate Park. At the San Francisco County Fair Building, 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way, S.F. Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Sliding scale. Walk-ins welcome. No one turned away. www.kenesethalev.org
Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring. Secular Jewish New Year celebration in English, with Yiddish songs. RSVP by Sept. 12. At the JCCSF Beit Midrash Room, 3200 California St., S.F. Sept. 13 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. $10-$25. (415) 566-7235
Congregation Ner Tamid. Alternative second-day service, a symposium titled “Life — Does It Have Any Meaning?” Organized with Southside Jewish Collaborative. At Congregation Ner Tamid, 1250 Quintara St., S.F. Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. Free. (415) 661-3383
Peninsula, South Bay and beyond
Chabad of the Greater South Bay. Encompasses five chapters. Details on services available at the following links: Chabad of Sunnyvale (www.tinyurl.com/chabadhhd-sunnyvale), Chabad of Palo Alto (www.chabadhhd-paloalto); Los Altos Chabad (www.tinyurl.com/chabadhhd-losaltos); Rohr Chabad House at Stanford (www.tinyurl.com/chabadhhd-stanford); and Chabad Israeli-Silicon Valley (www.tinyurl.com/chabadhhd-israeli)
Chabad of the North Peninsula. Services with children’s programs. At Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City. Sept. 13 at 6 p.m., followed by Rosh Hashanah dinner at 7 p.m.; Sept. 14 at 8:30 a.m, children’s shofar party and tashlich at 4:30 p.m.; Sept. 15 at 8:30 a.m.; Sept. 22 at 6:45 p.m.; Sept. 23 at 9 a.m. Free. $20-$36 for dinner. wwwchabadnp.com
Hillel at Stanford. Reform/Reconstructionist services at Dinkelspiel Auditorium (471 Lagunita Ave., Stanford) and Conservative services at Hillel at Stanford Koret Pavilion (564 O’Connor Lane, Stanford). Check website for times. Free with Stanford ID, $36 for 36 and under, $180 suggested donation for 36+. www.stanford.hillel.org
Jewish Study Network. Sept. 14 and 15 at 8:45 a.m. at the Jewish Study Network, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Sept. 22 at 6:15 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 8 a.m. (Sephardic) and 9 a.m. (Ashkenazi) at the Crowne Plaza Cabana, 4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. Free. No membership necessary, but RSVP required. www.jsn.info
Keddem Congregation. Reconstructionist services. At the Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 9:30 a.m., Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9:15 a.m. Free, but donations welcome. RSVP requested. www.keddem.org
Congregation Beth David. Conservative services. At Congregation Beth David, 19700 Prospect Road, Saratoga. Sept. 13 at 6 p.m., Sept. 14 and 15 at 8:30 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:15 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9 a.m. Free. Register at www.beth-david.org
Congregation Sinai. Conservative services free for non-affiliated first-timers. At Congregation Sinai, 1532 Willowbrae Ave., San Jose. Sept. 13 at 6:45 p.m., Sept. 14 and 15 at 8:30 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:15 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 8:30 a.m. Free. www.sinai-sj.org
Chadeish Yameinu. Jewish Renewal Rosh Hashanah service. Kiddush followed by potluck vegetarian lunch. At First Congregational Church, 900 High St., Santa Cruz. Sept. 14 at 10 a.m. Free. (831) 295-8467 or www.chadeishyameinu.com
Chabad of Napa Valley. Community services with English prayerbooks and free Rosh Hashanah dinner on Sept. 13 (RSVP required). At Spring-Hill Suites Napa Valley, 101 Gateway Road East, Napa. Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Free. (707)-320-2348 or info@JewishNapaValley.com
Chabad of Novato. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at Chabad Jewish Center of Novato, 7430 Redwood Blvd., Novato. Sept. 14 at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 901 Sherman Ave., Novato. Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. at Novato Oaks Inn, 215 Alameda Del Prado, Novato. Free. RSVP required. www.jewishnovato.com
Congregation Beth Ami. Conservative services. At Congregation Beth Ami, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., Sept. 14 at 8 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9 a.m. Free. www.bethamisr.org
East Bay and beyond
Chabad of Contra Costa. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 14 at 9:30 a.m. at Chabad of Contra Costa, 1671 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek. Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Concord Hilton, 1970 Diamond Blvd., Concord. Free. www.jewishcontracosta.com
Chabad of Oakland and Piedmont. Hebrew-English prayerbooks. Rosh Hashanah community dinner and post-Yom Kippur break-the-fast buffet (RSVP required). At Chabad of Oakland and Piedmont, 3008 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Sept. 13 at 7:15 p.m., Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10:30 a.m. Free. (510) 545-6770 or www.jewishoakland.com
Chabad of Solano County. At the new Chabad of Solano Center, 730 East Main St., Vacaville. Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Sept. 13 dinner for a suggested fee ($22 adult, $15 child). Sept. 14 and 15 Kiddush and Sept. 22 break-the-fast are free. RSVP requested. www.jewishsolano.com
Chabad of the Tri-Valley. Includes youth program. Babysitting available with RSVP. At the Pleasanton Masonic Center, 3370 Hopyard Road, Pleasanton. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., Sept. 14 and 15 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 6:45 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Free. www.jewishtrivalley.com
Berkeley Community. Egalitarian services in Hebrew and English led by Rabbi Jay Krause and Cantor Rachel Brott. At the JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. Free. www.HighHolyDaysServices.org
Jewish Gateways. Egalitarian outdoor services in English and Hebrew. Open to all. At JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., Sept. 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (picnic and tashlich to follow), Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. (family service) and 10:30 a.m. (morning service). Free, no tickets required. www.jewishgateways.org
Temple Beth Hillel. Reform services. Free child care for ages 2-10 during evening services. At Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central, Richmond. Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at 10 a.m., Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. with a 1 p.m. family service. Free. Advance registration for child care required by Sept. 7. www.tbhrichmond.org
Tri-Valley Cultural Jews. Secular Humanistic service followed by reception. At Bothwell Center, 2466 8th St., Livermore. Sept. 13 at 6 p.m., preceded by tashlich at 5 p.m. Free. Donations for food drive (non-perishable items) encouraged. www.trivalleyculturaljews.wordpress.com