Yom Kippur services open to public Beth Shalom to observe Day of Atonement in Westminster High hall

October 10, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An altar with an Ark of the Covenant, Torah scrolls and menorahs will grace the stage in Westminster High School's auditorium tonight, when the county's largest Jewish congregation begins its observance of Yom Kippur.

The community is welcome to participate on the day that is the most sacred in the Jewish calendars.

Beth Shalom has reserved seats for nearly 600 worshipers, who will observe the Day of Atonement in the auditorium tonight and tomorrow. With 900 more seats available, the congregation is extending its hospitality to others.

"We are opening the doors to anybody who wants to come," said Bob Bressler, a Beth Shalom member. "We have the seats and a great auditorium."

The number expected for the annual Yom Kippur service was far too many for the congregation's Taylorsville synagogue, where seating is limited to about 165. Members observed Rosh Hashana at Martin's Westminster Oct. 2 but encountered a scheduling conflict there in planning today's service.

"We wanted to keep the service within the community," said Joyce Wiener, administrative secretary for the congregation, which includes about 150 families. "We always have to accommodate more for the holy days. The high school is just a beautiful place."

The high school's auditorium is used by various groups, including New Life Foursquare Church, which worships there every Sunday.

This weekend will be the first that a Jewish service has taken place at the school.

Rabbi Seymour L. Essrog, spiritual leader of the congregation, promises that the prayers and commentary will be easy to follow, even for those unfamiliar with the traditional ritual.

"There will be books and many explanations in English," Essrog said. "No one will get lost in the dialogue."

Members will line the stage with flowers and bring religious articles, an altar table and prayer books from the synagogue on Liberty Road.

Cantor Abraham Salkov will assist the rabbi.

The service opens at 6: 45 p.m. with the Kol Nidre, a haunting prayer that asks forgiveness for the sins of the past year. Sundown also marks the beginning of a 26-hour fast.

"This is a complete day of prayer -- we do not eat or drink," Wiener said.

Faithful observers do not even use water to brush their teeth, she said.

"You are not supposed to be comfortable," Wiener said. "You are repenting for the sins incurred over the year."

The service resumes at 9: 30 a.m. tomorrow and continues through the day, with a respite from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

"There are prayers, sermons, commentaries and songs led by the cantor," said Essrog. "We keep our minds off food."

Although some of the service will be conducted in Hebrew, much of it, including the rabbi's sermon, will be in English. Prayer books in English will be available.

The observance ends with the sounding of the shofar, a signaling trumpet, at 7: 15 p.m. tomorrow.

"It is the victory sound, meaning our prayers for forgiveness have been accepted," said the rabbi.

Information: 410-875-2800.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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