Q: I've never been to Chabad for services, what should I expect?
Please come through the lower entrance, where someone will greet you with a smile and a prayerbook, and direct you to the service. While the prayers are recited mostly in Hebrew, the prayerbook you are given is translated into English. Rabbi Mendy also interjects with explanations through out the service. We have no reserved seating and we do fill up quickly (especially during daytime services on the first day of the holiday). To ensure you have a comfortable seat, it is advisable to come before 10:30a.m. The synagogue atmosphere is conducive to introspection, reflection and prayer. Extraneous conversations can interrupt the mood. We ask that everyone respect the decorum while services are in progress.
Q: The rabbis seem “orthodox”; the congregants seem “normal”. Who comes to Chabad? You! As you are! With no strings attached, no particular dress code, nor assumptions of practice!
Q: Tell me about the Children's Service. We have multiple age groups – from toddlers through teens. The program's goal is for our youth to be in an experiential Rosh Hashanah environment. We recite some prayers, hear stories, sing songs, play games and partake in traditional Rosh Hashanah snacks. All children and teens come into shul for Shofar blowing.
Q: There are no tickets or membership fees. How is Chabad funded? We are supported by the generous free-will giving of our local friends in Somerset, Hunterdon & Union Counties. Each person contributes according to his/her means. No funds are received from Chabad Headquarters nor are any locally-raised funds sent to Chabad Headquarters.
Q: How do I follow services if I don't read Hebrew? The prayerbook includes an English translation and – to help everyone keep pace – page numbers are frequently announced.
Q: I don't read Hebrew and I don't relate to the English translation of the liturgy, how can I connect to the shul (synagogue) experience?Perhaps the sermon (or the sprinklings of sermonettes) will do it for you. Perhaps, the tunes. Perhaps, sitting in shul with so many others. Perhaps…none of the above. In that case, try losing yourself in the overall experience of Rosh Hashanah prayer. Meditate on the fact that this very same experience was shared by our people for millennia, through good times and bad, in every country and place Jews have found themselves. We are part of one continuous chain. Same liturgy, same structure. While one may not relate to the particulars, we are each integral part of it. Awe inspiring, no?
Q: Why do men and women sit separately? The prayer endeavor is a deeply personal journey of introspection. It is a time to connect to our inner core, our deepest self. Although we often attend a family, the act of prayer is not a family or a social affair. Prayer is an endeavor that requires concentration. The “mechitza” (the wall that divides men and women), is a mechanism to facilitate this.
Q: I notice that all the official roles are covered by men. What's the deal?
This one's a hard one to answer in a short paragraph, especially since there is so much misperception regarding this topic. Looking at it through the lens of a modern person, the seemingly male-centric roles do seem incongruous to the male/female equality that the Torah values. In Judaism, the equality of men and women begins at the highest possible level: G‑d. G‑d has both masculine and feminine qualities and is no more male than, say, a table! In Judaism, there are roles, and the obligations and responsibilities of the male and female are different, but absolutely equal in importance. Ritual roles performed in the public arena fall on the male.
Q: I don't know anybody… There will be many people who have never been here before, and many who may not know anyone else. No worries. At Chabad, we're all family.
Q: I want to just attend High Holiday services, are there any strings attached? Chabad is here for our community and everyone is welcome to partake however and in whatever ways s/he wants. We're happy you're here.
Q: I want to connect with Chabad – beyond the High Holidays. How do I join? Joining Chabad is simple: just come on by! Attend our programs, classes & schools. Join our mailing list. Partake however you'd like. We'd love to get to know you!