2200-Plus At Chabad of The Conejo Yom Kippur Services


October 8, 2003

Every boardroom, conference room, and ballroom at the luxurious Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel, was used to accommodate the overwhelming turnout for Chabad of the Conejo’s Yom Kippur Services. The huge, 8,000 square foot grand ballroom was filled to capacity for Kol Nidre, Yizkor and Neilah. The hotel sold out every guest room to the 700 people spending the whole Yom Kippur at the hotel.

“The most beautiful aspect of our services is not the rabbi or the cantor, or the sermon, or even the spirit,” observed Rabbi Moshe D. Bryski of Chabad of the Conejo. “It is the people—a mix of Jews representing demographic category. They all join together and experience the true unity of our people as we pray, sing and celebrate together.”

Rabbi Bryski is director of Chabad of the Conejo, which includes Agoura Hills, Westlake, Thousand Oaks and Calabasas. With six local synagogues, ten Chabad rabbis, a Hebrew school, a Jewish Day School, summer day camp and an adult educational institute that draws thousands of students annually, Chabad has succeeded in attracting Jewish people from across the spectrum.

Attending the services and offering his greetings was Ambassador Yuval Rotem, the Counsul General of the State of Israel. He spoke of his memories of Yom Kippur 30 years ago, when his father was suddenly called away in middle of services to fight for Israel’s survival.

More than 500 children participated in the Junior Congregation and Camp "Gan Hyatt" programs offered by Chabad. Six hotel conference rooms were used to accommodate this program directed by Rabbi Mendy Pellin, with the assistance of a team of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical students.

An innovative Teen Yom Kippur Service also took place at the Hotel led by Rabbi Eli Broner.

Insights to the traditional Yom Kippur liturgy illuminated many parts of the services, with explanations regarding many of the relevant customs, making it easy for newcomers to follow and participated. “At Chabad, you do not attend services as guests in a theater; rather, we prefer you to participate in services,” said Rabbi Bryski. “Your prayers are just as important as those of the rabbi or cantor.”

It’s an approach that carries through consistently with Chabad. Services are open to all Jews. There are no membership fees. Hebrew-English prayerbooks are provided to facilitate a meaningful prayer experience. Children and teens are not only welcomed, but participate in age-appropriate Yom Kippur programs thoughtfully designed to engage their interest so that parents with children of all ages can join the services worry free.

The Yom Kippur fast culminated with the “Shema” and other verses recited in unison, and the final blowing of the Shofar. In contrast to the more somber and pensive tunes of the Yom Kippur services, the day’s prayers closed to joyful singing in the Chasidic tradition.

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