The Jewish High Holy Days should be a time for rejoicing, not grief. (Even Jews who slack off during the rest of the year make it a point to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.)
But this year many are wondering whether they can afford to sit in a temple.
That's an unfortunate Catch-22: more people tend to embrace their faith in hard times, but less people can now afford to be faithful. Tickets for services can run anywhere from $200 to $600 and in big cities, it can cost you much more. Temple Emmanuel in Manhattan only considers seating people who buy a yearly membership, which starts at $1,075. To actually grab a seat, you have to pay additional contributions that may cost thousands on top.
Synagogues rely entirely on membership fees and ticket sales to function, so it's hard for Jews to try and avoid paying their synagogues. (Especially now: Jewish organizations in America have recently lost one quarter of their wealth, according to the American Jewish Committee.)
Here are a few low-priced alternatives for praying without paying during the High Holy Days all without feeling guilty.
1. Find the Nearest Chabad
There are no membership fees and no hidden ticket costs, just zealous bearded men hoping to provide you with a memorable religious experience. Chabad is one of the largest religious networks in the country, so it's easy to find a center with extra seats somewhere in your city. Best of all, they organization provides you with wine and delicious kosher food. Check here for a list of centers near you.
2. Sit in the Bleachers
A small but growing number of synagogues are handing out free tickets for one or both of the upcoming holy days. But beware, many have already sold out. However, some synagogues have commandeered outside buildings to offer free seating in overflow rooms. The Beth Simchat Torah temple in Manhattan is offering seats for Yom Kippur in the spacious Jacob Javits Center.
3. Avoid the Traffic and Worship at Home
If you feel embarrassed walking into a temple without money to donate, consider worshipping in at home this year. Many temples are beginning to broadcast services live through their Web sites. Young synagogues like Temple Nashuva in Los Angeles offer this option, as do some tony places like New York's Temple Emmanuel. If you have an iPhone, you can download apps that remind you when the holiday starts and to say the necessary prayers before you finally break your Yom Kippur fast and eat.
Save money, avoid crowds and best of all, if you get antsy and need to take a walk, there won't be an angry congregation staring at you as you leave.