My annual custom on the last day of the High Holy Days is to daven at the Yom Kippur minyan of Chabad of Rego Park. Not a chasid, not a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, I feel great spiritual authenticity in the atmosphere of intimacy, surrounded by a few hundred other worshippers, which Rabbi Eli Blokh creates.
His Yom Kippur services take place in the basement social hall of the Queens Jewish Center, a large Modern Orthodox synagogue around the corner from my apartment.
Most of the seats are empty at the start of services, both at night and in the morning, but soon fill up, mostly with elderly men and women, separated by a wooden lattice mechitza, from the former Soviet Union. Rabbi Blokh, born in Moscow, conducts a city-wide outreach to fellow Jews from the FSU; his announcements during services alternate between Russian and English; Russian-language machzorim take their place each year on a table in the back of the hall with English-Hebrew High Holy Days prayerbooks.
Many of the émigré worshippers at the Chabad services show up only once a year, on Yom Kippur, in time for the Yizkor memorial service.
Rabbi Blokh commented on this phenomenon before Kol Nidrei last week. continue...