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Rosh Hashanah shul seats at a premium

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There are many Jews who leave their reservations of shul seats until the last minute. Or there are guests from other centres in South Africa, who plan to spend Rosh Hashanah with families or friends and want to attend synagogue services and be assured of seats.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Sep 28, 2016

There are many Jews who leave their reservations of shul seats until the last minute. Or there are guests from other centres in South Africa, who plan to spend Rosh Hashanah with families or friends and want to attend synagogue services and be assured of seats.

But they need not be disappointed as most of the synagogues make arrangements for those wanting to attend over the High Holy Days - and have seating at this time of the year when the demand for seats is at a premium.

The financial manager of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, Lionel Gordon, says the shul tries to accommodate everyone needing seats: “We do have some seats left, although the men’s seats are not in the front of the shul and the seats in the ladies’ section are scattered all over.”

Prices should be discussed with the shul for those wanting to purchase them for the High Festivals.

The Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation (Marais Road Shul) says seats are not included in the membership.

“We have some seats left,” Kerry Miller, programmes director of the shul, told Jewish Report. “But they are not very many.” Prices start at R416 per seat.

Sydenham-Highlands North Hebrew Congregation says seats are included in the annual membership.

Shirley Stein, of Sydenham Shul, told Jewish Report that a family membership for one year - which includes men’s and ladies’ seats - is R7 260.

However, if individual seats need to be bought, they cost R2 900 (men) and R2 180 (women).

The adjoining shtiebl at Sydenham Shul is pretty full, but seats might still be available there, she said. Full membership of the shtiebl is R5 200 (men) and R4 480 (women).

Carmen Kay, office manager of the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation (Great Synagogue, Gardens, Cape Town), says the shul is very booked up for the festivals, “but we do have some seats available. The first two rows are completely taken.”

The cost of seating for men is R650 per seat and women at R350 for Rosh Hashanah - the normal price for seats is R500 for men and R250 for women.

“We are basically full, but never too full to accommodate anyone. Although the ladies’ gallery is packed. We always have a big attendance over the Yamim Noraim,” Kay said.

Beit Emanuel Progressive Congregation operations manager Russell Cohen also stressed the congregation “does not turn anyone away. We do get full, but can always manage to squeeze in another person.”

For the High Holy Days, paying members of the congregation automatically receive admission tickets, which allow them entry and includes a seat.

“There is no additional fee,” Cohen said. For non-members these admission tickets may be purchased at R360 each.

For those who cannot afford to buy seats or the cost of membership, most shuls make special arrangements in the case of genuine requests.

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