September 5, 2002
Finding the ‘It’ Shul
In Los Angeles, the happening High Holiday haunts sell out faster than Springsteen at The Forum. And the tickets cost just as much. So every fall, Jewish singletons like myself do the New Year hustle, seeking out affordable, last-minute tickets to The Main Event. About a week before the big Rosh, the calls start coming in: "Davis, where are you going to services this year?" "How are you ringing in 5763?" "What are you doing New Years, New Year's Eve?"
This September, my friends and I once again find ourselves without a place to hang our kippot. With the holidays near, and our plans in the air, we're scrambling to secure seats in a sanctuary. We're calling ticket brokers, checking eBay, there's even talk of resorting to scalpers (Two? Anyone need two? Great seats, near the aisle, obstructed bimah view...). But so far, no luck. No shirt. No shoes. No services.
To be fair, it's not that all Southland synagogues are posting sold-out shows. It's that my crowd isn't looking for just any Rosh Hashana service. They're looking for the Rosh Hashana service. Where "The Player" meets the prayer.
Like everything else in Los Angeles, Rosh Hashana is immersed in the entertainment industry. Aliyahs (calls to the Torah), double as auditions for "American Idol 2"; the gabbai has a recurring role on "Buffy"; and what my rabbi really wants to do is direct. No wonder my friends carry their head shots and demo reels in their tallit bags, hoping to be assigned a seat next to a congregant who can greenlight their career. In this city, if you don't schmooze, you lose. And what better place than services to network with Jews in the biz? My writer friend, Alex, met his manager two years ago while nabbing a piece of pre-"Kiddish" honey cake. Emet.
And my peeps who don't spend Rosh Hashana looking for their next big break, spend it looking for their next big date. Like any other Hollywood night, my wannabe swinger friends wanna spend Erev Rosh Hashana with the cool cats and the beautiful babies. For these Juppies (Jewish urban professionals), the holidays have become the ultimate meat market. According to the National Singles Council, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur boast the highest singles-per-service numbers of the year. Any Jewish singleton who's even remotely religious attends services on the High Holidays, so the odds of meeting someone who'll dip his apples in your honey are pretty high. Blind dates, SpeedDates, even JDates can't hold a bread crumb to the pick-up potential at a good Tashlich. Meeting the Jew of your dreams is as simple as praying in the right place at the right time. Which is why my friends insist that we get tickets to the "it" shul.
Last year, my friend, Andy, scored big -- huge -- when his boss, a Hollywood macher with a first-look studio deal, handed him six free tickets to a high-rent service. We're talking $185 face value -- each. Valet parking. Tallit check. The works. Packed with industry folks and single blokes, it raised the Rosh Hashana bar. And now my friends are looking to me to hook them up with this year's ultimate davening machine. "CD, you write for The Journal, you must have some pull at the door. Can you get me 'plus one' on the list at Synagogue X?"
I think it's time to re-evaluate our High Holiday priorities. I appreciate my friends' enthusiasm to kibitz at the "Kiddush." But in all honesty, the last thing I want to hear on the holiday is, "Did the story department do coverage on the Machzor?" And as much as I want to meet my mensch, pick-up lines like, "Hey baby, wanna blow my shofar?" and "You'll love my tekiah gedolah" send me running. Services have become such a scene!
So I'm asking my single friends to make some Rosh Hashana resolutions. In our search for High Holiday tickets, let's remember that this New Year is about more than having someone to kiss at Musaf. We should ask for forgiveness, not phone numbers; we should be making amends, not making out. And for the first day of Tishrei, let's put the Industry speak in turnaround. Even Tinseltown can take a day to focus on teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity).
Of course "The Binding of Isaac" would make a great movie title. I wonder who owns the film rights?