For the past eight years, the Chai Center has been holding High Holy Days services at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Theater in Beverly Hills. This year, however, just weeks before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz received a call from the WGA indicating that, because of construction, the theater space would not be available.
Scrambling for a space large enough to hold all the attendees, Schwartz enlisted help. “I had three people making multiple calls for weeks — we came up with nothing,” he said. “Finally, in the final hour, I ‘bumped’ into a location just two blocks from my home.”
Hi Point Studios, a sound stage on Pico near Fairfax, is an 18,000-square-foot facility that will become The Chai Center’s new locale for High Holy Days services. “My solution was not to give up, lest our … members not have a location to pray this year,” he said. “The benefit is that we are still in the heart of the city with plenty of space in their large studio room, which can seat 700 people.”
Transforming the venue requires renting a stage, seats and a white top tent and table to hold the center’s annual free New Year’s Eve Singles Party following services. “Many people just show up for the party,” Schwartz said. “Got to love our Jews.”
As it turned out, rental of the new location costs less than the WGA, and half of the center’s holiday budget is underwritten by Stanley Black, a former Chai Center honoree. “Our friend and supporter was happy to hear that we found a location for this year,” Schwartz said. “He was optimistic about our new location and has continued to underwrite half our High Holy Days budget — the rest comes from individual donors and the attendees that mail in a donation.”
The Chasidic Reform services—all the prayers are in English with traditional Chasidic songs—will be led by Schwartz, and the post-service party will offer up 10 cases of wine, 700 apples with honey and seven sheet cakes.
“With, thank God, 16,000 Chai Center subscribers, our staff is busy, at full throttle during the holiday season.” Schwartz said. “It’s like Christmas for Santa Claus right now—mucho busy now.”