NEW YORK – “I did not need to ask for quiet during the long Musaf service on Yom Kippur,” the rabbi of a large Reform synagogue in Manhattan said yesterday. “The worshipers sat withdrawn inside themselves and they looked contemplative and worried.”
The rabbis of other large New York synagogues offered similar impressions of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. Most of these are well-known, long-established synagogues – mainly Reform, some Conservative and a few Orthodox. They are located in an area between 60th and 90th Streets that is known for its wealthy synagogues.
“People said the U’Netane Tokef prayer seriously this year,” said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Reform Movement’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on West 68th Street in Manhattan. “The words ‘who will be impoverished and who will be enriched,’ and ‘who will be laid low and who will be raised up’ resounded throughout the synagogue this year.”
And during the rabbis’ Yom Kippur sermons, the phrases Days of Awe, repentance, accounting for one’s acts all seemed to take on added significance in Manhattan synagogues.
The financial crisis and the stock market collapse clearly set the tone for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year. Many of the worshipers at these synagogues are leading brokers and bankers at Wall Street’s most respected financial institutions. Others are known for the millions they made from their local businesses.