BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – During most services, Briarcliff Manor’s Congregation Sons of Israel includes a couple of hundred participants. But during Rosh Hashanah, more than 1,600 people from all over Westchester will come together in the synagogue’s sanctuary to listen to the shofar.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins Sunday at sunset, and many congregants with CSI have been working for months to prepare. In addition to setting up 1,600 seats in the sanctuary, volunteers are also preparing more than 14 classrooms to allow for hundreds of additional congregates.
Ossining resident Irwin Kavy has volunteered to help set up the sanctuary for more than 35 years.
“It’s crunch time here, for sure,” Kavy joked Thursday evening. “We not only set up chairs, but clean rooms and convert the classrooms for services and get ready to host 2,500 people who will be coming here for the high holidays.”
Kavy said he volunteers each year, not just for the synagogue but to help out the whole community.
“If we don’t do it, we’ll have to hire people to do it, and it’s hard economic times for everyone in the community right now,” he said. “We have a lot of fun doing it, too, and it’s great that we have so many people that volunteer for us here. We’re fortunate to have these great people here.”
Thirteen-year-old Jason Levitt said it was important for him to volunteer for his community as often as he could.
“Even though I already had my bar mitzvah, I still want to feel like part of the CSI community,” Jason said.
Noah Ginsberg, 12, agreed. “It’s important because it signifies our new year and everyone comes together as one big Jewish community,” he said. “It’s a good bonding time for us, and a good time to reflect with the whole community.”
Steven Orientale, 13, said he is always awed by how many people fill CSI each year.
“We all become one huge community. People from Ossining, Chappaqua, Tarrytown and all over Westchester come here,” he said. “Volunteering is great to do with so many, because with a lot more people, it gets done a lot faster - and it’s more fun.”