In recent years, congregations have held High Holiday services at all kinds of unconventional venues, from campgrounds to churches.
But Chabad of Hunt Valley’s upcoming services at the Baltimore Country Club represent a different kind of upending of tradition.
“It is the first time we hold High Holiday services there,” said Rabbi Shalom Zirkind. “All Jews are welcome.”
Things have changed since the era in the 20th century and prior when Jews (among other minorities) would be barred from a place like the Baltimore Country Club, Zirkind said. He knows that certain areas in Baltimore were historically “no-go zones” for Jews; but when it comes to the club, he encouraged people to come to Rosh Hashanah services there “and see the change.”
While the club generally closes on Mondays, it will open especially for Rosh Hashanah. The staff has been “super accommodating” and even hired a kosher caterer, said Zirkind. “We want to show that the barriers that once existed have come down.”
The Baltimore Country Club is a members-only private club, so a club member Zirkind is friends with is serving as “sponsor” for the event.
A native of Montreal, Zirkind and his wife, Menucha “Nuchie” Zirkind settled in Baltimore in 2010. Seeing a need for a Jewish presence in northern Baltimore County, they opened Chabad of Hunt Valley in 2017. The Chabad now serves approximately 200 families in Lutherville, Timonium and Hunt Valley.
Art Abramson, former executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, is pleased the Zirkinds are holding services at Baltimore Country Club.
“I am thrilled to hear about it,” he said. “I think it is an extremely brilliant, positive move given the history of BCC, and it should be a symbol for all ethnic groups about the need to come together.”
Lois Rosenfield, a lifelong Baltimore resident, past president of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and former director of the American Jewish Council, Baltimore region, agreed.
“A house of worship is a place where people combine prayer and study and celebration of life cycles. It is a place where one restores strength and finds wisdom in the face of everyday challenges,” said Rosenfield.
“For the Baltimore Country Club to share its facilities for the Jewish High Holidays shows character and vision for the future.”
It’s all part of the Chabad strategy to welcome everyone, “no matter what, no matter who,” Zirkind said.
“A lot of people aren’t going to synagogue anymore, and I want to offer something different — an open, welcoming atmosphere where Orthodox, Reform and non-practicing Jews can feel at home.”