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Parkway Jewish Center in Penn Hills opens doors for high holidays

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:13 p.m.
Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress
Cantor Henry Shapiro stands at the front of the Parkway Jewish Center on Wednesday, July 14, 2013. The center is opening its doors to non-affiliated members of the Jewish faith during the High Holiday season.
Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress
Cantor Henry Shapiro stands at the front of the Parkway Jewish Center on Wednesday, July 14, 2013. The center is opening its doors to non-affiliated members of the Jewish faith during the High Holiday season.
Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress
Cantor Henry Shapiro stands at the front of the Parkway Jewish Center on Wednesday, July 14, 2013. The center is opening its doors to non-affiliated members of the Jewish faith during the High Holiday season.

Tucked away, quite literally in the woods in the southeast corner of Penn Hills is the Parkway Jewish Center, built in the 1950s and nestled among a tangle of streets that crisscross back and forth amid Churchill, Wilkins Township and Penn Hills.

The Princeton Drive synagogue can be a tricky place to find, but if President Richard Korfin has his way, it will be a little more open during the upcoming High Holiday season.

The synagogue has invited nonaffiliated members of the Jewish faith to join the congregation for traditional and egalitarian conservative Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at no cost.

Many synagogues charge non-affiliated members for tickets to High Holiday services.

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the new Jewish calendar year — which will be 5774, prompting Korfin to joke, “But I'll be writing 5773 on all my checks for the next month!” — and Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement.

Korfin said the importance of the High Holiday season is akin to Easter and Christmas for Christians, in terms of the pull of a house of worship.

“For someone in a Christian congregation, they may not be affiliated with a particular church, but come Christmas and Easter, they feel the need to attend services,” he said.

“It's similar with the High Holiday season.”

Korfin said one of his favorite aspects of the High Holiday season is that “it's the time of year when all of our members will be here. I get to see a lot of people I don't normally see as often.”

The synagogue's congregation is made up of about 80 families, Korfin said.

The newly hired cantor, Henry Shapiro, who started at the synagogue in July, said he is fond of the music that accompanies the seasonal services.

“As the cantor, there are special tunes for the High Holiday season that everyone knows and will sing together. It's a thrilling moment for me to hear the whole room sing those songs together,” he said.

Korfin said he is looking forward to opening up the synagogue.

“I'm hoping people will come and say, ‘Gee, this was really nice. They welcomed us, and we enjoyed it,' ” he said.

During the High Holiday season, the synagogue also will be holding a food drive for the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, which caters to clients who keep kosher.

Those interested in attending services are asked to call 412-823-4338 or email parkwayjc@verizon.net.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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