Union Helps Chabad Host High Holidays

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Chabad of Fairmount opened its doors in March. | Photo provided

Before John Dougherty stepped in, Rabbi Hirshi Sputz was scrambling.

The High Holidays were fast approaching, and Chabad of Fairmount needed a venue to host its growing congregation. Sputz had called more than half a dozen local institutions, pleading for help. No luck.

“I knew God was going to help,” Sputz said. “I didn’t know how God was going to help.”

Enter Dougherty and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)Local 98. On July 15, Sputz emailed the organization. He got a response on July 17, and by July 18 it was official: The IBEW would be hosting Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year.

“The fact that they have such a willingness to help is something so meaningful for everyone,” Sputz said. “Our community is really thankful for their kindness.”

IBEW Communications Director Frank Keel commended the organization’s commitment to the community in a statement: “IBEW Local 98 takes great pride in being part of the fabric of Philadelphia. When the rabbi approached us about borrowing our union hall for High Holiday services, we were happy to be able to offer the space for his growing congregation. The generous nature of Local 98 starts from the top down.”

Chabad of Fairmount will provide services for free, but guests are asked to RSVP by calling 267-332-1321. Rosh Hashanah services will be held Sept. 9. at 7 p.m. and the following morning at 10 a.m. The IBEW will again open its doors for Yom Kippur, hosting congregants on Sept. 18 for a Kol Nidre service at 6:45 p.m., and on Sept. 19 for a Yizkor memorial service at 11:30 a.m.

Chabad of Fairmount opened its doors in March, filling a gap for a Jewish institution in the area surrounding the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The space has been popular, but it can seat no more than 50 people. Demand for the High Holidays is, well, high, and with the help of IBEW, Sputz can now host about 200 people.

“I had no previous relationship with [Dougherty]. We’ve never met,” Sputz said. “Our synagogue happens to be two blocks away from his location. It’s literally an act of kindness to help the community.” 

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