Summit observes High Holidays |

Summit observes High Holidays

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Heidi Dickstein speaks at Synagogue of the Summit. The period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the most important of the year for Jews

DILLON – Rabbi Jack Gabriel broke out his guitar and some humorous quotes from the book “Zen Judaism” to kick off the local observance of the Jewish High Holy Days Wednesday at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon. He then asked attendees to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves.Any doubts that Rosh Hashana is a celebration were squelched right off the bat.More than 100 Summit County Jews came to the services Wednesday night and Tuesday morning to celebrate the Jewish new year (it is now the year 5765 on the Jewish calendar.)Wednesday’s service began the 10-day period that includes the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins on Friday. This is the holiest time of year for Jews worldwide, and it’s no different in Summit County.”It’s a celebration and a reflection of the past and the future,” said Barry Lazarus, who with his wife, Fran, is involved with Synagogue of the Summit – the local Jewish group that annually organizes High Holy Day events. “(Rosh Hashana) is more of an upbeat holiday, in contrast to Yom Kippur, which is when Jews gather to atone for their sin and try not to repeat them.”Breckenridge resident Matt Pokorny is one of the few younger Jews who are active in the local Jewish community. Pokorny has helped lead Rosh Hashana services in recent years and has attended Synagogue of the Summit’s adult Sunday school.

For him, the changing of the leaves and temperatures that go along with the Jewish new year always signify a time of spiritual introspection.”I’ve always associated the new year with the fall,” he said. “You can reflect on God’s work and the beauty, and it helps me reflect on my spirituality.”Jewish High Holy Day events continue Friday with a 7:30 p.m. service to welcome Yom Kippur – a time when Jews typically fast for 24 hours. There will also be a Saturday service beginning at 10 a.m. and a Yizkor at 2 p.m. In the beginningSynagogue of the Summit has created a Jewish community in Summit County almost from scratch during the past 14 years.The group, which is now at about 200 families, formed when a handful of local Jews got tired of driving to Vail to attend services with the already established B’Nai Vail congregation.Some of the original members, including Sue Payer and Sandy Greenhut, recall a particularly snowy drive to Yom Kippur services over Vail Pass. Later that year, at a Passover seder, Greenhut floated the idea of creating a local group.

“Someone said we should call it ‘Synagogue of the Summit,’ and we were rolling on the floor laughing,” Payer recalled.Greenhut was the first president, keeping a list of members and listing her home phone number under Synagogue of the Summit in the phone book. Heidi Dickstein now presides over the group.The first years included services during this time of year and a Passover seder in April. The group has expanded to offer Sunday school, Bar and Bat Mitzvah training, monthly Sabbath gatherings and community-minded events like the cleaning of the Jewish cemetery in Leadville.’context and community’For Jewish people moving to Summit County from places with bigger Jewish populations, Synagogue of the Summit provides a way to stay religiously active.”We didn’t expect a whole lot, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the interest the Jewish community has in the religion as well as the social aspect,” said Lazarus, who moved to Summit County seven years ago from Connecticut.

Synagogue of the Summit has helped local Jewish children grow up with a sense of their religion, training many to become Bar and Bat Mitzvahs – a coming-of-age ceremony that happens when a Jewish child is 13 years old.”Oftentimes, a Jewish child is the only Jew in the whole year or class (in Summit County),” Lazarus said. “So for them, it gives them a context and a community.”For those who are used to stricter religious rules or more traditional services, Synagogue of the Summit will likely be a new experience. After all, Rabbi Gabriel is the first rabbi Synagogue of the Summit has hired for the High Holy Days. The group prefers “lay-led” services – with contributions from many members of the congregation. The group is also without a permanent location, instead using local churches or the interfaith chapel at Copper Mountain to hold services.Pokorny, who came to Breckenridge from Pennsylvania three years ago, said: “I was expecting a little more, like an actual synagogue. But it’s nice to have some sort of Jewish community.”Jason Starr can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User