With Rosh Hashanah come and gone, Marlene Eichner and her husband, Stephen, are now planning to spend Yom Kippur with their Jewish community at the Chabad Jewish Center of Salem in Oregon. Eichner says she’s ready for a beautiful and meaningful experience.

She has come to appreciate the progression of prayers for the Day of Atonement, which begins with Kol Nidre on Friday, Sept. 13, and continues throughout the day on Saturday, Sept. 14, also Shabbat. And she has added to her own expressions of Jewish tradition since she got involved with Chabad about six years ago. Since then, she notes, Chabad has become a religious and social center for them. In fact, when the ceiling was replaced at the home of Rabbi Avraham and Fruma Perlstein, where services are being held, Stephen helped with the work.

In addition to being part of a community, “we are striving to become more observant; that is our goal,” she says.

Eichner has been attending High Holiday services her entire life, she says, but now they have taken on a different meaning. Part of it is because she can follow along better: “The prayers and activities are meaningful because our rabbi explains everything. He brings in the relevance of Judaism today.”

Preparing for Yom Kippur

Chabad centers around the world are gearing up for the next big round of services on Yom Kippur. They are ready to welcome new guests of all ages, along with regular worshippers.

Many men and women have found that Chabad has connected them to their heritage in new and interesting ways, helping them enhance the Jewish experiences they have at High Holiday services and during the rest of the year.

Marcy Lawton and her son Ryan, for example, attend Chabad @ Flamingo in Ontario, led by Rabbi Mendel and Faygie Kaplan. They got involved after Ryan started taking classes through the Jewish Russian Community Centre, offered after the end of his official school day.

“He got very excited about Judaism and learning,” she recalls. So for the last handful of years, they have studied together. They discovered video classes on the Chabad.org web site and found that they lived just around the corner from where the classes were being taught.

“We started going and a couple of months later, my son decided to put a kippah on and having only kosher food in the house,” says Lawton. And with the help of Chabad rabbis, Ryan went on to attend a yeshivah.

They never expected Chabad to become such a big part of their lives, acknowledges Lawton.

“We just thought we were learning,” she says. And they were—Chabad has been a place for them to learn about Judaism, mitzvot, their heritage and themselves.

But it became much more than that. They spent their first High Holiday services there in 2011, and “we felt like we were really part of the experience. It's not just that we go because of the holidays. We want to be there; we understand why we’re there. It has a lot meaning for us.”

‘Living a More Meaningful Life’

More than a decade ago, Marci Spiro and her husband, Scott, made a decision they say changed their Jewish experiences—and their lives—for the better. The couple from Woodcliff Lake, N.J., switched from their synagogue to the Valley Chabad, under the co-direction of Rabbi Dov and Hindy Drizin. “We couldn’t put our finger on it, but we felt something was missing” at their former house of worship, she says.

It all started when her husband, who worked in New York’s Empire State building, met some young men who wanted him to put on tefillin. They would visit him weekly at his office, which eventually led to his attending classes at the Valley Chabad in Woodcliff Lake.

“The rabbi warmly invited him to come for Shabbat services,” says Marci Spiro. It went on from there, and soon they were both going back for more.

“It scratched an itch,” she says, talking about the rabbi’s sermons, and eventually, the path that Chabad involvement led them down. They became shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant), began to keep kosher and enrolled their children in Jewish day schools.

“We’re living a more meaningful life because Chabad came along,” says Spiro.

Today, she sees life through a whole new lens. Chabad has become her community. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” she says.

From the service to the women’s culture, things are different, she says, but in a way that she has come to appreciate. “I feel like I have a more authentic experience going to Chabad because the people who are doing it are living it—it’s something they internalize 365 days a year. When you’re with them, you want it, too.”