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Ridesharing to retain the High Holy Days spirit

The High Holy Days are a time for prayer, relaxed introspection and focusing on peace and gratitude, but in a city known for its seemingly endless traffic, none of that comes easy.
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September 28, 2016

The High Holy Days are a time for prayer, relaxed introspection and focusing on peace and gratitude, but in a city known for its seemingly endless traffic, none of that comes easy.

To help congregants beat the busy streets of Los Angeles — and the equally congested parking lots of their shuls at this time of year — some local synagogues have turned to ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber.

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH), and Wilshire Boulevard Temple are among those that have arranged for members to receive discounts on rides during the High Holy Days.

“We want to be modern and go with the times and what our congregation is moving toward,” said Elana Vorspan, director of marketing and communications for VBS, a Conservative congregation in Encino.

Vorspan decided to team up with Uber with the help of a board member’s son who drives for the company. She worked with the ride service to create a special code for first-time Uber users to get up to $15 off their first ride using the company’s app; returning users can receive up to a $5 discount if they are one of the first 100 requests. 

With remodeling work going on at the synagogue and the handicap parking lot closed, the idea was to offer congregants a faster and more convenient option. 

“We are trying to meet the needs of people around us. We want to take that stress out of getting here,” Vorspan said. 

TIOH is attempting something similar with Lyft due to its location on Hollywood Boulevard in a neighborhood where traffic and parking can be particularly challenging. 

“It’s an experiment, first of all. We are parking-challenged,” said William Shpall, the Reform synagogue’s executive director. 

For each holy day, there is a special code for up to a $20 credit to use in order to get to and from the temple. 

“We have no preconceptions or illusions. If it works, it’s a great new model for us and if it’s not, we’ll go back to the drawing board,” Shpall said. “It’s socially responsible behavior and it’s to relieve parking pressure for our congregants.”

Both synagogues admit the model is a test to see if their congregants are drawn to not only the deal but the concept of the ridesharing service overall. 

Wilshire Boulevard Temple poked fun at parking troubles with a “Carpool Clergy-oke”

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