On holiest day, hundreds of Jews flocked to cinema

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The spiritual leader, himself an emigre from Ukraine, said a total of nearly 800 people showed up for at least part of the 24-hour period of fasting, prayer and repentance at the Richmond District theater.

"This is the holiest day of the year for Jews," added Margolin, who heads the Techiah Foundation. "Those who speak Russian want to celebrate it, too, many of them for the first time."

Josef Kristul, an emigre mortgage banker, agreed.

"We came to this country to live as Jews and reconnect ourselves to our roots," he said. "Our dream came true. We would never imagine praying so openly and safely in the former Soviet Union or present Russia."

With the help of the emigre community, Techiah purchased 600 prayerbooks with Russian translation and prepared a "how-to" guide for the High Holy Days.

The foundation, which means "renewal" in Hebrew, came into existence in early 1998 when eight young Orthodox Jewish emigres got together. Their focus was low-income emigres, particularly where there was a language barrier.

During Passover that year, the foundation sold thousands of pounds of matzah. Its 20-page newspaper, the San Francisco Jewish Gazette, offers assistance to emigres through educational, religious and social services.

The group also has made the text of the Torah available in Russian. It has distributed mezuzot and chanukiot, and it provides job referrals and a translating service.

Margolin's TV show "Heritage" debuted in July. It airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on San Francisco public-access cable station, Channel 53.

Margolin, who came to San Francisco five years ago from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, said he next plans a Web site for Gen-Xers. He also hopes to make available summer camps, after-school care and musical concerts.