Building Shabbat Community

Written by Robert Braitman and Norm Kurtz, with support from the Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Educators Assembly, with a preface by JTS Chancellor Dr. Arnold Eisen, this book contains curricula for both a model learners service and for an interpretive service. Both were field tested this past year in a number of congregations.

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About the Interpretive Minyan

Twenty-forty people attended Beth Israel Congregation’s three sessions of the interpretive minyan in the fall of 2014. Participants were a mix of regulars, tired of the normal service, and those who came to adult learning programs.  We sat in a circle and made it clear that questions were encouraged and conversation was welcome. The final 20-30 minutes were devoted to a text study focusing on the importance of community, personal growth and blessings in our lives. We really enjoyed the intimate setting and have received plenty of lovely feed-back and requests to continue the pro-gram more regularly. (Rabbi Rachel Blatt, Michael Freilich, Beth Israel Congregation, Owings Mills, MD)

Jews love and cherish what has been handed down to us by our tradition, yet much of what we now cherish as traditional began as innovation. When times have changed, Judaism has changed with them, in sometimes surprising and novel ways. And when the familiar no longer registers as sacred, that very familiarity diminishes our capacity for transcendence. The psalmist urges us to new expressions of our faith, to interpret our yearning for sacred connection in new ways and in communal settings.

Our interpretive service has created connections among our members that would otherwise never have occurred, including long-time members who had not come on Shabbat. The participants learn in the context of a low-key group of friends. It is wonderful addition. (Rabbi Jeff Pivo, Congregation Beth Judea, Long Grove, IL)

And Don’t Forget the Learner’s Service

The FJMC’s Learners Minyan curriculum has met with great success at Temple Emanu-El. Participants Included past congregation presidents, current officers and board members, as well as Shabbat morning regulars, and participants in our past and current conversion classes. All appreciated the step-by-step approach examining the various segments of the service. The intimate environment of the synagogue’s library was conducive to learning and davening. The topics in the study guide stimulated enthusiastic inquiry and prompted people to ask questions that they had wondered about for years. Thank you for developing the program and for inviting us to serve as one of the pilot congregations. Congregants have already begun asking when we will continue these services! (Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Temple Emanu-El, Providence, RI)