From TBA President Laura EJ Rose
Shabbat asks for us to take just a moment to breathe deep, to slow down, to stop and reflect on the joys and challenges of the past six days.
Not everyone comes every week to Friday night services or to Saturday morning Torah Study. If you do, that’s great, keep coming! Most of us do not. Getting everything done in a 24-hour period seems impossible. After working, driving my own “Mom’s Uber Service,” attending Board meetings, and organizing events for schools and teams, who has the time to bake a challah or light Shabbat candles? I do. Well maybe not the baking part, and frankly my house might burn down while I’m making the next shuttle run for my teenage boys! What I mean to say is that, even in the smallest way, I believe that we can all find the spirit of Shabbat at the end of a very full week.
I was inspired on the recent Friday nights that I’ve been fortunate enough to carve out an hour or two to celebrate Shabbat at Temple Beth Ami. At the beginning of each Shabbat service, Rabbi Pokras reminded the congregation that Shabbat sets a rhythm for the week. Shabbat asks for us to take just a moment to breathe deep, to slow down, to stop and reflect on the joys and challenges of the past six days. In just a few reflective seconds in the company of our community, we are able to give ourselves permission to stop and rest. No matter what happened in the week past and no matter what craziness lies ahead for the weekend, there exists a window of time (a moment, an evening, a day) to take the pressure off, and attend to our inner selves.
“Imagine, however, sitting alone during services and standing by yourself at the Oneg, either because you are visiting Beth Ami for the first time or because you are a member who doesn’t know others there,” asks longtime Temple Beth Ami member, Cathy Friedman. “One of the things that people value most about coming to synagogue is a personal connection. They want to feel that they have a place and they are needed to be in that place. They need to feel valued.” Inspired by that sentiment, Cathy and a band of caring volunteers began Temple Beth Ami’s Hospitality Initiative last month. They have formed a cadre of congregants who will serve as hosts and hostesses at Erev Shabbat services to greet people as they enter the synagogue, to approach those sitting alone in the sanctuary, to engage newcomers in conversation who seem to be alone at the oneg and to introduce them to others. The possibilities to engage others and to create a warm and welcoming environment at Erev Shabbat services are varied. With that in mind, I thought that I would use this space to share all of the different ways that our Temple clergy and volunteers have creatively made the Shabbat experience accessible to all of our congregants.
Temple Beth Ami offers a wide range of Friday night Shabbat services throughout the year. Although some services are focused to be age appropriate, everyone is welcome at all services. Hopefully, one or two might resonate with you:
1st Friday Night Service of the Month
Shabbat of Story and Song (Family Service for Grades 3-7) from 6:30–7:30pm. During this 60-minute music-filled service, a story replaces a sermon and monthly congregant birthdays are celebrated.
2nd Friday Night Service of the Month
Tot Shabbat from 6:30–7:00 pm. This is a 30-minute service of music and stories for nursery school age students and their families.
Classic Erev Shabbat from 7:30–8:45 pm. This service uses the signature music of the congregation and includes a sermon.
3rd Friday Night Service of the Month
Spirit of Shabbat is celebrated with wine and cheese from 6:00–6:30 pm, followed by services from 6:30-7:30pm. Unwind after your work-week with a glass of wine and a nosh before services. This service consists entirely of participatory music and is scheduled end early enough to have dinner or attend a TBA program.
4th Friday Night Service of the Month
Classic Erev Shabbat from 7:30–8:45 pm. For a second time each month, this service includes the signature music of the congregation and includes a sermon.
5th Friday Night Service of the Month
Primary Shabbat Services (Family Service for Grades K - 2) from 6:30 - 7:15 pm. This 45-minute service is geared toward our primary school grades and uses "Mishkan Tefillah for Young Children."
Classic Erev Shabbat from 7:30–8:45 pm. When the month includes an extra Friday night service, we celebrate again with the signature music of the congregation and a sermon.
Special Shabbat Services are scheduled several times throughout the year as well. Coffeehouse Shabbat services from 7:30–8:30 pm are followed by a Coffeehouse Oneg and Performance from 8:40–9:30 pm. Enjoy the beautiful music of secular artists in concert and delicious home-baked desserts, courtesy of the Culinary Crew. Music Infusion Shabbat services are also held several times a year. The service is infused with the music from a classical instrumentalist and a 25-minute concert is offered during the oneg. Finally, Temple Beth Ami holds three Picnic Shabbat services during the summer each year (Shabbat closest to Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day). Congregants and guests can bring a dinner (or a pre-ordered pizza), a lawn chair or beach blanket and find a spot out back in the Rova for 7:30p pm Erev Shabbat Services with the Temple Band, “The ShabbTones.”
So join me. Commit to a Friday night service once a month, or even once a quarter, but put it on your calendar. Maybe you like the idea of Torah Study, but Saturday mornings will not work for you. Be sure that you are receiving Temple Beth Ami’s “Up to the Minute” weekly newsletters on Thursday afternoons. New in 2017, Rabbi Pokras has included a link to his Weekly Torah Commentary. If you can’t attend a Friday Shabbat service or participate in a Saturday morning Torah Study, make a weekly commitment to read. Everything our Clergy and Professional Staff do revolves around encouraging congregants to embrace Jewish Life. I look forward to seeing all of you around and about the synagogue and in the community—it’s an exciting and vibrant place! And when Shabbat is over, I hope it was a wonderful experience for you.