Congregation Adat Reyim, in Springfield, has changed its Friday night Shabbat services.
Once a month, congregants at the independent synagogue host their own, specially designed Shabbat services based on proposals they submitted to Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer.
Glazer and Adat Reyim’s ritual committee selected the top five proposals they thought would make for meaningful experiences and help bring in new members.These “New Format” services will be presented on the third Friday of each month. February’s offering was “Poetry Slam Shabbat,” which substituted poems and haikus for prayers.
New Format Fridays are a one-year experiment, Glazer said. The goal is to get congregants more involved with Shabbat services by letting them incorporate their own ideas into innovative worship.
“We noticed that everything was different after the pandemic,” said Glazer. “People who used to come regularly didn’t quite feel comfortable coming back into the building. We also had new members who had joined during the pandemic, who didn’t really know other people yet. And I think there was also some social awkwardness that everyone had to break through from having been shut in and kept apart from the community for so long.”
So she proposed New Format Fridays to the synagogue’s ritual committee, and they agreed. After a period for congregants to propose their own ideas, they voted on the top five ideas.
Upcoming services include “Shabbat in Translation” on March 17, conducted entirely in English; “Women’s Voices Shabbat,” led by women; “Religious School Shabbat,” led by K-7 students and teachers from Adat Reyim Religious School; and “Enabling the Rest: Shabbat with Disabilities,” which aims to be an accessible service for congregants who are neurodiverse or have disabilities. Glazer approached a few congregants whom she knew to have creative interests or investment in certain Jewish traditions to see if they would be interested in crafting a proposal.
One of these was Russell Nadel, a congregant with an interest in Humanistic Judaism, who will be leading the Humanistic Shabbat service in June. It will focus on Humanistic Jewish principles rather than religious belief and ritual.
“I initially balked, but she persisted,” Nadel said of Glazer. “She encouraged me to give it a try, not only for myself and the potential for growth that it might provide me, but also because she believed that there would be many other congregants who would find a Humanistic Shabbat service interesting and engaging.”
Glazer also helped connect Nadel to a Humanistic rabbi for suggestions for texts and resources. “This will be my first chance to deeply explore my own Humanistic Jewish beliefs and philosophy, not alone or in a silo, but alongside other congregants, whose camaraderie and fellowship and support mean so much to me.”
“If we hadn’t brought this forward, this might never have come up,” added Glazer.“The opportunity to dabble in creating different types of services and gather data on what congregants find meaningful and will show up for was very intriguing,” said Andrea Cate, who planned Women’s Voices Shabbat along with Sariel Ende-Alonzo. “I thought about how I might participate in the effort, but it wasn’t until Rabbi Glazer reached out to me personally and we began to discuss some of my ideas that I was able to see how something I was thinking about could work. Rabbi Glazer and I have worked closely together before and she knows of my strong interest in Jewish music and prayer and my desire for more people to experience a joyful Jewish experience.”
Each of the five services will be held twice during 2023. At the end of the year, Adat Reyim congregants will decide whether they should continue New Format Friday services, and if so whether new proposals should be chosen for the following year.
“I think people have been yearning for something like this for a long time,” said Glazer. “But I think that the pandemic shook us up, and it allowed us to open things up in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before.” ■