Shabbat Kehillah- Blending Ritual and Creativity

On Saturday, November 5th Oheb Shalom will introduce a new type of Shabbat morning service that reflects an effort to grow our Shabbat community by introducing innovations in Jewish worship, including the use of musical instruments, a deeper level of congregational participation, and an interactive Torah reading with expanded discussion of the weekly portion. “Shabbat Kehillah” (meaning Shabbat of Community) will happen seven times this year and will be the only service offered at Oheb Shalom on those mornings.

The success of Shabbat Kehillah will rely on a spirit of compromise prevailing at Oheb Shalom.  Most of the year, we offer a traditional service.  In recent years, our typical congregation of daveners has been smaller and somewhat older, and consisting of people who seem to prefer a traditional service.  Those who prefer our Shabbat morning service the way it is are being asked to consider that more Oheb Shalom members would likely attend a different type of service, and therefore to compromise on the nature of our service approximately once a month.  Our hope is that on Shabbat Kehillah mornings we will have a larger congregation, a result that would be a delight to everyone present.

Here are some FAQs on Shabbat Kehillah:

  • How long will the Shabbat Kehillah service be? Shabbat Kehillah will start at 9:45 AM and run until 12:00 PM, about 2 ¼ hours.  This is approximately the same length of our traditional service.  While arriving on time would enable you to experience the fullness of the service, coming at any point in the morning will be worthwhile.  Don’t forget to leave time for the congregational Kiddush after the service!
  • How is Shabbat Kehillah different from last year’s “Kehillah Minyan?” While the two are similar in style (use of guitar, singing, an interactive Torah discussion, a specially designed prayer book), unlike last year Shabbat Kehillah will be the only service that meets at Oheb Shalom on those mornings.
  • Can children attend Shabbat Kehillah? Yes!  In fact, Shabbat Kehillah is a wonderful opportunity for kids to come to shul with their parents and enjoy the morning together.
  • How will Shabbat Kehillah be “non-traditional?” We will recite a liturgy that is further edited from what is presented in our regular prayer book.  Also, while we read the Torah per the Triennial Cycle (reading a third of each weekly Torah portion each Shabbat and completing the reading of the entire Torah in three years), on Shabbat Kehillah mornings we may not read the assigned Triennial portion, instead reading verses that are more conducive to discussion.  And depending on content, we may not read the full Haftarah (selection from the prophets).
  • Shabbat Kehillah is a “non-traditonal” service. Are we still a Conservative synagogue if that’s how we worship?  Conservative Judaism, being a centrist movement, is a big tent under which many Jewish experiences can comfortably nest.  We are guided by Halakha (Jewish law), which is interpreted for each congregation by its rabbi.  We are free to experiment with Jewish worship practices and still consider ourselves Conservative.  In fact, the Jewish Theological Seminary has recently inaugurated the Block-Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts, headed by Rabbi Jan Uhrbach (who has taught at Oheb Shalom numerous times) and devoted to developing innovative ways to worship.  Reflecting on the work of the center, Chancellor Arnold Eisen said “Finding the spiritual place within ourselves blends ritual and creativity.” That is precisely what we will be doing here at Oheb Shalom—blending ritual with creativity.

Shabbat Kehillah will be an uplifting, invigorating and meaningful experience of Shabbat worship.  Join us on November 5th and add your voice and your spirit to that of other members who will blend together to discover the best of Jewish worship.

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