About Our Worship
At Temple Beth El…
- Our calendar is the Jewish Calendar
- Our time is Jewish time
- Our celebrations are flavored with Jewish rituals, songs and values.
- And our most precious moments are holy moments….
God is at the center of our purpose as a Reform Jewish religious community, but we accept that God is experienced differently by each of us. Our worship community offers a variety of ways to experience that inner spark of holiness, or to connect to the larger “awe” of the universe.
Temple Beth El strives in its worship services, holiday observances and life cycle ceremonies to bring us closer to the holy. There is much of the traditional Hebrew liturgy in our Reform egalitarian prayerbook, Mishkan T’fillah, and we respect the way of life created by our ancestors. We also believe that new content and new forms of prayer are needed to lift the soul in a modern age.
The Reform prayerbook is our guide, but it is the people who pray with us who bring it alive. At Beth El prayer is not words, it is the prayer: a person who is struggling, or celebrating, or simply affirming. That is why our congregants participate during the service, and do not just sit back and listen. We sing old melodies and we try new melodies. We come up on the bimah. We light Shabbat candles. We reach out to kiss the Torah. We greet old friends warmly, and extend ourselves to newcomers.
We believe in worship that lifts the soul, stimulates the mind and bring us close to one another even as we seek the Divine Presence. Shabbat worship includes spirit-filled weekly Friday night services, monthly communal dinners, Shabbat morning worship when we warmly welcome our B’nei Mitzvah students to take their place as adults in our community, and a monthly Tot Shabbat on Saturday morning for preschoolers and their parents. High Holiday and Festival services keep us connected to the flow of the Jewish year and each holiday’s unique message for our lives, from the stirring majesty of Rosh Hashanah to the outdoor prayers beneath our communal Sukkah.
On Shabbat eve we hold a Friday night service which is our central weekly congregational worship experience. Most weeks this service takes place at 7:30 pm. Once a month we gather for congregational pot luck dinner followed by a 7pm Family Service featuring the awesome Rinat Beth El Junior Choir and class grades. Also each month we offer a special musical Shabbat service alternating a visiting musical guest artist for our ‘Shabbat Spiritual‘ or our spirited home-grown Shabbat Unplugged Band. In addition to prayers and songs, our custom is to offer healing prayers and a d’var Torah on the weekly Torah portion, relating it to our own lives. Our Sisterhood organizes an Oneg Shabbat after each service, giving us a chance to catch up with friends and connect with those attending for the first time.
While children are welcome at all worship services, once a month we have a Family Shabbat beginning with a 5:15pm Tot Shabbat service and craft project for our 2-5 year olds and their families in the Chapel. At 5:45pm all our families gather for a delicious Shabbat dinner in our social hall. The Family Service follows at 6:45pm and includes prayers, music by Rinat Beth El (our children’s choir), Torah reading, birthday blessings, a story by the Rabbi, and sometimes participation from students of our religious school. Guitar and newer melodies make this service special and joyous. Please visit the calendar of temple services for Family Shabbat dates.
Most weeks our young people celebrate becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah by leading the service and chanting Torah on Saturday mornings at a 10:30 am service. There is warmth and excitement each time a young person stands before the Ark. Relatives and close friends are given honors in the service, and the student offers a teaching about the Torah portion. Other weeks we might have a more intimate and informal service in the Chapel, including teaching about the prayers by the Rabbi. All are welcome at every Shabbat morning service.
During the summer, our Friday service time moves to 6:30pm, the service shortens, and our normal relaxed atmosphere becomes even more relaxed. We sometimes follow Kabbalat Summer service with dinner at a local restaurant, allowing an opportunity to catch up and enjoy time together. Two or three times during the summer we really go informal with our very popular ‘Prayers on the Palisades.’ We move our Kabbalat service outside to an overlook on the Palisades and the Hudson River. Our congregation and clergy are often joined by other local Reform congregations and their clergy. Bug spray and lawn chairs are a must; pets are welcome to come pray with us too!