Rosh Hashana images by Elliot Tucker…
Being barely religious and rarely interested in matters of the spirit, I’m not an obvious contender for involvement in something such as Grassroots Jews. Some of my non-Jewish friends identify me as a cultural Jew and it is true that I mainly avoid synagogue and on the rare occasion I am obliged to go, I will sit, hiding my paperback inside a Siddur, studiously ignoring the prayers around me…
Grassroots has found something of a rootless person to come in and help make this year’s Yamim Noraim days we will always remember, hopefully le-tovah!
These past few years, in addition to my day job as a professor of Jewish history at the University of Haifa, I’ve been able to spend the High Holidays in some very interesting places, in the most diverse religious contexts. After years of leading traditional services up in Klil, something of an artist colony in the Upper Galilee, I accepted an invitation three years ago to doven at Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland, Oregon (more or less “Reconstructionist”). Two years ago, I served as the cantor for Reform services at Stanford University. And last year, I led the Leader Minyan, Jerusalem’s original orthopractic Carlebach minyan that created the model later popularized by Shira Hadasha. It has been my project and challenge to distill what is most meaningful to me in the dovening within the very different preexisting frameworks of each of these institutions.
What is particularly exciting (and daunting) about this year’s holidays is that there is no preexisting framework. It has already been “interesting” to observe—and, eventually, to join—the deliberations over just how this journey together through the days of awe will be. One thing is clear: we can and are doing a lot of planning, but we really have no idea how it’s all going to turn out. I do hope that at the very least all involved will appreciate the profound good-will, thought, care, and hard work that has gone in to making it happen, especially at the inevitable difficult moment along the way.
Wooo, the month of Ellul is upon us.
Several of us have just come back from Limmudfest, a magical weekend of learning and inspiration in the stunning Peak District. As I was out running one morning, I heard the call of the shofar from the encampment down in the valley below and thought: how important it is to take care of both ruchniut (spirituality) and gashmiut (physicality) at the same time.
On that note, I am moved, excited and not a little humbled by the response I’ve had to two requests I’ve made this week: firstly, the eager readiness with which my rather traditional father agreed to teach me to leyn my very first haftarah; and the open-hearted generosity of those who have come forward to offer accommodation to people who are coming from further afield.
We want to nourish and support both your souls and your selves. We’re currently working hard to ensure that anyone who wants to join us has somewhere to rest their weary but happy heads, and somewhere to refuel and restore their hungry but energised bodies.
If you live within walking distance of our beautiful venues in NW3 and can offer bed/sofa/floorspace at all, and/or have room at your table, do get in touch.
(together with Jemma, Ethan and the hospitality team)
PS: Oh, and do get your ticket now – did I mention Ellul is upon us?