Grassroots and Moishe House do Simchat Torah!

Come and help us celebrate the Jewish love affair with the Torah by dancing up a storm at our Simchat Torah evening event on Thursday evening, 26 September, 7.30pm.

To mark the completion of one annual cycle of Torah reading and the start of the next, we’ll be expanding the evening service by doing the traditional dancing and processing with a Torah scroll seven times, round the Moishe House, and then reading the final verses of the Torah.

Let us know if you’d like one of the five call-ups involved: they’re open to men and women, and all you need to do is read the blessings before and after the reading — plenty of help available if it’s your first time! We’d also like to introduce a personal element by inviting you to say a few words about what the Torah means to you — do let us know if you’re interested, or just be inspired on the night!

Warning: Sweets will be provided to be thrown, as is traditional on Simchat Torah. Protective head gear may be necessary.

A pot luck dinner will be served after the dancing and celebrations so please bring a vegetarian dish or an alcoholic (or non-alcoholic!) beverage. Just let us know what you’re bringing so we don’t end up with 30 pasta salads, and if you’d like to bring this in advance. For all details, to book your call-up (aliyah), and log your food, please be in touch here.

Please see below for audio recordings of the Torah portions of Simchat Torah, sung by Moshe Haschel.

For more information about Grassroots Leyning, including our new instructional video, please see here.

1: Deuteronomy 33:1-7

2: Deuteronomy 33:8-12

3: Deuteronomy 33:13-17

4: Deuteronomy 33:18-21

5: Deuteronomy 33:22-26

6: Deuteronomy 33:27-34:12

7: Genesis 1:1-2:3

Maftir: Numbers 29:35-30:1

To download each of the recordings, please right-click and save:


Feedback Time: Tell us about your GRJ Experience

Thank you to everyone who chose to share the High Holy Days with Grassroots Jews. We enjoyed singing, praying, feasting, fasting, learning and meditating with this special community.

It’s time to tell us about your experience of GRJ 2013 – what made it great, and how it can be even better next year. Please take 15 minutes to complete our survey to help us plan for future GRJ events.

Thank you and blessings,

Hannah & Debbie

GRJ Co-ordinators 2013

Joel Stanley: High Holy Days GRJ Style

Check out Joel Stanley’s article on the Schusterman Foundation blog exploring what makes GRJ unique. A great reflection of “the journey so far” for Grassroots first-timers and many-timers alike.

We’d also like to say a big-up to Moishe House for being such great hosts. It ain’t easy having 200+ people treat your home as their own. Thanks for your hospitality, patience and belief in the project. You are ace.

Responding to the Call of the Shofar

Shofar Paradise


Dear Grassroots Folk,

We are writing to you as GRJ Co-ordinators to let you know about an important process we have been through as a community in the past few weeks. This year, following a general call-out for volunteers to blow the shofar, it so happened that a woman volunteered. This led us to explore the interface between our egalitarian values and commitment to halacha, and come to a decision in a very short amount of time.

The discussions that ensued have cut to the very heart of who we are as a community. We are moved and honoured to have witnessed the graciousness with which community members approached this delicate question. Yes, there have been a wide spectrum of opinion, views and feelings at play here, but every person who has contributed has sincerely considered the views of others and tried to stand in their shoes. No storming out, no silent treatment, no aggressive emails – this community recognises that its survival is dependent on effective and sensitive communication. This is particularly impressive when it feels like our values and our spiritual engagement are under the microscope. For some people this discussion has had personal implication and they have faced it with courage, grace and patience. Special thanks are due to them.

On each day of Rosh Hashana 100 blasts are blown. Our decision this year is for a man to blow the  first 60 blasts, and a woman to blow the last 40 blasts. 

Our intention at this time is for a supplementary 40 blasts to be blown by a man as part of Pesukei deZimra. Please arrive at 8.30 am if you wish to hear these. If anything changes we will communicate this prior to Rosh Hashana.

Since this decision had to be made in the shortness of time, we clearly state that this is a Pilot not a Precedent or a Position. It is simply the practical decision we have arrived at for this year. Accompanying this decision, we are also committing to inviting the community to further study and dialogue in the coming months. On this and other issues relating to GRJ’s approaches to halacha and egalitarianism. Please join us for these!

We anticipate that further learning and discussion may yield a different practical outcome for future years. 

To paraphrase a much longer and more complex discussion…

The mitzvah of shofar is to hear the blasts. Therefore the person blowing is fulfilling the mitzvah for all those who are hearing it. The issue of gender in halacha is that according to the Mishna, shofar is one of the mitzvot that women can do, but are not obligated to fulfil as a mitzvah. It is of note that in orthodox communities, it is a very strong custom that women listen to shofar, even though they are not fulfilling a technical halachic requirement. According to the Code of Jewish Law (Shulkhan Arukh, OC 589), as a consequence of their exemption, women are then unable to blow for men to hear, but can blow for women to hear, because the person blowing needs to have the same “obligation status” as those listening.

By contrast, in progressive communities women blow shofar, as do men, in line with their egalitarian approach to Jewish practice, where adults are equally obligated, irrespective of gender.

Many of our community members turned to rabbis and texts to learn more about the shofar blasts of Rosh Hashana. It emerged that the “status” of the blasts can be divided into three categories. The first thirty blasts are considered d’oraita, that is biblically mandated. The second thirty blasts are considered d’rabbanan, as a result of rabbinic legislation.

The final forty are (to cut a long story short) considered either rabbinic law, or minhag, part of custom – which means they are still an essential part of the service, but carry a different legal status.

In line with consultations with community members, teachers and rabbis, we agreed that a woman will sound these final 40 blasts. In doing this we are honouring our commitment to halacha, and promoting the value of egalitarianism – as we do by inviting women to be Gabbaim, to lead services and read from the Torah.

Our rationale for having 40 blasts blown by a man at Pesukei Dzimra is so that those wishing to hear all 100 blasts blown by a man will be able to do so by arriving for this part of the service. They will complete their obligation to hear Shofar at Musaf with the next 60 blasts also blown by a man.  

We recognise that this solution is a piecemeal one. To those keen to maintain the halachic framework, it may seem rushed and not sufficiently robust. To those from progressive communities where egalitarianism is well established, it may seem to compromise on the dignity of the community. We reiterate: This is a decision because the time came to make a decision, not because the debate came to a close. This is a Pilot, not a Precedent or a Position.

We propose the following commitments  to accompany this decision, to ensure that it is seen as part of a process rather than a final product:

1) To communicate this decision, its implications and the expected follow-up discussions to the whole community via blog post on the website, a MailChimp email and verbal and written explanations on the day.

2) To find the best ways to continue studying and discussing this issue in greater depth in the new year

3) To invite anyone to email reflections to us for consideration after the festivals, which can feed into the discussions above.

 Above all, as Co-ordinators we feel blessed and honoured to serve a community that recognises that being together is what facilitates our spiritual engagement. Keeping everyone in the tent sometimes involves rearranging the mental and spiritual furniture to create enough space. As we write, the Grassroots Ohel is being prepared for our High Holy Days experience. We look forward to seeing you there, and throughout the coming year.


With sweet
wishes for the new year,

Debbie & Hannah


Evening Meals for Rosh Hashana

An additional opportunity brought to you by two fab volunteers from the GRJ Community…

“Are you free for second night Rosh Hashana dinner- that’s Thursday eve? Would you like to share food and good discussion with fellow Grassroots Jews?

We are facilitating a pot luck meal at Moishe house for anyone who wants to join. 

To confirm your place and find out what to bring please email:

Please mention any dietary requirements in your email.

Look forward to seeing you then,
Shana Tova,

Anick and Sian”