Bereshit… In the beginning…
In 2009, a small group of volunteers involved in alternative Jewish groups (Wandering Jews, Carlebach Minyan and Moishe House London) got together to put on their own Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur services. They combined spiritually engaging and participative services with egalitarian and inclusive values. In creating an open, non-denominational space, they attracted a broad range of Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, Liberal and unaffiliated Jews to come together within the Grassroots tent.
Spiritual, Meaningful, Inclusive
GRJ provides alternative ways to connect to traditional worship, such as support for first-time Torah-readers and service-leaders, asking newcomers to make blessings, and handy reflection maps to navigate the prayers. Alongside services, Grassroots offers enrichment sessions for people to learn, meditate and share experiences around the themes of the High Holidays: celebration and renewal, forgiveness and personal growth. Artists are commissioned to transform the tent into a pop-up, dedicated prayer space, and the house into a warm communal setting ideal for learning and meditation. In short, Grassroots Jews found new ways to celebrate empowered, intentional Judaism.
A Jewish festival collective
Today, Grassroots Jews is a Jewish festival collective, celebrating key Jewish festivals throughout the year. It is continually built and rebuilt by a team of committed volunteers. Grassroots Jews are by nature creative, passionate, open-minded, deep-thinking, curious, get-up-and-doers. Through engaging with the themes of the Jewish year seriously but playfully, we bring together ancient wisdom and new insights for joy-filled Jewish growth.
Previous events have included:
Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur Festival – The headline event of the Jewish year
Simchat Torah – Singing and celebrating the wellspring of the Jewish textual tradition
PurimFest – Egalitarian Megillah reading featuring graphic novel projections and Biblio-drama
Tikkun Leil Shavuot – Learning, sharing and meditating through the night, fuelled by dairy goodies
Tisha B’Av – Reading of Lamentations and recognising the dark shadows of Jewish history
Regular Shabbat afternoon tea, with soulful Seudah singing to welcome the end of Shabbat
Coming soon: Shabbat Afternoon Torah Club
But what if I don’t know anything about Jewish festivals?
Grassroots Jews are committed to enabling access to make Jewish experiences available for everyone. We want to raise expectations of what a meaningful Jewish experience can be. We use the language and liturgy of the Jewish tradition but if you’re lost you’ll always find a GRJ team member or fellow participant who’ll be happy to explain what’s going on.
We encourage newcomers and old hands alike to play their part in welcoming each other to a Grassroots event, and value volunteerism as a way of helping people get to know each other, as well as the festival’s themes.
Want to get involved? Register to attend this year’s High Holidays, and click here to volunteer.
Below is more info on the founding groups of Grassroots. If you want Grassrootsesque stuff throughout the year then check them out!
The Carlebach Minyan
The Carlebach Minyan is a Friday night gathering in the Belsize Park/ West Hampstead (and other) areas of London. We started in 2003 as a place where people could come round to someone’s house and sing the melodies written by Shlomo Carlebach for kabbalat shabbat on Friday nights. We started it because we were inspired by Carlebach shuls we visited in Tzfat and Jerusalem. We have Friday nights about once a month, or whenever we feel like it. We recently held a 5 day Shavuot retreat in Tuscany as well as Shabbat retreats in the countryside like the recent Down to Earth Collective in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. We hold teatime salons (days where people come and give talks and workshops about lots of different things, see the most recent line up here) and are starting a new chesed project and a community sukkah.
Jonathan Boyd recently blogged about us: “I went along to the Carlebach minyan a few weeks ago, and participated in a kabbalat shabbat service that could proudly stand alongside the best of what Jerusalem or Tzfat has to offer. There were 100 or so people present, packed into a small living room, overflowing out into the garden, singing so vibrantly and passionately that the room itself was literally reverberating with excitement. This was grassroots, informal, non-ideological Judaism at its best and most vibrant.”
Wandering Jews is a self organising collective that has been celebrating Jewish stuff in London since 2005. We meet twice a month in East and West London respectively to eat and pray and drink and be. We are hosted by a new person every time and aim to “never go to the same house twice”. We also hold firm to the ideal, “your house, your rules”. A little bit Fight Club, a little bit minyan, almost 100% good. We look forward to welcoming you soon. You and your veggie food, your vegan liquor and your beautiful neshamas.
Moishe House London, in Willesden Green, was founded in October 2007. As a Moishe House it is part of a worldwide network of houses that double up as centres of grassroots Jewish community. From our own home, we bring exciting, creative, non-denominational Jewish community to London. From Friday night dinners to film showings, impromptu concerts to study sessions, meditation to jam sessions to social action events – the possibilities are endless.
The photo is Anna, Sam and Jonny at a Carlebach retreat in Suffolk.