Introduction to judaism
The heart of Beth Shir Shalom is seen in the ways we experience our Jewish heritage: inside the shul and outside, individually and with our families, with exuberance and with introspection. Our Friday nights, our Saturday mornings, our holidays and Holy Days are celebrated in prayer, contemplation, commentary, fellowship, joy and, of course, song—the “shir” in “Beth Shir Shalom.” This perspective follows from weekly programming to annual observations to singular life events and, hopefully, carries our members a little more peacefully—and joyfully— into the world.
Shabbat at Beth Shir Shalom is indeed a celebration, and no Shabbat is “regular.” Our goal is a safe and welcoming atmosphere for people of all backgrounds and perspectives. Shabbat evening begins, ends and is constantly woven together by our homegrown melodies and our own Siddur (prayer book), which interlaces contemporary expressions, traditional prayers and an ever‐expanding library of music and song, which we all sing in a relaxed and accessible atmosphere.
We offer Shabbat services every Friday evening. Once a month, we have a special family service, in which our younger members can participate more easily. During the school year, many of our classrooms take part in these Friday nights. During the summer, we move our services outside, to our gan (garden) to celebrate Shabbat’s arrival. And, of course, there are always special evenings: ice cream Shabbat and coffee house Shabbat, to name a few. Watch your Koleynu!
On Saturday mornings, there is Torah Study each week of the year. You can expect a lively discussion of the parasha (weekly Torah portion), all in English, that promises new insights, cookies and friends!
Most especially, on those Saturdays when one of our young adults becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the entire community is invited as the new adult member of our congregation leads us in prayer. These special celebrations can sometimes take place in the late afternoon (check your Koleynu). It is always lovely for our young people to see the many smiling faces of those who knew them way back when.
High Holy Days
Beth Shir Shalom celebrates the High Holy Days each year with new and traditional prayers and innovative music offered by Rabbi Neil, our Choir and our many talented Beth Shir Shalom musicians. These creative, beautiful, intimate and inspirational gatherings often draw visitors to become members.
On these days, we move our Beth Shir Shalom spirit to Barnum Hall, a beautifully refurbished art‐deco hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School. As handsome as it is, by Erev Rosh HaShanah we will have transformed it into a warm, contemplative space in which to welcome the year. As always, no special prayer books are needed.
As with all Beth Shir Shalom events, we encourage everyone to come. We provide pre‐registered childcare to enable young parents to be there as well.
Erev Rosh Hashanah is our first opportunity to see what kind of experience the clergy and committees have prepared for us. Each year is slightly different. Evening services are for adults.
Then, on Rosh Hashanah morning, we hold services for community members of all age groups, adults, young people and children, so that each can find a way to celebrate. We teach our children about the “birthday of the world,” and for adults, use this time create the atmosphere of introspection and thought that will follow during the next days. After the final the children’s service, we complete the day with a community walk to the beach for a gorgeous (and fun) Tashlich.
Kol Nidre is perhaps the most beautiful and awesome service of the year and always the most-well attended. It is then followed by a day of introspection.
Services for adults and youth take place in the morning, and the children’s service is in the afternoon. During the break between adult morning and afternoon services, there are opportunities for discussions and also special presentations. The day ends with Ne’ilah/Yizkor.
As always, childcare is available so that we may all experience this day from the first intonation of the morning prayer through Ne’ilah.
Hard upon the heels of the High Holy Days come Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Beth Shir Shalom is full of events during this period, especially for families: sukkah building and the unfurling and re‐rolling of the Torah to name two.
We also have a special family celebration of Chanukah and the very, very special ways of celebrating Purim. Beth Shir Shalom marks all Jewish holidays, some celebratory, like Tu B‐Shevat, some full of study like Shavuot, others somber, like Tisha B’Av. We incorporate the traditional with the contemporary and the creative with the cerebral, always keeping the practical realities of modern life in mind to keep our celebrations accessible and meaningful.