SHABBAT AND TEFILLAH
Shabbat and Chag
A synagogue experience is not meant to be about getting the davening done and getting home. We are committed to the notion that a synagogue is the place for Jews to have a meaningful religious encounter, challenging the mind, stirring the heart, and lifting the soul. Part of this experience is also feeling the embrace and comfort of community.
We place a great emphasis on the prayer experience. It is for that reason that our services are lead by a talented chazzan, who has given thought to the ways in which he can motivate and inspire the community to songful prayer. Chazzan Yitzy Spinner incorporates Chassidic, classic and contemporary Jewish music into the tradition of nusach to create a truly beautiful and accessible tefillah.
Keeping it Real
Even as we emphasize the spirit, we are quite mindful of the people. Anyone who has experienced a Shabbat morning at the shul knows that the ambiance is friendly, and the focus is as much on the people present as the service itself. Even as we aim for “encounter”, the space is infused with a sense of camaraderie and friendship; it’s a relaxed and loving place. That’s the tone that is set and it permeates the atmosphere. It is shared from the pulpit: Rabbi Marder sets a warm tone throughout the service and his drashot often draw on our rich tradition to engage the real issues of life. And it is what it feels like in the pews.
We offer a regular “exploring service” for those who want to probe ideas related to the experience of prayer and the prayers themselves. Led by various staff members, it offers the opportunity to dig deeper, whether novice or more experienced in the siddur and tefillah.
In addition to the main service, the Hebrew Institute also runs a hashkamah minyan that meets on the 2nd and 4th Shabbatot of the secular month (on the 1st and 3rd it meets at the Young Israel of White Plains). The stated goal of this minyan is to help parents who are juggling shul obligations along with those of rearing little children the chance to start the day early (although others have also found the minyan to be a good fit for their davening tastes).
Instrumental-accompanied special tefillot
On special occasions (eg. chol hamoed, Chanukah, pre-slichot) we have sought to re-infuse the service with the beauty of musical accompaniment. The result has been a wonderful experience.
Youth on Shabbat – click here
Every Jew stood at Sinai. The implications of this simple assertion are manifold. For one, it calls on every person to be seriously engaged in both the letter and the spirit of the Torah – learning and observing, as we value the importance of Torah study and mitzvah observance. That is why we offer classes on many different levels.
The Torah is personal. Rabbi Marder once commented that he doesn’t teach Torah, he teaches people (- the Torah). That drives the study program at the Hebrew Institute, where we make the nature of the learning personal. “Zeh sefer toldot adam”—the Torah is a book that tells us about ourselves in the deepest of ways. This philosophy impacts on everything, from the choice of what we teach and learn, to the setting (many of our learning opportunities are in people’s homes) to the way in which we study (with concern for how the topic and the people connect). There is variety and there is breadth and there is human depth too.
Take a look at what is being offered right now:
HIWP Life Long Learning Classes (Adult Jewish Education)
Click here for class schedule.
One of our more exciting offerings is our “lehrhaus” program in which our own members with academic training present on topics of interest.
We provide opportunities to study on a more ad hoc basis, especially helpful for those whose schedules make it difficult to attend regular classes. This includes women’s rosh chodesh groups, men’s hachevrah groups, Shabbat study either post Kiddush (our “parshah schmooze”) or in a Chavurah.
Great Guest Scholars: Over the course of the year, we bring in some of the best minds and souls in the observant community to share their skills and wisdom with us.
WOMEN’S PRAYER AND LEARNING
Members of the Hebrew Institute organize and run a Women’s Tefillah service throughout the year, generally once a month. The services, which are conducted within a halakhic framework, include Shabbat services, and Holiday services with Women’s Hakafot on Simchat Torah and Hoshanot on Sukkot. A women’s Megillah reading is held on Purim day that attracts women from across Westchester. On Simchat Torah there is a special Torah service in which the women of the congregation receive aliyot. One highlight of the year is the Women’s Tefillah luncheon where a guest scholar is invited to speak. Many young women choose to celebrate their Bat Mitzvah at the Women’s Tefillah.
In support of Women’s Tefillah, Hebrew Institute organizes classes for women to learn to lead tefillah and to layn.
Rosh Chodesh Group
Lay leaders of the Hebrew Institute organize and lead a Rosh Chodesh Group for women. The group meets every other month. Women in the community are encouraged to present material that they have studied to the group and they can meet with study partners, lay leadership or our clergy to help them develop a presentation. The Rosh Chodesh group has also featured guest lecturers as well. Our meetings are wonderful opportunities to learn from one another, to engage in meaningful conversation about Jewish topics of interest, and to socialize in an informal setting, as we meet in members’ homes.