A New "Worship Learning Lab" for Los Angeles Students

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Friday, November 19, 2010, over twenty HUC-JIR/Los Angeles rabbinical students and their significant others attended Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Israel of Hollywood.  Following services, the students had Shabbat dinner with members of the clergy of Temple Israel of Hollywood, Rabbi John Rosove and Cantor Danny Masseng.  They discussed how the Temple Israel clergy team works together to create joyful worship experiences.  This visit is the first in a new program initiated by Rabbi Dvora Weisberg, Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies and Associate Professor of Rabbinics at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles.  The program reflects Dr. Weisberg's belief that the Los Angeles area congregations can be a powerful "learning lab" for HUC-JIR students.

Rabbi Rosove stated, "Our hope in inviting the students to join us was for them to experience with us Kabbalat Shabbat and dialogue with us about how we crafted the service.  We discussed many things at the dinner following services including how to create an emotional God-centered experience.  To do this, we clergy meet every week to talk and vision together.  We told the students that music is key and must always be beautiful, emotional, uplifting, and directed from and to the heart.  We limit the spoken word in the service to very few group readings, poetry, vignette, short teachings, and a d'var Torah (short) based on the parashah.  We do most of the service in Hebrew.  We do not invite guests to speak at services as it is disruptive to the religious flow we are striving to create.  All life cycle events (baby namings, aufrufs, conversions, etc.) occur at the very beginning so that once the service commences we can move forward naturally and without breaks.  We invite guest speakers to address the congregation after services at the Shabbat dinner.  We are 4 very different clergy - 3 rabbis and a chazzan - and we shared with the students how much we cherish each other as friends and colleagues, and how we celebrate our respective differences. We talked about the mutually respectful relationship of rabbi with chazzan as a clergy team."
 
Rebecca Reice, a rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, wrote, "While I have attended services at Temple Israel of Hollywood before, this evening was different in a few ways.  First of all, the clergy team has clearly been pushing for change (evident compared to past experiences) and we had the opportunity to ask them questions about that process.  The clergy team were reflective in their responses and gave us a sense of both bigger picture they are striving toward and their personal feelings. It was wonderful to have the access to them in this way - however, at least one of their three rabbis has addressed a class or spoken at a lunch program every year since I started in LA. I have studied the TIOH day school, ECC, and religious school program.  I have learned about their staff evaluation process and the work-life balance practiced by their rabbis.  This evening was another piece of the TIOH professional picture - prayer/worship and temple culture.  It reinforced the idea of building emotional/social capital before making changes.  It was a lovely evening, we were welcomed into the community and the clergy team spoke personally and eloquently when addressing a variety of questions from students (representing all years of the rabbinic program in LA 2nd-5th).  It was a unique gathering of our student community and a special opportunity for us to spend Shabbat together, not working, but worshiping, and learning.  It was quite lovely."
 
Jake Singer-Beilin, a rabbinical and education student at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, explained, "Seeing how Temple Israel of Hollywood's services worked and came together showed me what it can look like to have t'filah that is both intentional and creative.  When I visit most synagogue services, I see the final product.  This is valuable, but it is crucial to go beyond that as a future synagogue prayer leader.  At Temple Israel of Hollywood, I was able to see not only the final product, but also hear about the process that created it and the rationale that led to it.  Knowing what that process looked like will make me more able to go through a process of creating intentional t'filot wherever I end up serving as a rabbi."
 
Their next event, scheduled for March, will be a visit to the New Emanuel Shabbat Morning Minyan at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.  Community rabbis who are alumni of the College-Institute have generously agreed to host and discuss their work with our students.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu