One of the most powerful aspects of living in Israel for a significant amount of time is fully experiencing the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. The Israeli week is centered around Shabbat. Sunday, instead of being part of the weekend, is the first day of the week, with businesses and schools open regular hours.
For most businesses and schools, Friday is a half day. In some places, including Jerusalem, stores usually close three hours prior to Shabbat. Supermarkets are much more crowded on Thursdays and Friday mornings and they will run out of many of the items you may need for Shabbat, including challot. Most stores will close 2-3 hours before Shabbat ends. In the winter, this means some stores close as early as 1:30pm. Some stores and restaurants will re-open on Saturday night. Municipal bus services shut down about an hour or two before Shabbat begins and will resume one hour after Shabbat. See “Transportation” below.
In Jerusalem, a siren will sound at candle lighting time. (Unlike most cities that have a custom of candle lighting 18 minutes before sunset, the established custom in Jerusalem is 40 minutes before sunset.)
Shabbat meals are an excellent way to get to know fellow students and people across the community in Jerusalem. Don’t wait to be hosted -- take the initiative to invite. Furthermore, it is acceptable to ask someone what they are doing for Shabbat and to ask if you can join. Shabbat dinner usually happens after services, which can be very late in the summer or very early in the winter. Shabbat evening services typically begin 20-30 minutes after sunset. Shabbat morning services typically begin later at Progressive synagogues (9:00am) than at Orthodox synagogues (8:00am or 8:30am). Unlike synagogue’s in the United States, many complete services by 11 or 11:30 and do not have large meals at the synagogue. Rather, people often host Shabbat lunch in their homes.
Kol HaNeshama, Asher 1
This is a pretty standard Reform synagogue with an Israeli twist. Services are primarily in Hebrew with some English.
Kehilat HarEl, Shmuel HaNagid 16
The oldest Reform syangogue in Jerusalem, services are in both English and Hebrew. This is a more “classical Reform” synagogue.
HUC Synagogue, 13 King David
You will be making up this community!
Mevakshei Derech, 22 Shay Agnon Street
This is a reform synagogue in the San Simon neighborhood with many young Israeli and english-speaking families.
Mayanot, 11 Israel Edad Street.
This is a standard conservative synagogue in the Talpiyot neighborhood.
Moreshet Yisrael, 4 Agron Street
Thus is as close to an American Conservative synagogue as you will find in Jerusalem. Services are often in English.
Nava Tehila, Asher 1
Nava Tehila meets monthly for Kabbalat Shabbat. See their website for details. They welcome people of diverse backgrounds who wish to experience various expressions of spiritual life with a Jewish flavor. HUC students often play musical instruments in their monthly Kabbalat shabbat services.
Sod Siach, 10 Kaf Tet Benovember
This egalitarian, traditional minyan meets every Saturday morning at 9am and hosts Friday night community dinner and davening once a month at various homes. Check out their Facebook page for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on their mailing list.
An “Eretzyisraeli” community, Tzion is an egalitarian davening experience that mixes Sephardic and Ashkenazi nusach and also adds specific Israeli flavors in an effort to help families create new Israeli nusach. Check their website for Kabbalat Shabbat times. They meet twice a month for Shabbat morning services.
Meets for Kabbalat Shabbat in various apartments in Rehaiva.
*Note that all of these minyanim will have Mehitzas separating men and women. There is a lot of variety among Orthodox synagogues in Jerusalem and below you can see the differences offered by each community. Jerusalem, and particularly South Jerusalem, have a greater variety of synagogues than anywhere else in the world. Many HUC students find that it is worthwhile to take advantage of that in your time in Jerusalem, even if that means pushing your comfort zone.
Partnership Minyanim - These minyanim include women participating in service and require a minyan of both 10 men and 10 women before beginning.
Shira Hadasha, Emek Refaim 12 in the ICCC building.
Located in the German colony, this community is committed to halakha, tefilla and feminism. Both men and women are included in leadership and ritual participation, including Torah reading and leading services. Friday night services begin twenty minutes after candle-lighting time and at 6:45pm in the summer. Shabbat morning services begin at 8:30am. This is the original partnership minyan in Jerusalem and has paved the way for many others.
Shabbat BaBoker, 10 Ibn Gavriol, in Beit Prat
The minyan typically meets at 9:30am on Shabbat morning. It is a young group with a trihitza and men and women split leading various aspects of Tefilla.
Hakhel, 3 Zevulun Street, Baka
This partnership minyan includes a mechitza although women participate in every aspect of the service. Kabbalat Shabbat is 30 minutes after candlelighting and the morning begins at 9am.
Traditional Modern Orthodox with Mehitza
Shir Hadash, Ohel Nechama, Chopin Street 3.
Announcements and drashot are in English. Traditional modern orthodox shul geared to English speakers. Begins 20 minutes after sundown on Friday night and at 8:45am on Shabbat morning.
Yakar, HaLamed Hei Street, 10.
There are two minyanim: the upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs is a side-to-side mechitza and downstairs is a front-back mechitza. The service has a lot of spirit and energy. Many attendees are english speakers although the dvar torah is in Hebrew. Services start 15 minutes after candle lighting and 8:30am.
Great Synagogue, King George 56
A popular tourist spot. This is a large and beautiful synagogue where you can find various visiting leaders of the orthodox Jewish world and also Israeli politicians. Sometimes it has a choir. Women sit in a balcony upstairs. Services begin at 9am on Shabbat morning.
Yemin Moshe, Pele Yoetz Street 2.
Traditional orthodox minyan with Israelis and english speakers. Services begin at 8:30am and they have a nice kiddush and a beautiful view of the Old City.
Italian Synagogue, Hillel 25
An orthodox, Italian sephardic shul in the city center. Women sit in a balcony. The building is known for its stunning rococo architecture.
Nitzanim, 3 Asher
Very standard orthodox davening in Baka. Shabbat services begin at 8:30am.
Ramban, 4 Amatzya
Very quick, traditional davening experience. Shabbat morning begins at 8:30am.
Yedidya, 12 Nahum Lifschitz
Progressive orthodox shul with no rabbi. Women often give the Dvar Torah, in Hebrew. Services begin 5 minutes after candle lighting on Friday night, 8:30am on Shabbat morning. On Shabbat afternoons, they have an English shiyur with snacks between Mincha and Maariv.
Mizmor L’david, Nahum Shadmi 2
This orthodox synaoguge davens with nusach sefard and has a lively Kabbalat Shabbat with spirited participation. The dvar Torah is given in Hebew.
Kol Rina, Be’er Sheva Street, 26.
The Nahla’ot community shul, there is a lot of singing and dancing.
There are various Mikvaot around Nahalot, for men, for women and for dishes. You can consult https://www.mikvah.org/directory/index.asp for various mikvaot. In each neighborhood, there should be a community-based, donation suggested Mikveh Kelim for kashering any dishes. For men’s and women’s mikvah, there will usually be a small fee and at busy times (e.g. before Yom Kippur, on Friday) it is worthwhile to call and make an appointment.
Note that books imported from overseas will include an import tax. On the other hand, Judaica books published by Koren or Mosad HaRav Kook are often much cheaper in Israel. At some point, each campus will provide a list of books that it is recommended you purchase in Israel and ship to the US. Students who have ignored this list in the past have regretted it! Additionally, the library at HUC has many books available for loan, so it is encouraged not to bring too many books with you to Jerusalem.
Pomeranz - Rehov Be’eri 5 (off of King George Street and Hillel). He will offer a discount to HUC students!
Koren Publishers - General Pierre Koenig 33, 3rd floor. This is often the cheapest option as you can purchase directly from Koren. Near the Hadar Mall.
Manny’s Bookstore* - Havakuk 2, in Mea Shearim. This is the only bookstore in Mea Shearim that sells both secular books and religious books. They have plenty of options and it is good to support as many residents of Mea Shearim do not like that it sells secular books as well.
Merkaz HaSefer* - Off Rehov Strauss opposite of Angel’s Bakery.
Or HaTzafon* - Rehov Mea Shearim. Has a big selection of books and good prices. Make a right on Mea Shearim from Rehov Strauss and you will see it on the left-hand side of the street.
*Note that in religious neighborhoods, modest dress is advised.
Steimatsky - This is the main bookstore of Israel. There is one at Mamila Mall, 39 Yaffo, 7 Ben Yehuda and 9 King George. They offer a wide selection of books in both Hebrew and English.
Akademon - The bookstore at the Hebrew University.
Rehavia Books - Azza 34, has a mix of English and Hebrew titles.
Sefer v’Sefel - 2 Yavetz Street in the City Center. New and used English books.
In every neighborhood, there are little stands that invite people to leave and take books as they wish, in any language. There is one along the Derekh HaRekevet in Baka.
There are so many Judaica gift shops around Jerusalem. You can find nice gifts on Yaffo Street, at Mamila Mall, Hadar Mall, in the Shuk, in the Cardo of the Old City, and more.
A few of the best…
Yad LaKashish - High quality and religious articles handcrafted by Jerusalem’s elderly poor. Located at Safra square downtown, 14 Shivtei Israel Street.
The Emanuel Factory - Hand-made Judaica at discount prices. 6 Yad Harutzim Street. 02-671-9471.
The Soferet - A female Soferet who will make tefillin.
HaSofer - For Tefillin and various other Judaica goods. https://www.hasofer.com/. Located on Rehov Strauss on the way toward Mea Shearim. Tefillin typically run around $525, but are cheapest to purchase in Jerusalem.
Gabrieli - Yoel Moshe Solomon 6. Gabrieli has hand designed talitot for many HUC students over the year. They are very expensive but stunning Talitot. You can also purchase pre-made talitot for cheaper.