What is a Havurah?
Havurah (literally: fellowship) is a Jewish community in which all participants join together to create authentic and meaningful Jewish experience. Popularized by independent communities in the mid 1960s, there are havurah communities all over. A havurah is typically (though not always) community driven, egalitarian, participatory, accessible, and a community that strives to be more than a place merely for prayer. Shir HaMaalot was founded by active participants in the National Havurah Committee (NHC), a network of diverse individuals and communities dedicated to Jewish living and learning, community building, and tikkun olam (social justice), and many Shir HaMaalot participants attend the NHC Summer Institute and regional retreats.
What if I don't know Hebrew?
No problem! While Shir HaMaalot's Friday night services are sung in Hebrew, our prayer book offers both phonetic transliteration and translation in order to follow along. The Dvar Torah, or sermon, is always in English. Participants can sing along, pray at their own pace, or quietly do their own thing during services.
What do I have to bring?
Yourself. Your voice. A delicious entree or dessert for our 150-person multi-table potluck.
What type of food is there?
The potluck is divided into three sections to accommodate as many dietary needs as possible:
How Formal is Shir HaMaalot?
Come as you are. Many participants arrive in what they wore to work, some put on suits, and still others arrive in jeans or flowy dresses. Dress as you would feel comfortable for services and dinner on a Friday night. You'll fit in just fine. Please feel welcome however you are. If you have little ones, they are welcome too, although there is no childrens' programming or childcare service.
How Religious is Shir HaMaalot?
.Shir HaMaalot is a traditional egalitarian minyan which is entirely lay-led.
To break this down a little, traditional means that our songs are sung according to the Hebrew liturgy passed down from our mostly-Ashkenazic ancestors.
Egalitarian means that women, men, and non-binary folks count equally within our prayer quorum, and have full responsibility to sing out, lead, and give reflections on Torah. Our prayers and book acknowledge Judaism's founding matriarchs alongside the patriarchs. Service leadership rotates each month, based on who volunteers (you, too, can volunteer!). There is no formal cantor or rabbi. Some of our service leaders are musically inclined, so they occasionally use musical instruments.
While Shir HaMaalot meets at Union Temple, a Reform congregation, the minyan is independent and has no formal movement affiliation.
Who Organizes Shir HaMaalot?
The Shir HaMaalot Organizing Team (SHMOT) meets once a month to plan the next month’s service, coordinate events with the greater Brooklyn Jewish community, and work on various long-term projects including finance, fundraising, surveys, website maintenance, working with Union Temple, and planning non-Shabbat events. If you are interested in working on any of these long-term projects, or joining the SHMOT, please take a look at our Community page.
The SHMOT’s current members are:
Is Shir HaMaalot accessible?
Shir HaMaalot strives to be an inclusive and accessible community across various spectrums of ability and expression. Particular attention is focused on the following areas of accessibility practice:
- Social: Reusable name tags help many people feel known and to get to know others, and are available at every service. If you would like a tag with your name on it (written prior to Shabbat) please sign up on the potluck spreadsheet by noon on that Friday and one can be created for you.
- Dietary: Food for the potluck is split between vegetarian, vegan, and vegetarian dishes with a hekhsher. All participants should alert us to dishes that have nuts and/or gluten, and relevant ingredient descriptions are requested in advance for printing so all can enjoy the meal.
- Physical: Shir HaMaalot meets on the 3rd floor of an elevator-equipped building, Union Temple, at 17 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The nearest subway stops are Grand Army Plaza and Eastern Parkway on the 2/3 lines. The nearest subway stops with elevators are Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center (2/3/4/5/D/N/R/B/Q trains; 20min walk) and Franklin Ave (C train; 25min walk). There is a ramp at the Park Place Franklin Ave Shuttle stop (15min walk). Please request accessible seating as needed.
- Hearing: Shir HaMaalot asks that all sermon-givers submit double-spaced printed copies of their sermons, for distribution to our members who can best follow along by that modality. If you are looking for ASL interpretation, please make an accommodation request with at least three weeks’ advance notice.
- Identity expression: All who attend services are counted equally, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Please dress as you feel comfortable presenting and feel free to add your preferred pronouns to your name tag.
- Language: While the prayers are conducted in Hebrew, the prayer book Shir HaMaalot uses contains transliterations and translations of all prayers.
Please contact the organizing team with accommodation requests regarding the above-mentioned or other specific needs, and Shir HaMaalot will do its best to meet them.