Beginning in January, we’re going to try an experiment. We know that some people have stopped attending our twice a month Shabbat dinners (at Family services and Synaplex Shabbat Alive services) because of the cost. While many continue to come, in large numbers, to services, some hesitate to come to Shabbat dinners. We want to provide a fuller Shabbat experience and, therefore, we’re lowering the cost of our Family Shabbat dinners to ZERO!
They’re free, thanks to an anonymous grant from a most generous University Synagogue member family. When the grant runs out, we’ll either seek additional funds from someone, offer potluck dinners or raise the price to only $5 per person. WE WANT YOU! and we don’t want finances to get in the way. We’re a community and we want to be inclusive. It’s an experiment and only you can make it work by signing up for each Family Shabbat dinner by the Tuesday before. (That means RSVP by January 15 for our Friday, January 18 Family service on the theme of “Judaism, Justice And Freedom” in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday weekend.) Future Family service dates are February 8, March 15, April 19, May 10 and June 14.
How about Synaplex Shabbat? We’ve also dropped the Shabbat dinner cost from $18 to $10 per person and $6 per child. Once again, we don’t want finances to be an obstacle to sharing Shabbat dinner.
Anyone who attended our December Family services and Shabbat Alive services knows that we had a huge number of people. (In fact, for Pacific Symphony conductor Carl St. Clair, we literally “filled the house” with over 400 people and his remarks were unforgettable! We also appreciated his lovely words about our services and his respect for Judaism.) But our numbers for dinner that night were only about 60 people.
One more change as part of this experiment. For the next few months, our students will help lead the singing at Family services, rather than at Synaplex Shabbat. Cantor Braier will continue to teach them songs and liturgy and we hope that parents will support our efforts by bringing their children on those nights and kvelling as they see their children perform.
On Synaplex nights, all children in attendance will be called up to the bima for a pulpit honor, such as singing the candle blessing or opening the Ark and singing Barchu, and birthdays will be celebrated at both Family services and Shabbat Alive. Now, it’s up to you. We’re offering Shabbat dinners that are “free and cheap” and a Jewish experience that’s “priceless.”
We welcome your active involvement in the life of our inclusive congregation. Best wishes for the New Year.
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis