Synagogues Join Together at Shabbaton and Conference to Elevate Prayer
When the energy is high and ideas are flowing amongst a large gathering of people, often impactful, innovative ideas can arise. While attending the 2017 (USCJ) Large Synagogues Conference in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, leaders of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, CA, discussed the possibility of hosting its own conference that gathers kehillot (Jewish communities) from all over the country for an enriching experience.
One year later, this idea has come to fruition as Temple Beth Am and USCJ will host a Shabbaton and conference at the temple on April 13-15, titled “Kol Tefilla: Elevate Synagogue Prayer, a Shabbaton and Conference”. So far, congregants from Dallas, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Kentucky and Northern California will be in attendance at the event, which will bring to light the power of prayer and music in a Conservative synagogue, as well as provide a chance to network and receive training and tools on how to raise the quality of prayer in their congregations.
Hosting this event will serve as a point of pride and have significant importance for members of Temple Beth Am, including Rabbi Cantor Hillary Chorny. “This event is important not just for our community, but for the people who don’t necessarily have the opportunity under other circumstances to consider uprooting their kehilla from what it currently looks like and trying something different,” Rabbi Cantor Chorny says. “This is the weekend asking them to do that. It’s asking them to watch how other people are approaching their kehilla from a lot of different perspectives, which is really critical.”
One of the center points of the weekend will be on bringing communities together to take part in meaningful prayer and then workshop afterwards about the experience that was had in the process. “This will be a very immersive experience where participants are going to feel enriched and elevated by a kind of meditative, spiritual and meaningful type of prayer,” Rabbi Adam Kligfeld says.
Music will also play a big role at the event—attendees will be treated to a special Saturday evening concert headlined by talented musicians Josh Warshawsky and Eliana Light, along with a chance to discuss sacred Jewish music and partake in a Friday night aCapella davening. As a creator of Jewish music, Rabbi Cantor Chorny believes the occasion will open up some very meaningful discussions between attendees. “I’m very proud to see people coming together over the question of, ‘How do we make Jewish music better?’ and how they can lift it up in their communities,” she says. “As a cantor, it’s very important to me when people want to know how they can produce the best possible kehilla they can.”
With its vast network, USCJ’s ability to reach a large audience has been critical so far in bringing communities together for this event. “The most important role USCJ plays for congregations is the role of convener, so we are able to bring professionals and lay leaders together to learn and be inspired by one another,” USCJ Director of Innovation Rabbi Josh Rabin says. “Temple Beth Am’s leadership in organizing this Shabbaton was an opportunity for a congregation that models great prayer to bring others together to take it back to their home communities.”