Q: What does Shirat HaNefesh mean ?
It means Song of the Soul. As in—finding a place for your soul to feel at home. As in — finding a way for our Jewish souls to soar. As in—using gorgeous music to awaken us into our lives.
Q: Which movement does Shirat HaNefesh belong to?
Ahh… a good question. We have ties to Reform, Conservative, Renewal, and Reconstructionist traditions. We come from Orthodox and secular backgrounds and everything in between. We include Jews by birth, Jews by choice, and people who are not Jewish but wish to walk a Jewish path by participating in our community. So, call us “post-denominational.”
Q: How do I become part of the community?
Just start coming to services. We meet every Saturday morning and two Friday nights a month. You’ll make friends and start participating in the flow of congregational life. Check the rest of the website for activities, committees, and events that you might want to get involved with. And contact the rabbi or cantor to shmooze; they would love to hear from you. Seriously!
Q: Can I come to regular services or High Holy Days if I'm not a member?
Yes! Our weekly services are open to everyone; no membership required. Non-members can come to High Holy Day services; we suggest a donation of $225 per adult to cover all services. Children and students may attend at no charge. Many of our High Holy Day services do not require tickets and are open to the community. See our High Holy Days page for details.
Q: Where and when do you meet?
Friday night and Saturday morning services are held in the Community Room downstairs at North Chevy Chase Christian Church, 8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase MD (just east of Connecticut Ave, south of 495). Follow signs for Community Room from the parking lot. PLEASE CHECK THE CALENDAR FOR OUR CURRENT FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE. On Saturday morning our services go from 9:30 to noon, followed by a light kiddush.
Q: What siddur do you use?
We have chosen Eit Ratzon (“A time of willing desire”), edited by Dr. Joseph Rosenstein. Eit Ratzon contains the traditional weekday, Shabbat, and Holy Day Hebrew prayers combined with a complete, new, and egalitarian translation and full transliteration of all Hebrew prayers. There are also contemporary poems and readings, explanations of prayers, and suggestions for meditations that help guide the participant on his or her path. The prayerbook is non-denominational and is designed especially for communities that want to draw from both traditional and contemporary spiritual paths. For more information, visit www.newsiddur.org.
Q: What if I don't read Hebrew?
Well, you won’t be alone. We’re happy to help you learn if you wish, but meanwhile there are lots of ways to participate in and enjoy our services—the music, the comments on the service from the prayer leaders, the feeling of community. Plus every word of prayer in our prayerbook is transliterated into English.
Q: If I don't believe in God and I don't like prayers, why bother joining you?
Because there’s more to your Jewish identity than just “being Jewish.” At some level you want to “do Jewish” too. And that’s bigger than prayer. There’s acting to repair the world—that’s doing Jewish. And learning Jewish texts and traditions to see what they have to say to us in our time. And having a community to go to Jewish movies and theatre and performances with. That’s doing Jewish. We think doing Jewish is more fun, more powerful, and more engaging when you do it within a community.
Q: Are you open to interfaith families? LGBTQ people? Single parents?
Of course! Of course! and Of course! We value each person who enters our doors as an individual made in the image of God. We strive to be inclusive; please let us know if we aren’t.
Q: What if I can't afford membership?
We don’t want to let that stand in your way. Talk to our Treasurer confidentially and work out a meaningful and feasible membership rate.
Q: I don't know anyone. Is there an easy way to get connected?
We’d be happy to talk with you in advance, and perhaps introduce you to someone who is coming to services, or let you know about an upcoming Tikkun Olam committee meeting you might want to attend. Email us at email@example.com and we’ll give you a call.
Q: Why are music and song so important to your services?
We believe that there is a thirst in the American Jewish community for a warmth and joy in worship that can be achieved by combining prayer with music, both vocal and instrumental. We believe a powerful spiritual experience is achieved through services that underscore the music in prayer and the sacred in music. Come to our services to experience this for yourself!
Q: Do you have a school?
Yes! Limmud for Kids meets on Shabbat mornings and welcomes kids between Grades 2 and 7. B’nei Mitzvah kids come twice a week: Shabbat mornings and Wednesdays 6:30-8:00 p.m. Students learn Hebrew, Jewish customs and values and history, and Torah. We also offer a continuing education program for post-B’nei Mitzvah students.
Q: Can my kid have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah without attending Hebrew School?
We require a minimum of one year in our school prior to having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, preferably two years or more. Honestly, what children learn from coming to Hebrew school each week over a period of years is not replicable in just a year of effort — it builds Jewish values and sensibilities deep into the core. But we will work with you, whatever stage your child is at, to develop their familiarity with Judaism, to give them a cohort of other Jewish kids, and to prepare them for a meaningful and wonderful Bar/Bat Mitzvah. For more information on our education programs, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can I sing in the choir?
Kolot Halev (Voices of the Heart) is the choir-in-residence at Shirat HaNefesh, usually singing on the second Friday night of each month. Everyone sings along with them. But if you’d like to join the choir itself, please contact Hazzan Ramón Tasat at email@example.com