A soul-satisfying selection of activities at Shirat HaNefesh

Yamim Noraim Calendar

Erev Rosh Hashanah

Hazzan Ramón Tasat will introduce the musical and spiritual themes of the Yamim Noraim  (Days of Awe). He will be joined by Judy Barlas in co-leading the first High Holiday service.

David Balto will offer a devar Torah on: “What shall I ask of Hashem?”

September 20, 2017 – 7:00pm

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Judy Barlas

Raised a third-generation Jewish atheist in a house rich with Yiddishkayt, Judyshocked her parents when she first joined a shul. Pegged by her then-rabbi as a Jewish pantheist, she is also a budding Yiddishist, studying and thriving on the music, literature, follklore, performing arts, and – especially – the Yiddish language. Her proudest achievement was, with Michael Alpert of Brave Old World, the creation and direction of Buffalo on the Roof, a week-long camp focused on the interrelationship of the music, dance, language, and culture of the Jewish and non-Jewish co-territorial populations of Eastern Europe. (1992 and 1993)

David Balto

David Balto is a hospital chaplain and a hospice and bikur cholim volunteer.  He leads services each month at a maximum security prison and is also a student of Jewish spiritual chant.  David and his wife Naomi are committed to acts of hesed.  David loves to pray at  Shirat Ha Nefesh because it is a beautiful place to find the light inside prayer.  He is a member of Shirat’s sacred aging study group.

Rosh Hashanah, 1st Day

Hazzan Ramón will be assisted by George Franklin.
Loretta Vitale Saks will chant the Haftarah and offer commentaries during the Torah readings.
Esther Goldenberg will be co-leading the service of Musaf.
Sarah Wendell will deliver a sermon devoted to Jewish women’s issues.

September 21, 2017 – 9:00am

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

George Franklin

George Franklin, a native of the DC area works as an accountant and has been a member of Shirat HaNefesh since 2011. He and his wife Sandi, also a DC native, make their home in Rockville.

Loretta Vitale Saks

Loretta Vitale Saks is grateful for the opportunity to participate in SHN’s services for the Yamim Noraim. She currently works part-time as a geriatric care manager with Debra Levy Eldercare Associates. She chairs the Helping Hands University Park committee, supporting elders in her town. Married to Bob Saks for 47 years, she is mother of Josh and Daniel, and nonna of Maia, Anna, Joni and Shiloh.

Esther Goldenberg

Esther Goldenberg has been a Jewish Educator for over twenty years. She lives and works in Maryland where she helps parents prepare for their child’s bar or bat mitzvah, so that the experience can be meaningful for them, as well as their child.

Sarah Wendell

Sarah Wendell is author of three books, including Lighting the Flames, a contemporary Hanukkah romance novella, and the host of the literature podcast Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. As co-founder and current mastermind of one of the most popular blogs examining romance fiction, Sarah spends her days reading and reviewing romance, celebrating the genre, and the women who read and write it.
Sarah has appeared on programs such as CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and NPR’s All Things Considered and been a guest lecturer at Yale, Princeton, and Duke Universities. She has also been part of a question on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me — twice!

Children’s Services (ages 7 to 10)

10:00 – 10:45am

Community Room

Education Director Stephen Berer will lead a service for school-age children, with the help of teens in our community. Snack follows at 10:45 a.m.

Teens’ Services (ages 11 to16)

11 – Noon

Community Room

Education Director Stephen Berer leads teen-agers in a participatory and reflective conversation on Jewish issues, relevant to the new year.


5:00 pm

Bridge at Meadowbrook

We’ll meet at the Bridge at Meadowbrook to cast our sins into the flowing water of Rock Creek.  It’s a sweet ritual, led by Hazzan Ramón and Rabbi Gilah.  Bring your challah crumbs — and a few habits that you’d really like to toss in the river.

Rosh Hashanah, 2nd Day

Rabbi Gilah Langner and Hazzan Ramón Tasat lead services on 2nd day, with the help of Dr. Norma Brooks. Rabbi Langner will speak on the subject: Isaac’s Ashes and the Journey After Life. Steve Marcus will handle our Torah chanting and Haftarah reading.

September 22, 2017 – 9:00am to 1:00pm

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Norma Brooks

Norma Brooks has been compositing Jewish liturgical music since 1984. Her first composition, Ul’amtuye, “May You bestow on us of Your bountiful light and receive our prayer in compassion,” is one that we sing at Shirat HaNefesh.

Manna Food Drive

Friday and Sat., Sept. 29 and 30

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Heeding Isaiah’s call to feed the hungry on the day of our fast …  Please bring non-perishable food items to Yom Kippur services on September 29 and 30.  We’ll donate the food to the Manna Food Center, which is trying to end the problem of hunger in Montgomery County.

Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre

Evening services for Yom Kippur start before sundown with the hauntingly beautiful Kol Nidre prayer. Services will be led by Hazzan Ramón and Roanne Pitluk, and Stephen Berer will offer a sermon on:

September 29, 2017 – 6:15pm

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Roanne Pitluk

Roanne was raised in Miami, Florida and lives in Silver Spring, MD where she works as an accountant. She is a founding member of Shirat HaNefesh and sings in the Kolot HaLev choir.  She is married to Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat, has 2 children and 1 grandchild.

Steve Berer

Steve Berer is a writer, educator, artist, and artisan with an awe of God an unbounded love of Judaism that shapes everything he thinks and does. Steve is married to his beshert and has two beautiful sons.

Yom Kippur Morning

A service filled with moments of glory, moments of silent contemplation, and prayers that carry a thousand years of history. Our service leaders will be Hazzan Ramón with Cindy Arnson and Nan Wellins.

For the Avodah service Eve Soldinger will help us understand the role of Cohen Gadol, the High Priest. Eve will take us in a spiritual journey, an exercise that would help us discover sacredness in space and time.

Heather Hurlburt and Darius Sivin, offer a devar Torah.

September 30, 2017 – 9:00am

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Cindy Arnson

Cindy Arnson is the director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She worked previously as a legislative aide in the U.S. House of Representatives and as associate director of Human Rights Watch/Americas. She has been a member of the Kolot HaLev choir since its founding 10 years ago and is a lay leader of services at Fabrangen and Shirat HaNefesh. She is honored to be working with Hazzan Ramon, with whom she studied voice for many years.

Eve Soldinger  MPH, M.Ac., MMQ

Eve Soldinger has been an acupuncturist since 1985. Her love for Chinese Medicine and all healing forms has taken her on learning adventures throughout Europe, Central and South America, and China. In 2006 she began to study Qigong and has never looked back. Qigong is branch of Chinese Medicine that has to do with the use of breath, movement and intention to create health. It is the most transformational practice that she has discovered. In 2012 she earned a Masters Degree in Medical Qigong from the International College of Medical Qigong. She teaches Qigong workshops throughout the US including many in Alaska. She takes her work to many settings including addiction and cancer treatment centers.

Nan Wellins

Nan Wellins, was a religious studies major who thought of becoming a rabbi but instead made aliyah to Israel, where she worked as a translator, journalist, and editor for over a decade while singing with the Israel National Choir, Cameran Singers, New Israel Opera, and the Jerusalem Conservative Synagogue. Now executive director of the ISEF Foundation (benefiting immigrant Israeli students), she’s been in the Shirat HaNefesh family since 2008, including 6 years on its board. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband, son, and rescue animals.

Heather Hurlburt

Heather Hurlburt runs the New Models of Policy Change Initiative at the think tank New America; her career in foreign affairs includes stints at the White House, State Department and US Congress as well as overseas and in non-profit organizations. They and their son Lev have been with Shirat Hanefesh since its early days in private homes.

Dr. Darius Sivin

​Dr. Darius Sivin holds a PhD in public health from Johns Hopkins and works for the United Auto Workers. He serves on the boards of the National Havurah Committee and MoEd, An Afterschool Jewish Community. He has taught Jewish education classes to children and adults.

Children’s Services (ages 7 to 10)

10:00 – 10:45am

Community Room

Teens’ Services (ages 11 to16)

11 – Noon

Community Room

Stephen Berer will lead a service/study session for teenagers.


During the afternoon break, Gideon Amir will discuss: “Jonah, the Universal Prophet and his Message.”

While the book of Jonah has only 4 chapters, his story captures the minds of many people, Jews and non-Jews and therefore Jonah plays an important role also for Christians and Muslims.

In our study, we will look at possible universal messages coming out of the story of Jonah. How the story was also used by as part of anti-Jewish polemic and review scripture passages that mention Jonah.

2:00 – 4:00pm

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Gideon Amir

Gideon Amir was born in Holland to holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel in 1947. He grew up in Jerusalem. During his Army service, Gideon served in the Paratroopers unit.
Gideon received a Bachelor‘s degree in Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. In 1980, he moved to the United States, where he worked as a computer scientist and manager in various companies.
In 2001, Gideon received a master’s degree (with honors).   He re-directed his passion for teaching to the teaching of Bible subjects at various adult education programs in synagogues, churches and other adult education outlets.

Yom Kippur Afternoon

The afternoon service (Minha), features a bibliodrama touching on the topics of the book of Jonah presented by teenagers and young adults of our community and organized and directed by our talented Director of Education Steve Berer.
Hazzan Ramón and Rabbi Gerry Serotta will be together again, leading the afternoon service. Evelyne Tzoukerman will read from the Torah.

This year we will be reading 4 re-visions of ​the traditional prophetic text​ of Yonah. Two of ​​our authors rewrote portions of the story. ​Another person engaged in a therapy session with Yonah. The fourth envisioned Yonah as an old man recalling his experiences.
The authors did not understand the text to be about repentance; but about moral ambiguity, self-deception, and the effects of inner conflict.


8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Rabbi Gerry Serotta

Rabbi Serotta is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) Prior to his position at the IFC he was the Founding Executive Director of Clergy Beyond Borders. Together with Hazzan Ramón Tasat he was a founding spiritual leader within Shirat HaNefesh Congregation where he was Rabbi from 2008-2014.
Rabbi Serotta formerly served as a University Chaplain and Hillel Rabbi for 28 years, the last twenty at The George Washington University where he was Chair of the Board of Chaplains. He also served as President of the Association of Hillel and Jewish Campus Professionals. While on Sabbatical from Hillel he held the position of Senior Rabbinic Scholar-in-Residence at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, working on issues of globalization and economic justice from a Jewish perspective. He also served Temple Shalom as Associate Rabbi from 2000-2008. He was the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America and of New Jewish Agenda.


A time to explore the lives of personalities that influenced the Jewish world throughout the centuries.
Rabbi Nahman of Bretzlav Joan Dubinsky
Mordechai Anielewicz Craig Packard
Beatrice Núñez  Judith Klavans and Evelyne Tzoukerman

September 29, 2017 – 6:15pm

8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Judith Klavans

Judith (to some “Judy”) Klavans has been a member of Shirat HaNefesh since its founding. Judith is a musician (she plays the flute and sings), a professor of Linguistics, a research scientist, mother of four and grandmother of three. Judith was raised in a very secular Jewish home, and is grateful for what she has learned through singing.

Evelyne Tzoukermann

Evelyne (to some “Evie”) Tzoukermann is also a founding member of Shirat HaNefesh. She is a computer scientist and linguist, researcher and well-published author. Evelyne is mother of two, stepmother of two, and grandmother of three. Evelyne grew up in a Conservadox home in France, and is the one who leads the family’s Jewish life.

Evelyne and Judith have been together for 30 years; they had a civil union in Vermont performed by a rabbi, a big Jewish wedding later in Maryland, and then, finally, the federally recognized marriage.

Craig Packard

Craig Packard began playing music during the folk revival of the 1960s and found himself strongly drawn to Russian and E. European music while majoring in Russian at Oberlin College. He has pursued his dual interests — music and E. European languages — while getting his MA & PhD in Russian and SerboCroatian at Ohio State University in the 70s, dancing and playing Romanian and Yugoslav music with various folk dance groups and bands in Ohio and the DC area, working as an interpreter for the US Dept. of State, and, most recently, doing translation and translation management until his retirement some 5 years ago. He and his wife Joan have been dancing, playing music, gardening, biking, travelling, and enjoying life together since he moved here from Ohio in the late 1980s.

Joan Elise Dubinsky

Joan Elise Dubinsky is a champion for responsible business conduct, serving as one of the first ethics officers in corporate America. She was the Chief Ethics Officer for the United Nations between 2010 and 2015, reporting directly to the Secretary-General. Joan was recently appointed as the Independent Ethics Advisor to the Board of Directors for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And when she isn’t thinking about rights, duties and responsibilities, she plays the cimbalom, dances with her husband Craig, knits, gardens, and lectures at a few universities.


We recite the memorial prayers (Yizkor) for Yom Kippur during the afternoon service immediately preceding the powerful Neilah service that concludes the prayers for the day.

Yizkor will be led by Hazzan Ramón and Rabbi Gerry and will include a meaningful opportunity for all to participate in two ways.
First we will encourage anyone who has lost a loved one between last Yom Kippur and this year to offer brief comments on the lives they are remembering so poignantly at this time.

Second, we encourage those who wish to bring a small stone to place them in a memory basket. In this way we will attempt to connect with the lives of loved ones, re-interpreting a revered custom of visiting the graves of ancestors.



Our last opportunity to pray as the sun sets & the gates of heaven begin to close –

Led by Hazzan Ramón and Steven Marcus, we will move to the climax of the day with special nusah/melodies for Neilah. The ark will be open for you to come up with intimate prayers. As the day turns to night, the blast of the shofar and the full day of fasting turn from solemnity to joy, as we dance under the stars and make Havdalah.

David Levin will be blowing the shofar.


8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase

Steve Marcus

Steve Marcus has been a university faculty member since 1975, first at the University of Texas at Austin, and currently as professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a jazz flutist who performs regularly at venues in the Washington, DC area. He has been a lay service leader since the 1980s for a number of congregations, including Agudas Achim (Conservative) in Austin, TX, Oseh Shalom (Reconstructionist) in Laurel, MD, and Fabrangen and Shirat Hanefesh in the DC area. He studies voice and hazzanut with Ramón Tasat since 2006.

Shofar Blast and Havdalah


8814 Kensington Parkway, Chevy Chase