Learning at Shirat HaNefesh takes a variety of forms:  seminar-type study sessions, lectures, speakers, concerts, texts, book discussions, new music and liturgy.  Join us for Rabbi’s Tables or After-Kiddush discussions on Shabbat mornings; Sunday morning Book Discussions on compelling works of fiction and non-fiction; and our Spotlight Series tied in to a topic or musical genre or particular time of year.  

Rabbi’s Table and After Kiddush Discussions


Some of our Shabbat morning services include an hour-long seminar-style “Rabbi’s Table”  where there is enough time to delve into a text or topic and   everyone is encouraged to participate in the discussion. Topics range from midrash on the Torah portion to Leonard Cohen’s final song, from recent books on racial inequality (The Color of Law, The New Jim Crow) to Great Jewish Arguments.  Rabbi’s Tables run from 10:45 to 11:45 on Shabbat. 

We also offer occasional “After Kiddush” sessions, led by rabbis and educators in the congregation, on topics of their own choosing.   Topics have included Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, led by Gideon Amir; What is God’s Kavod, led by Rabbi Bob Saks; and Fiddler Factions:  What Path Would You Take?  also led by Rabbi Saks.

Spotlight Series



Some years, Shirat HaNefesh undertakes a year-long exploration of a particular issues.  For 2017-18, the topic was Dealing with Death.  Our exploration included sermon topics, several Rabbi’s Table discussions, a Friday Nights Live program, development of a guidebook for members on When Someone Dies, creation of a bereavement support group, and purchasing plots for a dedicated Shirat HaNefesh section at the Garden of Remembrance.  

In 2018-19, our topic was the music, history, and culture of French Jewry. Hazzan Ramón Tasat presented a series of lectures and concerts focusing on the music, culture, and situation of French Jewry, culminating in the annual concert of Kolot HaLev:  Les Chansons Juifs – Portraits of Jewish Music in France.

In 2020, Hazzan Ramón Tasat organized a Selichot series on Zoom for the entire month of Elul.  Local teachers and rabbis and cantors from around the world joined forces to explore a Selichot prayer each evening at 8 pm.  In 2021, a similar series is planned, focusing each night on a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  


Book Discussions


If you love to read and talk about books, you’re in good company.  Our book discussions take place about every two months on a Sunday, from 10–11:30 a.m. At present, we plan to continue to meet using Zoom; links will be in the weekly e-newsletter close to the date of each event, or contact us at info@shirathanefesh.org for more information.  Special thanks to member Heidi Coleman for organizing our book discussions.

In June of each year, we collaboratively decide on a wonderful selection of books to read and discuss for the coming year.  Here was the reading list for 2020-21:

Sunday, September 13 – Memoir

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir by Ilana Kurshan 

There is humor and heartbreak in these pages…Ms. Kurshan immerses herself in the demands of daily Talmud study and allows the words of ancient scholars to transform the patterns of her own life.” (Finalist for 2018 Natan Book Award; Winner of 2018 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and 2018 Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish literature; Finalist for 2017 National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies) (320 pages)

Sunday, November 15 – Historical Fiction

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas 

In this spellbinding novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.  Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family.  The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a moving page-turner of a novel from acclaimed storyteller Michael David Lukas. This tightly woven multigenerational tale illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart and the unlikely forces–potent magic, forbidden love–that boldly attempt to bridge that divide. (288 pages)

Sunday, January 17 – Fiction

Anything Is Possible: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

New York Times Bestseller – An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.  Winner of The Story Prize; A Washington Post and New York Times Notable Book ; one of USA Today’s top 10 books of the year. (304 pages)

Sunday, March 14 – Memoir

Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Stein 

The powerful coming-of-age story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman (272 pages)

Sunday, May 23 – About Israel

Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation

by Yossi Klein Halevy (624 pages)
In Like Dreamers, acclaimed journalist Yossi Klein Halevi interweaves the stories of a group of 1967 paratroopers who reunited Jerusalem, tracing the history of Israel and the divergent ideologies shaping it from the Six-Day War to the present. (Winner of the Everett Family Jewish Book of the Year Award, a National Jewish Book Award and the RUSA Sophie Brody Medal.)