Engaging Spiritual Life

image of the letter kuf from the San Francisco museum of contemporary Jewish art

The SAJ is committed to the spiritual lives of its congregants. Congregants take an active role in all aspects of the service. Cantor Arbisser welcomes everyone to sing with her throughout the service. Rabbi Strassfeld leads a Torah discussion as opposed to delivering a sermon.

About our Services

The SAJ is affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement. The worship services, are a blend of traditional observance and modern interpretation in liturgy, communal singing led by our rabbi and cantor, and private prayer. Within the service are woven the celebration of various rites of passage: baby naming, Bar/Bat mitzvah, marriage, conversion, birthday and yahrzeit.

Instead of delivering a d’var torah monologue, Rabbi Strassfeld both teaches and leads a discussion of the Torah or Haftarah portions or a topic inspired by them. We wrestle with the challenge of “living in two civilizations”; of being modern Americans as well as authentic Jews. Since the participants span all ages and backgrounds, the discussion is always lively. Congregants take an active role in other aspects of the service: chanting Torah and Haftarah, performing other readings, assisting in the Torah service, and greeting members and visitors. Once a month we have a band join us in leading services and the cantor occassionaly accompanies services with a guitar.

Services at The SAJ are totally egalitarian. Women and men are equal participants both on and off the bimah, and count equally in forming a minyan.

By worshipping together, we seek to enrich ourselves spiritually, to develop intellectually, and to strengthen the bonds that make The SAJ a caring Jewish community.

The Liturgy and Texts

In keeping with the spirit of Mordecai Kaplan, congregants are free to take these passages literally, or to interpret them as spiritual poetry. In some cases, we substitute a version that has been adapted by Rabbi Kaplan and others.

Our prayer book is Kol Haneshamah, published by the Reconstructionist Press. This siddur is well annotated, with English translations, transliterations of the Hebrew, explanatory notes and commentary. In many places both traditional and modern variations are provided. We chant most of the service in Hebrew, but we announce page numbers to help keep everyone together.

Our chumash (the printed Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—and Haftarah readings) is Etz Chayim, published by USCJ Book Service. This edition includes a complete English translation, two levels of commentary, connections between modern Jewish law and Biblical text, and articles about the history, analysis, and interpretation of the text.

A collection of other prayer books and Bible commentaries are available in the sanctuary during services for those with another preference or who wish to look at additional perspectives.

Important Notes:

Please check the calendar, as there are some weeks with no Friday night Shabbat services.

For all Jewish festivals and holidays, see calendar for details, especially concerning High Holidays!

Photo is of the letter "kuf" which is often associated with "kehila," community, the foundation of spiritual life in a synagogue. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kumasawa/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0