Jerusalem Gets Very Different Kind of Kabbalat Shabbat

Sabbath With Mixed Prayer, Beer and (Gasp!) Dancing

Shabbat in Jerusalem: Hundreds are gathering every week for Kabbalat Shabbat at a new venue in Jerusalem.
kinneret kahana
Shabbat in Jerusalem: Hundreds are gathering every week for Kabbalat Shabbat at a new venue in Jerusalem.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published July 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The bar is doling out drinks as fast as it can manage. A man at the front recites Kaddish while the mixed-gender congregation slouches, sipping beer, eating snacks, talking on cell phones.

It sounds like anarchy to even rabbis with the rowdiest congregations. But here, there’s consensus that this represents a renaissance for the liturgy instead of a degeneration of religious standards.

nathan jeffay

The 400 people assembled include Jews from secular to Orthodox. All of this is taking place in Jerusalem, the city that has a reputation as dominated by Haredi zealotry — just a few minutes drive from the Western Wall where this year women holding communal prayers have been pelted with eggs.

As of this spring the city has a new trendy recreational venue called the First Train Station with cafes, restaurants and in the middle a stage and seating. During the summer every Friday a group of musicians takes to the stage and performs a funky version of the synagogue service to welcome the Sabbath, Kabbalat Shabbat. The performance varies depending on which group leads it, but there tends to be original tunes and catchy chants that help those unfamiliar with the service to get involved.

When Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings opened in 2008 the city famously insisted that the girls in a performance troupe wore shapeless clothing on top of their outfits for the sake of modesty — and there have been numerous controversies in Israel about women being prevented from singing at public events.

But here, two energetic women dominate the stage, one in a sleeveless top and one with short sleeves, singing and jumping up and down.

“Maybe this is the beginning of a new development of non-religious people coming to see Jewish culture as something that doesn’t necessarily need to be done the Orthodox way,” said Adi Talmon, a middle-aged secular Jerusalemite as he looked at the scene approvingly.

Talmon has become a regular because “as a non-religious person I think it’s great to finish the week with Kabbalat Shabbat — every person has his own Shabbat and this is to separate between the sacred and the mundane.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.