Alternative Shabbat Prayer Experiences

Please check our calendar for the next service!

On various shabbats throughout the year we offer opportunities for alternative ways to pray.

Living Room Minyan

First and Third Shabbat of every month.
Various Locations (Check Calendar)
This small havurah style minyan in congragent homes which enjoys traditional davening and either full Torah reading or a rich Torah discussion. Services start at 9:15 and include a light oneg at the end.

Kol Sasson

Second Shabbat of every month.
JCC (room D129)
On the second Shabbat of each month is Kol Sasson, a joyous exploration of Jewish song and learning. This group, led by Cantor Sharon Bernstein from Sha’ar Zahav, focuses on great singing and a lively Torah discussion.

Contemplative Service

Third Shabbat of every month.
JCC (room D129)
Ever want a service with fewer words? Join Rabbi Amy Eilberg in singing extended soulful chants of short segments of prayer, interspersed with moments of silence, to draw the prayers deep into our hearts.

Torah Study with Nechama Tamler

Fourth Shabbat of every month.
JCC (room D129)
You are invited and warmly welcomed to spend an hour looking at a few nuggets in the weekly Torah portion and mining the words and phrases to uncover possible meanings that can be applied to our lives, right now. We’ll spend time in hevrutot (pairs) or small groups discussing the ways the words of the parasha (portion of the week) could be relevant to each of us in different ways, and enjoy the multi-vocality of the text. We’ll use the Etz Chayim humash with the JPS translation—please feel free to bring another translation to spice things up.

Nechama Tamler teaches (and learns from) adults in a variety of settings; currently she co-facilitates study groups on the Peninsula focusing on popular Israeli culture with a new curriculum she co-designed, ISRAEL BONDS: Traditional Texts Meet Israeli Pop Culture. Most recently she published a book of poetry, Each Holy Breath, available on line. She has taught at the Florence Melton Adult Mini School at several JCCs, the Feast of Jewish Learning, Limmud and Bible By The Bay. She also facilitated professional development for synagogue school teachers in synagogue schools, sponsored by Jewish Learning Works (formerly BJE.) Before returning to her passion of teaching and learning, Nechama held professional staff positions at the JCF and the BJE for over 20 years. She graduated from UC Berkeley and earned her MA in n counseling psychology from the Univ. of Santa Clara. She also participated in the Mandel Jerusalem Fellows in Israel. Nechama lives in Palo Alto with her husband, Howard; they have been members of Kol Emeth for over 30 years, raised their 3 children here, and are now reaping the dividends, with five grandchildren (four of whom are local.)


Jewish prayer lives in a tension of fixed liturgy and intentionality. The fixed liturgy is filled with great beauty and poetry. Yet anything, however amazing, risks becoming rote. Further, just as there are multiple intelligences, there exists a variety of spiritual experience. For some, me very much included, recitation, singing, and Torah reading are spiritually meaningful. I realize for others there is a greater interest in more singing, or more quiet moments, or so many other modes of spiritual expression.

Rabbi Akiva knew of this problem nearly 2000 years ago. He said that we are forbidden to make our prayers rote. We must have something new or innovative every time we pray to retain our spiritual focus. Otherwise, what ought to be connection with the Most High becomes mere ritual.

For this reason, we are offering a variety of alternative prayer experiences with which to experiment this year. If you rarely if ever come to services, I invite you to try an alternative. Perhaps it will be meaningful to you in a new way. If you always go to the Main Sanctuary, I invite you to try one of these other offerings to increase the spiritual depth you get from the regular service.

You are also welcome any Shabbat to arrive just for Kiddush. Our fabulous Kiddush luncheon starts at 12:15. It is a central moment for our community and everyone is always welcome whether they came to a service first or from working out or straight from their living room!

See the descriptions above on our various alternative options.

There is always our Sanctuary service either on the 4th Floor above or the Cultural Arts Hall. We have an incredible feeling of community and song as we read the whole Torah portion and celebrate life cycle moments together. For me, this is a place of restoration and healing that inspires invigorates me for the week to come. It is my landing place spiritually, even as I enjoy finding time to participate in the other alternatives as well.

I invite you to come and pray, or learn, or just experiment with one of these differing modes to celebrate Shabbat and restore the self.

Rabbi David Booth
Rabbi David Booth

Everyone is welcome in our egalitarian Jewish community