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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776
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Summer Shabbat Services

The below postings include discussion about:
  • Location
  • Worship Style
  • End of Summer Barbeque

See also Shabbat Service Times.

  1. I recently put together a brief Shabbat morning service that we incorporated into our Shabbat Torah Study Group for the summer while the Rabbi is on vacation and we do not hold a formal Shabbat morning service (which we do the other 11 months of the year). I included transliteration of all of the prayers. I think it has been appreciated.

  2. We normally treat our summer Services as a learning experience. I think we will try to add a teaching segment just at the start of L'chah Dodi explaining what should be done and when. After a few times we will end up with that many more congregants familiar with prayer and its choreography.
    716 Families

  3. Our summer services are held outside in our amphitheater at 6:00 PM (instead of 8:00 PM, as in the rest of the year). Because ours is a tourist town, we get quite a few visitors during the summer; and because of the earlier hour, more children attend as well. Our rabbi usually gives a d'rash or tells a story instead of giving a sermon.

    Instead of lighting candles and saying Kiddush during the service, we do it during the Oneg Shabbat, and instead of an elaborate one in the social hall. We have challah, wine, and punch in the lobby (which, incidentally, gives our caretaker and our Oneg Shabbat coordinator a much needed summer break). Afterwards, some congregants take advantage of our picnic area to have a Shabbat dinner al fresco. Since our rabbi is usually away for a couple of weeks each summer, it gives me, as a para-rabbinic fellow, an opportunity to lead one or two services. Likewise, it gives some of our musically talented members a chance to cover for our cantor.

    Our summer services are a nice change of pace, but like clockwork, by the last Friday of our summer season, a cold wind blows across our amphitheater and everyone is ready to return to the sanctuary for the warmth and the new year.

    500 members

  4. I believe it is the outdoor service that has saved our summertime Shabbat. Assuming it's not swelteringly hot out, congregants of all ages enjoy coming for the outdoor experience. It's a one-hour service that, combined with being outdoors, brings out the most intergenerational attendance we see all year. If the kids get tired, they just go hang out on the lawn. Everyone finds it not only relaxing, but spiritually uplifting.
    400 members

  5. My congregation goes from an 8 p.m. service, complete with Torah reading and sermon, to a 6:30 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat summer service that's supposed to last an hour or less. Our rabbi takes a month off in the summer, so July services are lay-led. We hold erev Shabbat outside and sit on blankets when weather permits, but being that this is Kansas, that's rare.

    I don't see the change to an early, shorter summer service as lightening up on Shabbat, however. I see it as an opportunity to do Shabbat in a more traditional way. Early services allow congregants to have a relaxed dinner after with friends and family rather than rushing through dinner to get to services at 8 p.m. For some, it also puts the Shabbat emphasis on Saturday.

    620 families

  6. Dear city cousins, your loss is our gain. In the summer our service attendance increases. As a resort community, during the summer we attract vacationers, summer residents (snowbirds) and second home folks in larger numbers. Some of them come to worship with us as a result of the UAHC congregation listing on its website. Some see the sign with a large Magen David in front of our building which sits on the only east-west road in central Vermont, jam on their brakes in surprise and come to pray with us.

    To enhance our summer services, and provide for a community-building social occasion as well, we have a pot-luck-supper on Friday evening after (or before) services in June, July and August. It takes place under a tent in the backyard. This attracts many people who are just passing through and who we welcome warmly into our congregation. Their presence greatly enhances the quality of our services and provides contact for our children with a larger Jewish world than they imagine exists, given that they live in rural Vermont where they often are the only Jewish children in their school.

    About 75 core households -- and more on weekends and in the summer

  7. At our temple, summer services are many people's favorite. We have a beautiful outdoor garden that enables us to pray as the sunsets and the stars come out. The chairs are set in such a way that people are brought closer together. It is a more informal, briefer service than those during the year. It lasts about 50 minutes and includes a brief d'var Torah and/or discussion, rather than a full sermon and no Torah reading.

    Our only limitation is that the garden is up a long flight of stairs (it is a roof garden) and, therefore, isn?t accessible to all. To enable everyone to participate, we alternate with indoor services in our small chapel, following the same format. This year, unfortunately, due to some structural concerns about the garden, all services are indoors. We will alternate services in the chapel and "in the round" in another room.

    We do Kiddush together at the Oneg Shabbat all the time and it is wonderful. It is one of the highlights of the evening that brings everyone together. The more relaxed atmosphere of the summer also encourages many people to come in more casual attire. Also, the outdoor service in particular encourages people to come with younger children where they don't during the year. I suppose because it is open and outside, there is not as much concern about children's voice "disrupting" things. I love our summer services!

    1205 members

  8. We have moved into our new building and have a beautiful courtyard. So we began our informal, outdoors (when it isn't like a sauna outside) services. We meet at 7:30 every Friday evening, the cantor and/or soloists use guitars, we invite all of the children to the bimah for the Torah service - which includes a story-type d'var Torah. The service lasts 40-50 minutes, depending on baby namings, wedding blessings, etc.

    For the last few weeks, because of the heat, we moved into our chapel, which became too small. The service has become so popular that we replicate it once a month as an alternative service. Incidentally, we bill it as an informal service. The lesson - any congregation of any size can loosen up for the summer.

    1935 members

  9. We have an end of summer Shabbat barbeque dinner. We use it to attract new members and to give our current members a chance to reconnect and share their summer stories. Simple hot dog, veggie burger, and hamburger meals with salads, watermelon and ice pops keeps the costs low (new and prospective members come free of charge). As last year, the social hall was filled to capacity and the talk and energy level was unbelievable.
    760 members

  10. Our congregation, which has Shabbat services at 6 and 7:45 during most of the year, combines them for the summer at 6:30...and also tends to be more experimental with forms and venues. I notice a lot of local congregations advertising outdoor services these months--lakeside where the geography permits.

    I just stumbled on a very good new book, American Reform Judaism, by Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, published by Rutgers Univ Press, and Rabbi Kaplan has a very intelligent chapter on some of the pressures synagogues face in trying to satisfy very heterogeneous congregations. He uses a term I had not previously encountered (and I don't remember to whom he credits its origin) for congregations that conduct multiple services to meet various needs--synaplexes.

    I confess that my congregation's summer approach doesn't work for me, and other suburbanites in our urban congregation, because of the timing--not enough time to get home for dinner before services, too late for dinner at home after services. Rabbi Kaplan calls attention to the Reform talent for making pragmatic decisions rather than trying for a consistent ideologically based practice. And having grown up in an environment where Shabbes began at sundown, I am still uncomfortable leaving Kabbalat Shabbat services when it's still bright daylight. But a substantial number of congregants appear to be well served by the current format.

    1350 units

  11. What are your thoughts on Shabbat service times in the winter when sundown becomes much earlier than the standard Shabbat service starting time?

    I am currently the co-coordinator of the Reform Chavurah at [a university]. Our services start between 4:30 and 6:00 depending on the time of year. This solution works a lot easier in the university community but maybe there are ways that it could work in synagogues as well (Shabbat dinners in the synagogue after services in the winter, etc.)


  12. Our congregation has services at 8:00 year-round. If forced to choose a fixed time for services this is probably the time I would pick. It's late enough to accommodate dinner beforehand, and early enough that it doesn't seem to be a problem for parents of young children. And for most of the year this is not significantly before Shabbat begins.

    I do find it disconcerting in the winter, however, because we always light candles in shul and sometimes this is hours after Shabbat has begun. (Some members decline this honor when that happens, though I don't think it's widespread.)

    Because I observe Shabbat in a somewhat traditional manner, I would find early summer service times to be a challenge. In the winter I leave work early on Fridays to be home (with house programmed) before sundown; my employer accepts this behavior because it's not year-round.

    I gather that the number of Reform Jews who observe in this way is small, but the difficulties of later services (in conventional settings--I don't mean campuses and the like) also seem to be small. In our efforts to be innovative with our services, we shouldn't forget about the traditionalists in our congregations.

    We do not currently experiment with unusual services particularly during the summer. We have several "non-standard" services (school classes, brotherhood, sisterhood, certain committees, teacher recognition night, etc., etc.) that are distributed throughout the academic year (not the summer). We have b'nei mitzvah almost every Shabbat, as well. So aside from the fluctuations in attendance due to vacations, our services during the summer are pretty similar to those throughout the rest of the year.

    Do worship issues go away during the summer? No, but they may be focused differently. Our congregation is making changes for the High Holy Days this year, so that's where most of our attention currently is. That, and making sure we have service leaders during times when rabbis are unavailable due to camp, etc.

    850 families

  13. Our synagogue does not meet in the summer regularly; however as the days got longer toward the end of June, we started our regular service as we always do at 7:30pm but we saved the candle blessing until just before sundown which at that time was around 8:30pm.

  14. We don't have services in the summer. I really miss them. Sometimes I drive to another town an hour away to go to services. We do have a bar mitzvah next Friday so I am looking forward to that. We have student rabbis who come from HUC in Cincinnati. Our congregation was informed that we won't have a student for 2003-04. We are now looking into the LA campus for a student. Anyone have any ideas for us if we don't get a student? I have lead services on several occasions when we didn't have a rabbi for an already planned weekend and I think we could have a congregation lead service but I don't think the congregation believes they are able to do it themselves.
    20 families

  15. Carol['s situation is] a wonderful opportunity to learn and to get congregants more involved and responsible for their own spirituality. Our congregants have often led services when our Rabbi is absent, sometimes by combining the talents of two or more. Our rabbi provides guidance on the essentials and the lay leaders take it from there. As a result a number of leaders have decided to enhance their skills by studying Hebrew and we now have Shabbat morning services every week, nearly all led by congregants. Another side benefit--the congregation enjoys the freshness of differing approaches.

  16. We are not much larger than [Carol's] congregation, and we have services every Friday night all year round. We also have student rabbis coming from Cincinnati and are lucky enough to be assigned a student once a month for the coming year. My husband, who has been through the para-rabbinic training, usually leads the service on those three other weekends and the summer when the student rabbi is not in town. Recently he expressed the desire for someone else to lead services once or twice a month to give him a break. I do lead services once in awhile, but that doesn't help if our family is out of town. So a few weeks ago he ran a little workshop to teach a few other members how to lead a service. Our congregation is fairly informal and very forgiving, so I think these people will lose their reluctance to lead after doing it once or twice and seeing that they can actually survive! Next week the first brave "student" will lead the service.

    Maybe this is an idea for you so that you will not be the only one doing services during this year without a rabbi. I think the congregation might gain a sense of empowerment if they find they really can do this on their own.

    28 families

  17. I am replying to "lay" services led by synagogue members. Our rabbi always has the month of July as vacation, as well as several other weekends during the year. Our cantor also has the entire summer off. Usually each week we have two different members lead the services. One will lead singing, the other the readings and perhaps give a d'var Torah or tell a short story. This part is very individual. Our congregation is very supportive, and we have been getting at least a minyan every Friday night for the last couple of years. It did take a little prodding the first few times, and until we realized that we had to sell the idea, the first year had a low turnout. We find that, just by being regular attendees, any of us felt qualified to help run the service, without the Torah reading, but certainly a satisfying experience.
    80 members

  18. We have lay-led services during the summer on weeks when our rabbi is on "vacation". Generally congregants are more willing to volunteer if they have a partner. Their partner might be someone who is more able to handle the song-leading or Hebrew than are they. Often a service is led by several members of the same family.

  19. I was amazed when I read about synagogues closing for the summer. Not everyone goes on holiday then, so our services are held every week throughout the year and always at the same time, 8:15pm. Although the congregation is slightly smaller during August we still average about 20-30. Our rabbi is away for the first two weeks of August plus two weeks in December and other weekends throughout the year but we have enough lay leaders to cover services, including reading the Torah.

    It is customary in the UK for a rabbi to have a sabbatical after each seven years with the congregation. Usually this is for six months although some take two lots of three months. Obviously, this could include the High Holy Day period and when it does we employ another Rabbi to lead the services. If it is over Pesach, the seder is lay lead. The rest of the sabbatical services are lay lead--sometimes by individuals, sometimes couples. If someone is unable to read from the Torah, they lead the service and another member will read the Torah. When I lead a service it is mainly all in Hebrew and I also like to find different readings to replace our usual English ones. Others have their own style in leading services which gives us a good variety throughout the year.

    We are starting a ba'lai teffilah class in September which will allow members to learn how to conduct different styles of services; e.g., meditative, singing, all Hebrew, study etc. The idea is to offer different styles during the year so that members can choose their service when they arrive at shul. These will obviously be lay lead services whilst the rabbi will continue leading the 'traditional' service each week.


  20. I would like to share something that happened in my congregation. Many of you saw the article last fall or winter in Reform Judaism magazine about outdoor worship. Some of my congregants asked if we could have a service outdoors in the summer. At first I was reluctant because I didn't want to alter a Shabbat evening service since we had such a large corps of regulars who may not be comfortable if we moved outside. So I suggested we hold a Shabbat morning service outside, since we only have Shabbat Morning services when there are b'nei mitzvah (about thirty a year). This would kill two birds with one stone, because we have a few congregants request regular Shabbat services without a bar or bat mitzvah, but we suspect that we wouldn't get a minyan. B'kitzur, we held a service by a lake a few blocks from our temple and we got thirty people. Everyone took part in the readings and, because it rained before we got to Mi Chamochah, we were able to finish in our own chapel, where we held an impromptu Torah study. It was well received by all and the attendees expressed gratitude for the fact that we were responsive to their requests and willing to try something new. I felt we did well by not messing with the regular Friday night service, but now that we have had a good first attempt, it will be easier to plan for and execute another outdoor service, possibly in place of a regular Friday night service, since advance publicity will be positive and based on experience.

  21. March 2007 Digest 035

                We are going to try something brand new this year. We have a lovely outdoor patio in our backyard at the temple and we will be doing a "Midsummer Night's Shabbat" with a beautiful outdoor dinner (by Shabbat candlelight, of course!) and then moving to an outdoor chapel--of course when the weather gets above 12 degrees Fahrenheit! We expect good participation and plan to include children, the children's choir, and even some 'Shabbatertainment" during the dinner.

  22. May 2007 Digest 095

                …At [our congregation during the summer, we have] one Shabbat service at 6:30 instead of the regular pattern (except when we deviate from it) of a 6 PM Kabbalat Shabbat (no Torah reading, no formal sermon) and a 7:45 full service.

                I don't like the summer schedule on two counts, one "ideological," one practical. Ideologically, I find it problematical to finish welcoming Shabbat in broad daylight; pragmatically, as a suburbanite in a city congregation, a 6:30 start means dinner either way too early or way too late.

                [For me, the] upside of the…bad timing on Friday night is that it makes me more likely to attend services, as well as Torah study, on Shabbat morning.

  23. May 2007 Digest 095

                We do the same as always on Erev Shabbat and Shabbat morning, including Tot Shabbat, except that our Enhanced First Friday service, with its activities, is on hold until Fall. That means simply that there are no activities or pot luck before the regular service. Tot Shabbat is at 7:00pm, with all our other services at 8:00pm. Our Shabbat morning services are at 10:00 or 10:30am.

                We have B'nei Mitzvah services some Shabbat mornings and Torah study some Shabbat mornings. How do we know it is summer time--well, the relative quiet for part of the day in June and July, and all of the day in August, plus the air conditioning clue us in.

  24. May 2007 Digest 095

                We don't change a thing. Services stay at 7:30 on Friday.

                However, we do take advantage of the weather to hold two to three of our services during summer into a special combination Sabbath picnic/service we call "Shabbat in the Great Outdoors."  Folks bring blankets, outdoor chairs and their own dinner that's eaten picnic style on our beautiful, large lawn. We start at 6:15 or so. We light candles and share challah and wine. Everyone then eats their meal and visits with each other; the kids and adults play together on the lawn.  (One year, we had a bunch of beach balls made with our temple name and logo on them.)

                At 7:30, the service begins and we gather together and sing "Shabbat's greatest hits," a slightly shortened service where we use our more "folk-y" tunes. We bring lots of percussion instruments that the kids like to play. Since there's no Torah reading or teaching portion, the service is short. At the end, everyone gathers their belongings off the lawn, then comes into the sanctuary for Oneg, usually ice cream and other goodies.

                It's very popular and wonderful to worship in the outdoors as the sun sets. Everyone enjoys it; we get the very youngest and the very oldest members of congregation to attend.

                And it's kind of a hoot to wear shorts to shul ....


    180 families
  25. May 2007 Digest 095

                We have shared Shabbat services in the summer with the other two Reform congregations in town. We each take a month (rotates each year) and the community gathers together for worship. We don't change the time of our services--8:00 as usual and 10:30 Saturday mornings, and the other congregations keep their regular times when it's their turn. It has really worked out quite well for us.


    app. 450 units
  26. May 2007 Digest 095

                Our normal pattern has been 6:00 on the 1st and 3rd Fridays, 8:00 on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, (5th is up for grabs--depends on any special programming).

                Torah study (9:30) and Worship (10:30) on Saturday mornings most including a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The B’nei Mitzvah will be done by the third week in June.

                As of July, for the summer, all Erev Shabbat services will be at 6:00 and the times for the remainder of the year will be reevaluated, since we do not get very high attendance at 8:00 pm, although there is a core group who prefer that model. We do tend to be less formal at 6:00 services and any Saturday when there is no Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


    400 member units
  27. May 2007 Digest 095

    Regular Shabbat schedule:

    • Fridays: 7:30 (week 1, family service), 8:00 other weeks, Torah reading only for b'nei mitzvah
    • Saturdays: 9:30 Torah study, 10:30 service, Torah reading all weeks


    Summer Shabbat schedule (July and most, if not all, of August):

    • Fridays: 7:30 service in garden, weather permitting; no Torah reading
    • Saturdays: nothing (but there is interest in services and there is a group that meets in private homes for study)


    ~550 families
  28. May 2007 Digest 095

                We continue with our 8:00 p.m. start time, the same as the rest of the year, with a 7:30 "Family-friendly" service on the 3rd Friday of the month. At one time we started summer services earlier (7:30 p.m.), but after some discussion by the Ritual Committee, that was found to be a poor idea because: 1) it wasn't Shabbat as the sun was still up, 2) if people are engaged in vacation activities during the day, a earlier start time is counter-productive, and 3) if we keep the same time all year, congregants won't get confused as to the time of services.

                Most of the services are lay-led as [our rabbi] is either at…[the URJ camp in our area] or on vacation…This year we are welcoming a cantorial soloist in July…We do try to hold a few services outdoors--either on the temple grounds or in a public park. These services start about 6:30 and people are encouraged to bring dinner--to be eaten in a spirit of community after the service.

                We don't schedule B/Mitzvot after the middle of June or before the middle of August because of the rabbi's (lack of ) availability.


    310 families
  29. May 2007 Digest 095

                Our synagogue has lay lead services over the summer that start at 8:00. The rabbi and I are available to help with music, a d'var, or read Torah if they like...


    270 families
  30. May 2007 Digest 095

                During the summer (June-July-August-ish), we offer a Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00 PM, sometimes with Torah. During the rest of the year, presently the "standard" service time is 8:00 PM (but under serious consideration for change). The last Shabbat of the month (usually), we offer a Family service at 7:00 PM. Once a month, we offer a Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00 PM, and once a month we offer a Tot Shabbat at 5:30 PM (we are also trying out a Tot Shabbat service at 9:00 AM on Saturdays).

                On Shabbat morning, throughout the year, we have a Shabbat morning minyan at 9:00 AM. The 11:00 AM Shabbat morning service features a Bar/Bat Mitzvah most weeks.

                …For the summer, the 6:00 PM Kabbalat Shabbat service seems to be well-received, even though attendance does drop off a bit. The Shabbat morning routine is also well-received--attendance does not drop off during the summer!

                Our struggle has been to identify what our congregation would really like for Friday nights from September through May. We are preparing to do some polling, but the preliminary input from many is that 8:00 PM is too late (many seniors aren't real comfortable driving home close to 10:00 PM, families with younger children find that 8:00 PM is a difficult time, and our Religious School teachers pay the price Saturday morning, and even working families have expressed that after a long week of work and Shabbos dinner, they have run out of gas by 8:00). Some others (seems to be concentrated around younger retirees or those without 'firm' working hours) like the later time, as they can have a leisurely Shabbat dinner, then go to shul. On the other hand, a 6:00 PM service poses some issues, as well, including landing right in the middle of dinner time (the impact of which should be self-explanatory for families with children, difficulty of some working families getting home to gather the clan and head for shul in time, etc.). At one point, the Ritual Committee had carefully calculated 7:22:30 PM as the optimal (read: engendered the least amount of shrying) time. Other concerns include conflicting with Tot Shabbat services, our Religious School Shabbat Dinners (each grade has a Shabbat Dinner at least once throughout the school year), congregational Shabbat Dinners (at least once a month), and the 'early' Kabbalat Shabbat service.

                Clearly, we are not alone is wrestling with this issue, regardless of the time of year…


    1100+ units
  31. May 2007 Digest 096

                Our normal pattern is 6:00 p.m. for the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays of the month. Early services are preceded by a wine and cheese gathering. On the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month we have a 7:30 service with a Torah reading. These late services are followed by an Oneg Shabbat. If there is no Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Saturday morning is participatory--we usually get around 25 people. The Shabbat morning service is in the chapel, where the chairs are arranged in a semi-circle. Sometimes we have a Torah reading, sometimes just a discussion during the service. Our hazzan is there with his guitar; the rabbi leads the service--pausing for teaching kinds of moments. During the summer, all Friday night services are at 6:00, preceded by a wine and cheese gathering. We have no B'nei Mitzvah in the summer. Our participatory Shabbat morning service is at 10:00.


    595 units
  32. May 2007 Digest 096

                This year for the first time we will offer a Kabbalat Shabbat Service at 6:15-7:15. It is something our clergy have been wanting for many years but the Ritual Committee has resisted until now. It is our hope that many of our congregants who travel to the shore every weekend will take advantage of the earlier hour and attend a service before they hit the road. Our Membership Committee is in the process of planning several Shabbat Dinners to follow the service for both prospective families and to inreach current households. The goal there is to create community and not stop the conversation because the service is scheduled to begin or because the hour is getting too late. We do not have B'nei Mitzvahs past mid June, but we will offer a TOT Shabbat program on the first Friday of the month at 6pm.This service will run parallel to the congregational Kabbalat service.

                I am very much looking forward to the new format…I was one of those opposed to the change in the past. I now feel the time has come to mix things up a little. I am hoping our clergy will take this opportunity to breathe some new life into what has come to be a rather stale service at times...I am also looking forward to inviting friends into my home to share a Shabbat meal without the pressure to rush off to shul.


  33. May 2007 Digest 098            

                …our tradition was always lay-led services in the summer. These are so popular that we have continued them (which our rabbis enjoy, because they have school-aged children and they like taking their vacations in the summer). Our hazzan participates when he is in town. We often have other musical congregants helping out with the music.

                We do the services in the chapel which is more intimate than the sanctuary. We do all different types of services, including the annual Union Prayer Book service, the World Judaism service (multi-lingual), a "camp" service (outdoors, following a picnic and everyone wears white)... It is also a chance for services led by rabbinical students who are members of the congregation; some chavurahs also do one service.

                We keep the same times (8PM except 7:30 on the first Friday of the month).

    John and Karen


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