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Is Shabbat with Friends NM a Synagogue?


Friday, April 21, 2023

Dear friends,

As the founder of Shabbat with Friends NM, I am frequently asked, “What is Shabbat with Friends (SWF)? I frequently get this question from synagogue members and rabbinic colleagues. I explain, “SWF is not a synagogue, nor does it aspire to be a synagogue. Shabbat with Friends does what its name suggests. We organize home Shabbat celebratory gatherings that build friendships and recapture the joy of sharing Shabbat over a meal, singing together, and engaging in group Torah learning. SWF is an emerging Shabbat centered Jewish community that seeks to revitalize the experience of the Jewish Sabbath. We are rooted in the New Mexico Jewish community, blending Jewish tradition with the enchantment of the Southwest.”

To better understand with SWF is doing, I have summarized some of the basic differences and overlaps between SWF and synagogues in the table below.



Synagogues

Shabbat with Friends

​Synagogues offer regular worship services in a synagogue building.

​SWF does not offer formal worship. Instead, it organizes Shabbat gatherings around meals in homes and special venues.

​Synagogues offer High Holiday, Festival services and programs.

​​SWF focuses almost exclusively on Shabbat and purposely does not offer festival and High Holiday worship.

​Synagogues offer formal Jewish education for children.

SWF offers informal Shabbat experiences for children.

​Synagogues belong to national denominations.

SWF is not affiliated with a national denomination.

​Synagogues offer a wide range of services for members such as brotherhood, sisterhood, youth groups, etc

​SWF focuses on Shabbat experiences and its home traditions of group singing, Torah study, and Jewish hospitality practices.

​Synagogues sustain themselves through dues from members.

​SWF is considering a distinctly different model of financial sustainability.

​Synagogues are led by rabbis or cantors with wide ranging job descriptions.

​SWF is led by a rabbi, but the role of the rabbi differs significantly from the synagogue model.

As a rabbi who has served congregations for most of my career, I have profound respect for the role of synagogues in Jewish life. However, I founded SWF to address the gaps in synagogue and Jewish life, especially the way Shabbat is presented and experienced in our community.


I believe that Jewish communal life is so diffuse and overextended that it can become boring, uninspired, and detached from its original purposes and its spiritual wellsprings. I believe Shabbat is the source of the Jewish genius of community, of the value of relationships, the context for joyful activity, and the source of rest and rejuvenation.


Shabbat with Friends is also infused with the influences of the vigorous experiments in Jewish life going on in other communities across the United States and in Israel. One such influence is the work of the Jewish Emergent Network. This network comprises several Jewish communities around the country that offer exciting approaches to Jewish life. I have long enduring relationships with leaders in many of these communities. Their values statement reflects the vision that animates Shabbat with Friends. It shapes our efforts and helps guide our programs and initiative.

  • a devotion to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement

  • a commitment to approaches both traditionally rooted and creative.

  • a demonstrated success in attracting unaffiliated and disengaged Jews to a meaningful Jewish practice.

  • a willingness to operate outside of traditional institutional models and rethinking basic assumptions about US Jewish communities with regard to prayer, membership models, staff structures, the religious/cultural divide, and physical space. (Click on Partnerships – IKAR to see the participating organizations.)


If you want to be part of a engaging conversation on new ideas about Jewish life in our region, please join the Shabbat with Friend open forum the next steps for SWF on Sunday morning, April 23rd from 10-11:30am MDT. You can attend in person at the JCC in Albuquerque at 5200 Wyoming Blvd NE (boardroom). Or if you live in Santa Fe or beyond, you can register on Zoom to attend virtually. There is no charge. The forum is open to the community.

For questions, please contact me at 505 582-9577 or by email at dov@shabbatwithfriends.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Convener, Shabbat with Friends NM

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