Worship – What to Expect

A member of our board of trustees will be greeting everyone at the door as you arrive ahead of the start time for the service.  They can help show you the coatroom and the restrooms, usher you into the sanctuary, and make sure you have the proper prayer book for the service.

Our service follows a prescribed order set out in our prayer book, Mishkan Tefillah, published by the Jewish Reform Movement.  We say or chant some prayers in Hebrew and some in English.  All Hebrew in the service is both transliterated phonetically and translated into English in Mishkan Tefillah, so you can follow along, participate, and understand in whichever language you are most comfortable.  Our Rabbi guides everyone through the service, announcing page numbers and indicating when to rise or be seated.  Although there are some portions of the service where the congregation rises, if you have a physical issue which makes that difficult or painful, you should feel free to remain seated. 

Typically our Friday night service includes a sermon, which is usually a “d’var Torah,” an explanation/interpretation of the week’s reading from the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), and the entire service lasts an hour.  We do not usually read from the Torah on Friday nights; when we do, the service may go a bit later.  The Saturday morning service includes a Torah reading and a d’var Torah and generally lasts an hour and a half.  Sometimes on Friday nights we have a special program with a featured speaker, who may speak during the service in place of the sermon or during the oneg Shabbat reception following services.

Our services are relatively informal.  We are an engaged, participatory group, joining robustly in the singing and sometimes posing questions or making comments during the service.  Often our singing is accompanied by guitar or tambourine.  We especially love having children present.  So long as they are not screaming, babies making ordinary baby noises are apt to be met with broad smiles from fellow worshipers.  We have a lounge and a classroom where anyone needing a break from the service can retreat as needed.

After the service, there’s a reception of pastries, beverages and the like, known as the Oneg Shabbat on Friday evening and the Kiddush on Saturdays or festivals, to which everyone is invited.  This is our opportunity to perform the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orhim, our Jewish obligation to welcome guests, so we sincerely hope you’ll stay after the service so we can meet each other.

B'nai Sholom Albany NY