Something really incredible happened in DC. At some point in the history of Jewish DC, three major organizations in the city who are the primary providers of Shabbat experiences got together. They came up with a Shabbat schedule that does not overlap, allowing young adults to attend the different options in a month without having to choose one over the other. Not only is this an amazing model of Jewish organizational partnership and collaboration (one that doesn’t exist in many other cities), but it also encourages us to experience a different kind of Shabbat each week.
These are four distinct Shabbat experiences, across denominations, in different parts of the city, with different styles of prayers, but all with some social component to help you meet new people. Maybe this month you want to hit up all four, or you are deciding where to spend your first Shabbat in DC. Below we have compiled a run down of these four Shabbat options. They are based on subjective experiences that community members have had at these places and we hope they paint a bit of a picture of what to expect there. (Full disclosure, we know some people enjoy Shabbat services and for others, it’s just not your thing. That is so totally ok and there are lots of other ways to do Shabbat or to do Jewish. We hope the GatherDC website and newsletter can connect you to the full range of Jewish options in the city.) But if you are looking for a Shabbat service and meal option, here is a little guide that can get you started…
First Friday of the Month: Adas YP’s Shir Delight
Where: Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park
On the First Friday of each month, hundreds of Jews gather in Cleveland Park for drinks and services – and it’s not at the Quebec House, an apartment building near Adas Israel that somehow manages to maintain a 50% Jewish population of residents! It is for Shir Delight, Adas Israel’s young professional Shabbat. This predominantly lay-led (no Rabbi’s in the house till the sermon, although recently they’re experimenting with using their awesome rabbis to lead) Conservative service is kicked off with just the thing to loosen you up to a night of praying and eating: a happy hour. With a great selection of beer, wine, hard cider and hors d’oeuvres, you can mingle and make friends or just try to get as much of the crudité on your plate as you can. The service, usually led by one or two of your peers as you journey through Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, flows from one prayer to the other with the only interruption being someone calling out the page numbers to keep everyone on track. After services everyone (all 200+ people) shuffles into dinner where you take your seat and meet your new 8-10 best friends to share a yummy kosher meal. The room is usually still packed with people when they start ushering people out at the end of the night. And for many people, the night doesn’t end once Adas locks the doors; many continue the festivities informally at a local bar in Cleveland Park.
Second Friday of the Month: 6th in the City Shabbat
Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place
Rabbi Shira Stutman’s 6th in the City Shabbat begins Sixth & I’s consecutive weekend YP Shabbat circuit. Like all of the Shabbat options, we warm up with a drink downstairs where you can leave your jacket and bag because this is also the place you will be having dinner. Also for the yogis out there, you can start your night with Shabbasana™: Pre-Shabbat Yoga that often links the weeks Torah portion to your movements. Your dreams may come true if you happen to be there when Rick Recht is performing Cantor duties. If you haven’t been to this Shabbat yet make sure that you bring a friend who went to a Jewish summer camp that Recht played at and you can see your friend literally lose their mind with excitement during the service. (This is not an actual prerequisite to attend.) Make sure to get up and dance during the Lecha Dodi and always try to go for a spot on the bimah (stage), because some of us haven’t been there since our Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is an accessible Shabbat experience where Rabbi Shira guides everyone through the evening. After the meal, you can join your fellow congregants downstairs for a meal and some more prayers.
Third Friday of the Month: Good Soul Shabbat
Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place
We have now hit the third Friday of the month and that means jamming in a spiritual sojourn lead by the brave and fearless Rabbi Scott Perlo and the great guy killing it on the drums. This journey also includes a “choose-your-own-adventure” element. You can start your night with either 45 minutes of meditation or a happy hour, whichever will get you in the right spiritual headspace for Shabbat. In this service, they really aren’t kidding with the name. Throughout the service Rabbi Scott continually calls attention to the meaning of the prayers that you might have just been going through the motions of without his guidance. He is usually accompanied by several musicians, which makes this one of the most musically focused of the Shabbat options. And once you are done singing your heart out, you, of course, eat dinner and you can join the jam session if you are so inclined.
Fourth Friday of the Month: Metro Minyan hosted by 2239
Location: Calvary Baptist Church in Gallery Place
If you live in Gallery Place, you are in a solid spot for the final Shabbat of the month. Rabbi Aaron Miller leads Metro Minyan (named so because this service takes place off-site of Washington Hebrew Congregation and brings it to a much more metro accessible location). Make sure to get there early for Shot of Torah (named such since there are drinks available) – an interactive round-table discussion in English about the Torah portion of the week, led by the fabulous and enthusiastic Rabbi Miller. You then transition to the service that makes those of you who grew up in Reform temples, summer camps, or youth groups feel right at home – with a guitar, Debbie Friedman tunes, and a Reform prayerbook. In addition to the Shot of Torah before services, two things really make this service special, especially for newbies. Rabbi Aaron asks people to stand up and introduce themselves if you’re attending Metro Minyan for the first time. If you are really shy, there’s no pressure, but it is an opportunity for you to be welcomed by the community. Speaking of first-timers, if you showed up with no one, no problem! At the end of the service, you can find someone on the welcoming committee to sit with and introduce you around. Another great part of the service is the chance to share your Simchas (literally means celebrations, your good news from the last month) and accomplishments with the community. Whether it be big or small this is your chance to share what you have been excited about.
So there you have it – here are four great options for spending your Friday night with the Tribe. It is, after all, the holiest day of the week for our people. I haven’t lived in other major cities but DC seems to have a pretty special and amazing Shabbat culture. And remember, there are many wonderful ways to spend your Shabbat praying or not praying if that’s not how you roll. The four Shabbats mentioned tend to be large (between 100 – 300 people) but there are many smaller scale Shabbat options, independent Shabbat options, pluralistic, vegetarian… the list goes on!
Check out our Shabbat page to learn more.
What are other ways you connect on Friday nights? Share in the comments below!