The High Holidays seem to bring out not only more Jews than any time of year, but also more innovative services. Los Angeles is blessed with a creative spiritual community, dedicated to offering everything from the very new to the very traditional -- to the most unlikely blends of the two.
Here is just a small sampling of where to find High Holiday services that might give you what you don't even know you're looking for. (For a complete list of services, visit www.jewishjournal.com/local/directory.php .)
The popularity of services like Sinai Temple's Friday Night Live has spilled over from Shabbat into the High Holiday arena, where bands that lead participatory singing and dancing complement -- and in some cases replace -- traditional cantorial music. Many of these services also feature Torah discussions rather than sermons.
Long before there was Friday Night Live, there was the TishTones, Beth Shir Sholom's in-house band led by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels on guitar. Some of the music is original, some of it is traditional music arranged for the band. Beth Shir Sholom, a Reform congregation in Santa Monica, will also offer a music workshop on Rosh Hashana afternoon, a spiritual dance workshop on Yom Kippur afternoon and a service for interfaith families on the second day of Rosh Hashana. In addition, guest speaker Mayor James Hahn will visit the congregation on Yom Kippur.
Services will take place at the Marina Beach Marriott Resort, 4100 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, (310) 453-3361, www.bethshirsholom.com .
The New Emanuel Minyan at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills is an alternative service that is more intimate than the main sanctuary service, with participatory music and an interactive study of High Holiday themes. Participants are encouraged to pick up a tape of the holiday music before services, so they can become familiar with the tunes they will hear.
In addition, Emanuel's family service is led by teenagers who have been studying with the cantor and accompanied by the family choir made up of children and adults.
8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6388, www.templeemanuelbh.com .
Sinai Temple, home of Friday Night Live, has been evolving its alternative minyan -- one of five services -- for several years, under the leadership of Rabbi Sherre Zwelling Hirsch and Cantor Tannoz Bahremand. Craig Taubman leads a full band, and singers from the community participate in a choir that leads congregants in lots of singing throughout the service. Lay leaders help guide congregants throughout the service, which this year will include some yoga and meditation and a choreographer who will lead a dance interpretation of a prayer. Chairs are arranged around the bimah, which helps facilitate the Torah discussion.
10400 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, (310) 474-1518, www.sinaitemple.org .
Adat Ari El, home of One Shabbat Morning, offers two Rosh Hashana days and one Yom Kippur day, with 1,000 families joining for participatory services with lots of music and a warm environment.
12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 766-9426, www.adatariel.org.
While you won't find a band at The Happy Minyan at Beth Jacob, you will find music and dancing that can go on for hours into the afternoon at this Orthodox service. For Happy Minyan-goers, the Days of Awe are more aptly called the Days of Joy, where service of God is out of love, not out of fear, says founder Stuart Wachs. Using the tunes and the spirit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the Happy Minyan is a traditional alternative for the alternative crowd. On Saturday night, Sept. 14, join the Happy Minyan for a concert with the Moshav Band.
The Happy Minyan meets at Congregation Beth Jacob, 9030 Olympic Blvd. (310) 285-7777, www.happyminyan.org .
B'nai David Judea, also an Orthodox congregation, has been building up its musical repertoire for its High Holiday services for several years. Tapes go out to congregants during the late summer so they can start familiarizing themselves with the tunes. Under the leadership of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and with prayers led by members of the congregation, the service is a warm and spiritual option, with lots of singing, for those looking for a traditional service.
8906 W. Pico Blvd., (310) 276-9269, www.bnaidavid.com .
The Sports Club L.A., Los Angeles' premier luxury and fitness complex, offers alternative High Holiday services and an opportunity to participate in an intimate journey to heal and rejoice in body, mind and soul.
Services will be officiated by Cantor Esther Schwartz, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shirah and a Holocaust survivor, who will share her personal story of faith and hope. Participants will take part in a memorial candlelighting ceremony to honor heroes from Genesis to Sept. 11, and services will include the music of Rachel Brill and Vera Budinoff and the insight of various guest speakers.
1835 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information call Esther Schwartz (310) 666-9918.
The High Holidays is always a good chance for beginners to enter the fray, and several congregations are offering minyans for those who have minimal background, or for those who want a better understanding of what they've been doing all along.
Beth Jacob Congregation is offering free services on both days of Rosh Hashana and on Yom Kippur conducted by Dr. Daryl Temkin, author of the forthcoming book "Teachings of the Soul." His spiritual and psychological presentations will be molded together with prayer, song and discussion, designed for those seeking deeper and more spiritual ways of making Judaism relevant as a life tool. Seats must be reserved.
Services will be held at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, 9120 Olympic Blvd., (310) 278-1911, www.bethjacob.org .
The Jewish Learning Exchange, home to one of Los Angeles's largest selection of beginner's classes and services, offers a traditional service accessible to those with no background, that is also interesting and meaningful to those who have spent years immersed in Judaism. Prayerbooks are Hebrew/English and Rabbi Avrohom Czapnik offers insights throughout the service.
Services for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are at 7011 Clinton Ave., near La Brea Avenue. For information, call (323) 857-0923.
In addition to its regular service, which is Orthodox and accessible to those with varying backgrounds, Aish L.A. is offering an intermediate service that is 70 percent English with lots of explanations along the way. And Aish has caught the "alternative" bug, with a minyan for 20-35-year-olds that is advertised as provocative and user-friendly. For the alternative minyan, $36 and pre-registration covers both days of Rosh Hashana, a catered lunch, Yom Kippur and a break the fast.
1417 Doheny Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 278-8672, www.aish.com/branches/los_angeles_ca/ .
Something Old, New and Borrowed
While Main Sanctuary services meet some people's needs some of the time, rabbis and lay leaders are working to make those services more relevant and meaningful to more people more of the time. Here are some new twists on standard services:
At Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, Rabbi Stewart Vogel wanted to take one of the most neglected services, Neilah, and turn it around. At the last service on Yom Kippur, congregants used to tolerate having to stand for the whole 45 minutes to an hour, looking forward to the end of the fast. So Vogel added a feature that is practiced in some traditional and liberal settings. He invited congregants up to the bimah to offer their own personal prayers in front of the open ark during Neilah.
"Some people put a tallit around the entire family and offer personal prayers for health; some will sit in almost a meditative state. When they turn around to descend from the bimah, sometimes people are crying and sometimes you see a look of satisfaction, of connectedness. And the congregation is privy to this drama," Vogel says.
6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 346-3545, www.templealiyah.org .
Temple Israel of Hollywood had enough of the supplementary handouts of additional prayers and readings that went along with the Machzor, so rabbis at the Reform congregation decided to craft a new High Holiday prayerbook.
Over the last five years the temple has also developed its own Shabbat prayerbooks. The new machzors, which will be used experimentally for two years while feedback is integrated, will include translations and transliteration and all the songs.
The new book will be used both in the main sanctuary and in the alternative minyan, which will meet first day Rosh Hashana and feature the Chai Tones congregational band and interactive Torah study.
There will be free services for children on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and for adults on the second day of Rosh Hashana.
7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)876-8330, www.tioh.org .
Out of Shul Experience
Sometimes, getting out of synagogue might be the best option. Here are a few services from those who have gone out on their own.
The Moveable Minyan will celebrate the High Holidays in much the same way it did in its early days of existence: In the space at the Westside Jewish Community Center once occupied by the Zimmer Children's Museum. The chavurah-style, lay-led minyan, which hasn't been moveable for some time, spent several years in the space before the children's museum moved into the JCC, and then wandered through rooms at the JCC until the museum moved out. This year, minyan members have spent a summer's worth of Sundays refurbishing the space to have it ready for the High Holidays.
The minyan will meet for both days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and there will be children's services as well as child-care. 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 229-5359.
Metivta: A Center for Contemplative Judaism offers a prayer venue for those looking for a meditative experience where traditional liturgy is infused with kabbalistic insights and cantorial singing blends with chanting. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, head of Metivta, leads participants on a journey inward, where congregants work together to search and heal.
Services will take place at Beth Shir Sholom, 1827 California Ave. in Santa Monica. (310) 477-5370, www.metivta.org