On January 27-28, IJC and Beth Hillel orchestrated “Side by Side” Shabbat services at the Beth Hillel location. “We wanted to maximize synergies and get to know each other better, says IJC President Steven Brummel. The physical space was divided into two areas, both on Friday night and Saturday morning, so that each congregation, led by its own rabbi, could hold Kabbalat Shabbat and Shacharit services as per usual. This required no small measure of logistical planning and proved enjoyable and fulfilling for all. The European Union of Progressive Judaism Chairman Miriam Kramer attended both sets of services.
“We were clearly in a shul, a Jewish building, with a mezuzah on the door,” said Rabbi Ira. “Having both communities in the same location made me feel that we were larger than the sum of our parts. When we joined together for a potluck dinner on Friday and then for Kiddush on Saturday, the dining area was overflowing.”
IJC’ers generally found it a very positive experience too. Attending on Friday night, Brian Doyle noted that “as we came together for Kabbalat Shabbat, Beth Hillel graciously welcomed every one of us. The parallel services did not disturb one another - on the contrary, the little sound heard in the background from the 'other' sanctuary was somehow reassuring. It felt good to share this Jewish space, this synagogue. The large turnout led to an animated pot-luck dinner in a warm atmosphere. The Beth Hillel shul was accommodating from beginning to end.”
Saturday morning also saw a large IJC presence. Members of all ages were committed to making this experimental service as meaningful as possible and curious to mingle with Beth Hillel congregants. Hebrew School classes also took place on the premises in comfortable classrooms that Beth Hillel only uses on weekdays. All IJC teachers, and parents contributed to the success of the day’s session.
Beth Hillel and IJC members worked enthusiastically side-by-side in the kitchen too, to orchestrate (and later clean up) both the lavish potluck spread on Friday night, and the generous cakes and sweets Kiddush on Saturday morning.
An online survey of IJC members found that a vast majority either ‘liked’ or ‘loved’ sharing the Beth Hillel building; many were positive about specifically sharing the kitchen, classrooms and outdoor space; and above all, IJC’ers deeply appreciated sharing a Kiddush with another community.
The effort and thought invested by both communities’ rabbis, boards and administrators clearly led to a positive and fulfilling outcome.