Your Guide to Great Singing Opportunities in New York and Beyond, Part 1

Friends, family, acquaintances, and future friends,

In the article that follows, I have detailed occasions and events for communal singing in New York and beyond, most of which I have personally attended. Please email me if you know of others – benkramarz@gmail.com

Part 1: Minyanim and Synagogues (Jewish Prayer Spaces) in Brooklyn

Shir HaMaalot: http://www.shirhamaalotbk.org/


Meets: Second Friday every month at 7:00 pm (unless otherwise specified).
Place: Union Temple, 3rd floor, 17 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY.
Style: Egalitarian traditional (men and women have full participation in all parts of service, service follows traditional liturgy).
Description from Organizers: Shir HaMaalot, "Song of the Heights," is a volunteer-led, traditional-egalitarian havurah that hosts musical Friday night services (often with instruments) and a vegetarian potluck dinner.
My Description: Shir HaHamaalot is a musical service with tons of singing that includes a vegetarian potluck afterward (with three table Kashrut system – Vegetarian, Vegan, and Hechsher-Kosher). By far the largest independent egalitarian minyan in Brooklyn, Shir HaMaalot draws people from all over Brooklyn and a few from other Boroughs as well. At around 10:00 pm, there is a Tisch (song session) with more singing, alcohol, and snacks that lasts until the event ends at 11:45 pm. Although it can be a bit overwhelming if you are shy, it is a welcoming community and a great opportunity to meet Jews in Brooklyn.

Mishkan Minyan: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1446135288936265/, email mishkanminyan@gmail.com to join listserv and receive details about time and location.


Meets: Last Friday every month at 7:00 pm (unless otherwise specified).
Place: Varies, has included Repair the World at 808 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn; Park Slope Jewish Center at 1320 8th Ave., Brooklyn; and private apartments.
Style: Egalitarian traditional (men and women have full participation in all parts of service, service follows traditional liturgy).
Description from Organizers: Mishkan Minyan is a home-based and intimate Shabbat community that includes dynamic davvening, learning, and a vegetarian potluck dinner (with two-table kashrut system).
My Description: Mishkan Minyan is basically a smaller, more intimate, roaming version of Shir HaMaalot that attracts many of the same people. Like Shir HaMaalot, Mishkan Minyan has a very musical service with lots of singing. MM has a different organizing committee and tends to draw a slightly younger crowd. Though I haven’t been to Mishkan Minyan in quite a while, it was the first minyan I attended in Brooklyn and I met several people there with whom I became very close friends.

Kavod Minyan: https://www.facebook.com/KavodBrooklyn/

Meets: Saturday mornings, about once a month at 9:30 am. Dates vary, often first Saturday of the month – see Facebook page for upcoming meetings.
Place: Repair the World, 808 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn.
Style: Partnership (Men and women sit separately with a mechitza (curtain) between them; Count a minyan as 10 men plus 10 women; women lead some parts of service but not all).
Description from Organizers: Kavod is a lay-led minyan that comes together once a month for Shabbat services, Torah reading, singing, kiddush and community engagement. We aim to bring an inclusive, warm and welcoming atmosphere to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Park Slope.
My Description: Kavod is a great place to daven on Saturday mornings if you want a traditional service without the weight of shul politics. The singing is great for Shacharit and Mussaf. If Torah reading is not your thing, you can easily step out into the other room without feeling that you are being judged. Overall, Kavod is a welcoming and easygoing place.

Altshul: http://www.altshul.org/

Meets: Second and fourth Saturdays of the month at 10:00 am. Third Friday of the month (timing varies).
Place: Congregation Beth Elohim, 274 Garfield Pl., Brooklyn.
Style: Egalitarian traditional (men and women have full participation in all parts of service, service follows traditional liturgy).
Description from Organizers: Altshul is an independent, egalitarian minyan in Park Slope, Brooklyn that is guided by halacha and follows the traditional liturgy. We are committed to building community through quality, spirited and spiritual community-led prayer, study, and social action.
My Description: I have only attended Altshul once or twice. While it seems to draw a slightly older crowd than Shir HaMaalot, many Shir HaMaalot regulars attend Altshul as well. The philosophy and style are quite similar to Kehilat Hadar in Manhattan, from which Altshul draws inspiration and Halakhic (Jewish legal) guidance. Altshul leaders and participants are committed to traditional egalitarian Jewish practice and offer an engaging prayer space, primarily on Saturday mornings.

Brooklyn Women’s Chavura: https://www.facebook.com/womendaven/

Meets: Third Saturday every month at 10 am. UPDATE from Nechama: Brooklyn Women's Chavura will meet on the 5th Shabbat of April and after that may meet at irregular intervals. Email Nechama (info@womendaven.org) for updates and to join mailing list.
Place: Repair the World, 808 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn.
Style: Modern Orthodox with a twist (Men and women sit separately, women lead all rituals).
Description from Organizers: The Brooklyn Women's Chavura is a Women's Tefillah Group in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Our davening follows the traditional Ashkenazic Orthodox nusach. Our mission is to create a warm, welcoming kehilah that will provide any Jewish woman with opportunities for ritual participation and communal belonging.
My Description: The Brooklyn Women’s Chavura is essentially a traditional Orthodox service with gender roles reversed. Founded and led by my good friend, bike store owner and radical feminist Nechama Levy, Brooklyn Women’s Chavura is simultaneously a protest statement against the Ultra-Orthodox environment in which Nechama was raised as well as a unique opportunity for women to take an active role in Jewish ritual in a female-dominated space. If you are a man attending the service, be prepared to sit behind a curtain in the back and assume a passive role in the performance of ritual. In addition to offering a participatory, music-filled service, Brooklyn Women’s Chavura features a substantial Kiddush following services and sometimes a full lunch.

Prospect Heights Shul: https://prospectheightsshul.org/

Meets: Every Friday night, shortly after candle lighting for Mincha, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Maariv (check calendar on website for exact times). Every Saturday morning at 9:30 am.
Place: Luria Academy, 235 St. Mark’s Ave., Brooklyn (in the school’s gym).
Style: Modern Orthodox (men and women sit separately, men lead most of ritual, women give divrei Torah (speeches about the weekly reading) and lead certain parts of ritual.
Description from Organizers: The Prospect Heights Shul is a warm and diverse Modern Orthodox community that exists to create meaningful relationships among its members and with G-d; to foster personal and spiritual growth; and to care for those who are marginalized, within our community and beyond it.
My Description: The Prospect Heights Shul (PHS) occupies the space between an independent minyan and a full-fledged synagogue. Like an independent minyan, PHS features a large contingent of young, single and recently married members who take an active role in synagogue leadership (in addition to many members with children). Davening is spirited and musical and takes place in a rented space (a school gym). Like a synagogue, PHS offers attendees the opportunity to pay for membership (for a reasonable sliding-scale fee), holds weekly prayer services on both Friday nights and Saturday morning, and employs a rabbi and a rabbinic intern (both part-time).

Chevra Ahavas Yisroel: http://chevraahavasyisroel.org/

Meets: Every Friday night, shortly after candle lighting for Mincha, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Maariv. Every Saturday morning at 10:00 am.
Place: 306 Albany Ave., Brooklyn.
Style: Orthodox, Chabad (Men sit in front, women sit in back behind a curtain; men lead all ritual aspects; women can be and are involved in organizing and leadership).
Description from Organizers: Chevra Ahavas Yisroel is a grass-roots Shul in Crown Heights, created as a spiritual gathering place for all Jews, regardless of background or affiliation. We seek to galvanize the basics of Judaism in a relevant manner through joyful, song filled prayer and contemporary programming while maintaining an unwavering commitment to Halacha and the spirit of Chassidus.
My Description: Chevra Ahavas Yisroel (CAY) is known in Brooklyn as being the “alternative” Chabad shul. Though the service adheres to the traditional Chabad liturgy and style, the community is diverse. It is comprised of Chabadniks who don’t quite fit into the standard Chabad model, Ba’alei Teshuva (people who became religious later in life), formerly Orthodox people, and a smattering of other folks who enjoy the diversity and offbeat nature of the community. CAY has some of the strongest and most passionate singing in all of Brooklyn. Friday nights, Saturday mornings, and Havdallah all offer a wonderful opportunity for impassioned musical prayer. Sometimes, Havdallah turns into an extended jam session where the community sings and plays niggunim and other Jewish songs.

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