Leading services? Choose your own adventure…

Our roots service coordinator Jude muses about service leading opportunities at grassroots

The first few years of grassroots, we flew in the superb Yossi Chajes to lead the majority of our services. A few were led by members of the nascent community. Over those first few years, more people stepped up to lead and create services, putting in significant time and effort. As someone who reads Hebrew very slowly and laboriously, I was and am totally in awe of the effort people put in to learn some of the frankly huge Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. And it made me proud to be part of a new community where people felt such a level of love and commitment that they were willing to do this.

A few years later I took the leap and stepped up, hands shaking and voice wavering, to lead my first Torah service. With a friend co-leading for moral support, and the glorious amassed voices of the GRJ community, my wibbly nervous voice was not a problem. I did it, and then I did it again, and now I can even lead it without wibbling. Then a friend asked me to co-lead mussaf. Eek. But it turned out, co-leading is a pretty variable feast. We agreed I'd lead two piyutim all by my little self, and would otherwise take on an apprentice role as harmoniser-in-chief and leader-of-congregation-responses.

Why am I writing about all this? Because having the whole GRJ behind me, singing with me, is the most connected and uplifted I've ever felt in a shul context. Because I believe a surefire way to create your ideal service is to lead it. Because I love that our community has been growing its own service leaders. And because, gloriously, we’re becoming a victim of our own success. By my count, at least three new progressive-with-a-little-p egalitarian communities have sprung up in London since grassroots started, where former grassroots service leaders are now leading services. I’m super proud to be part of a movement towards egalitarian, engaged Judaism. And also very aware that we in Grassroots need to find or grow new service leaders to replace those who are now treating other communities to their talents.

Services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come in different sizes and complexities. There are some that are largely the same as on shabbat (psukei d'zimra, Torah service) that can be led by anyone, of any gender. Others have tons of unique content and take a lot of learning (e.g. mussaf, neilah). And some are in the middle (mincha on Yom Kippur).

As roots service coordinator, I want to make it easier for anyone to step up to lead a service for the first time, or to go part-way towards leading a bigger service, so the amount of stuff to learn isn't a total barrier. If this sounds like you and you have ideas, get in touch.

And it’s not all about singing long bits of Hebrew. If you want to run a creative non-traditional service, we want to hear from you. If your ideal service follows Mizrachi tunes and conventions, and you can lead them, we want to hear from you. If your ideal service has explanatory kavanot, and you want to provide them, we want to hear from you.

Ultimately, Grassroots is the result of awesome people stepping up to create the services and sessions they want. GRJ2019 will be what you make it.