Liturgy and kavanot: The Roots service uses the Hebrew liturgy found in orthodox prayer books, with the addition of “kavanot” - reflections and/or explanations in English, which draw out the meaning of the service and set the atmosphere and intention.
Co-leadership: The main Hebrew liturgy is led by a male service leader; this enables men who come from an orthodox tradition to have their prayer obligations met as part of our services. We also actively create opportunities for leadership for women and people of other genders, for instance in Pesukei De’Zimra and Torah Service, which can be done solely by a non-male service-leader. Where there is a male service-leader, we create opportunities for female leadership in the piyyutim - which are Hebrew songs and poems added for the high holydays - and the kavanot. We also have men who take on the role as co-leader too.
Seating: We use a three way partition that allows people with different practices or traditions to come together in one community. We call this a tri (or “try”, as it’s experimental!) -chitza, after the “mechitza” in traditional orthodox synagogues which separates men and women. There is an area for women, an area for men, and an area open to either gender. Please sit where you feel most comfortable.
Minyan: We follow the tenandten principle; ten men and ten women are present from the start of Shacharit (the morning service). We are always looking for people to volunteer to be there at the beginning of the services, to make sure that we have our ten-and-ten minyan.
Shofar: We have opened up shofar blasts to women as well as men. Women and men work in a pair to call the blasts for each other and train together. Women blow the final 40 and men blow the first 90. Typically there are 100 blasts so we like to be a little different and blow an additional 30. This both answers to people who are accustomed to hearing blasts from a male leader and it also enables people to hear 100 notes and still go to sessions that run during the repetition of the Amidah (where there are 30 blasts). It is a little confusing but we are proud that we have found a workable middle ground between different customs.
Rationale: We find this approach is a little different to what you would find in most places and might seem slightly odd, but for us it best exemplifies the values that underpin Grassroots Jews. We find that it is our way of honouring the value of community, and revering our commitments to inclusivity and halacha. For those accustomed to an Orthodox halachic perspective, this might appear initially unsettling. For those invested in a progressive project of halacha, this might seem inadequate. To the former, we encourage you to test the water, and then come to a conclusion. To the latter, we ask you to hold on, and experience the difference that it makes. And for those who have a background in a Judaism where egalitarianism is a done deal, this entire conversation may seem entirely archaic. For us, what works is that we all are prepared to feel a little discomfort in order to come together as a community. We look forward to seeing you there!