#Carley-barley, try-chitza'd, partnership-style leading, old-skool liturgy with new-fangled Kavanot
Roots uses Hebrew liturgy, while working to make the services as inclusive as possible.  These services are held for all daytime services on Rosh Hashanah, and all Yom Kippur services from Kol Nidre through to Neilah.


#open-seating, multi-gendered service leading throughout, why-chitza, trad-prog elements
Shoots has been a key part of what makes GRJ for as long as many of us can remember. Shoots services draw from a range of liturgies and experiment with different service formats.  These services have open seating and all roles can be fulfilled by any gender. In 2019, Shoots services will be running on Rosh Hashana Day 2, and on Yom Kippur afternoon (Mincha).


As there's no Chazan, no Rabbi and indeed no choir, the only voices to be heard are ours. We are all participants in GRJ and want everyone to feel inspired and enthused to join in. Some tunes will be familiar, others perhaps less so, but please do sing or hum/’lai-lai-lai’ along. It will also make our gracious service leaders feel really great.


One of the key aims of Grassroots Jews is to create a prayer and High Holiday experience that has meaning, colour and depth. We want to engage with the liturgy while allowing everyone to be themselves.  When you come, you'll bring your own unique take on this wonderful evolving project in exploratory and experiential spirituality.  We love praying, sharing, learning and celebrating together.  We even create resources and seek out mentors amongst ourselves so that Torah verses in the services can be chanted by GRJ participants - some of us for the very first time. 

Our services and sessions straddle multiple traditions and innovations. We're delighted to be formed by Orthodox, Masorti, Renewal, Reform, Liberal, Unaffiliated, confused, amused and wandering Jews and their loved ones.  Below are some further details on what you can be part of creating - in advance or on the day - and when you sign up to come, you can let us know how you'd like to take part. 

Experimentation is the stuff Grassroots is made of. You can pick and choose which services or sessions to go to, and have a mix between them or choose one that suits you more. All GRJ services are highly engaged with Jewish traditions and all services have elements of innovation. What we find is unique to all services at GRJ is that every single service has two co-leaders. This pair will have planned the format, music, words and reflections of the service together. We love this approach and we find it invites a more collective prayer experience.  

LEYNING & BLASTING (Torah Reading and Shofar Blowing)

This year, about 40 special souls (approx 10% of our gathered community!) will step up and read from the Torah, some for the very first time. Many have told us that taking part in this is the highlight of their High Holiday experience.  GRJ Torah services are completely communally led, with help from a team of friendly mentors, and a handy set of recordings.

Shofar blowing is also open to all genders, with certain parameters to fit into the Orthodox framework.  For this it would help if you can already toot a trumpet.  No matter how new, rusty, or polished you are, you will have a chance to step up when you sign up. 






What are Alternative Sessions?

There are many ways to engage with the High Holidays, and we find that each year the GRJ community is full of friends who are able to lead us in a rich programme of parallel sessions: from meditation to qi gong, from study sessions, to singing circles. Each session connects with the themes of the day as perceived by the facilitator, and provides depth on your journey, whether you dive in, or just dip your toe!

Rosh Hashana Day 1 

Mindful Hatha yoga (09:30 - 10:30) - Main Hall

Prepare the mind and body for Rosh Hashana prayers with some Simple, straightforward stretches and breathing techniques. Lead by Ailon Freedman.

Avodat Lev (11:00 - 12:00) - Main Hall

Grounding ourselves in song and incorporating parts of the morning service. Lead by Deana Gershuny.

Shrug (11:00 - 12:00) - The Snug

What do you mean ‘Jewish comedy’? Lead by Abi Symons.

Feminist Successes Through The Ages (12:00 - 13:00) - Main Hall

Join us for a celebratory session where we reflect on feminist successes through the ages. Share your personal triumphs from 5779 and aspirations for 5780. Lead by Georgina Bye and Hannah Gaventa.

Extinction Rebellion Jews (13:00 - 14:00) - Main Hall

Let’s talk about the planet. What is happening and what we must do about it this new year. Lead by Nyman and Talia Chain.

Reflection, Gratitude and Letting Go (13:00 - 14:00) - The Snug

Prepare the mind and body for Rosh Hashana prayers with some reflection. How has the past year been for you? What has made you happy, sad, afraid or excited? What would you like to leave behind? And what would you like to invite in, as you journey into the next year? Through guided meditation, partner sharing and group discussion we will reflect on these questions. Lead by Emily Grossman. 

Rosh hashana day 2

SHOOTS: 'Shechechiyanu Shacharit' (09:30 - 10:30) - Main Hall

Join Debbie Danon, co-chair of the Shir Hayim / Willesden Minyan Community, for a facilitated circle of song and sharing, movement and meditation loosely inspired by Shacharit. Together, we'll use the SH/WM practice of Shechechiyanu to express gratitude for the newness of the year, as well as uncovering new appreciation for the blessings in our lives. We'll also meditate on selected Shacharit blessings, and discover what they can teach us about gratitude, self-worth, and our incredible potential as human beings.

Custodianship of Our Spiritual, Social and Cultural Capital (09:30 - 10:30) - The Snug

What does it mean to have spiritual, social or cultural capital? What or who determines the “value” of this capital? Reflecting on the year past and the year to come – what is of true value to us? Lead by Naomi Soetendorp (GRJ co-founder).

SHOOTS: tORAH STUDY (11:00 - 12:15) - Main Hall

Join Daniel Lichman, Rabbi of the Shir Hayim / Willesden Minyan Community, for some High Holy Day inspired Torah Study.

The Life Of a Stranger - Hagar’s Fate in Jewish Sources (11:00 - 12:00) - The Snug

Today’s torah reading concerns Hagar and Ishmael, and their treatment in the house of Abraham and Sarah. Come and look at the reading together, alongside some midrashic and medieval Jewish responses. Lead by Alma Reisel.

Top 10 Things Goys* Say To Me About The Holocaust (12:00 - 13:00) - The Snug

*Who believe that it happened. Lead by Tamara Micner.

SHOOTS: Devotional Mussaf with Yelala (12:30 - 14:00) - Main Hall

The shofar calls us awake with its hollow sound, its clear, mournful cry, expressing a spectrum of yearnings that cannot be captured in words. Join Kohenet Yael Tischler and Kohenet Rachel Rose Reid for a deep dive into the practice of devotional chant, inspired by the Rosh Hashana Mussaf service. We will become the cry of the shofar ourselves, through our voices and our song.

How Do We Deal With People’s Views We Hate? (13:00 - 14:00) - The Snug

Sources on the practice of moral humility from Judaism and psychology. Lead by Lucy Newman.

Yom Kippur

Accessible Yoga (10:00 - 11:00) - Main Hall

This will be a gentle chair based class with some standing and floor options. Gabi is passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone so if you’re new to yoga, you’re living in an older body or a larger body, you’re LGBT+, you live with chronic conditions or injuries or you just want to move a bit then this is the class for you. Come and do what you can. Lead by Gabi Markham.

Chevruta for Yom Kippur (10:00 - 11:00) - The Snug

At Yom Kippur, we seal ourselves in the book of life. In this session, we will explore the theme of life, through Chevruta, a study of ancient Jewish texts, as well as contemporary sources. We will examine the roots of life, the meaning of life, and preserving life and death. Lead by Dan Heller.

Fast look at fasting in the Talmud (11:00 - 12:00) - Main Hall

What’s the big deal about the fast and why on Yom Kippur? Come and dip into the Talmud’s take on Yom Kippur and see how the fast fits into the big picture. All sources will be translated - you will be surprised and puzzled by their point of view. Lead by Benedict Roth.

Yom Kippur and the Therapeutic Process (11:00 - 12:00) - The Snug

This session will explore the similarities between the Yom Kippur ritual and the therapeutic process. It is based on the book ‘Sacred Therapy’ by Estelle Frankel. Lead by Matthew Rosen-Marsh.

Yin/restorative yoga class (12:00 - 12:45) - Main Hall

Whether in his upbeat bootcamp and calisthenics classes, sweaty power yoga flows, or in his more introspective and subtle yin classes, Matt melts together his experiences with movement, bringing people both closer together and more in tune with their bodies. For Yom Kippur, Matt will be teaching a 60 minute yin/restorative yoga class that will bring you more in tune with your body, offering a sequence of postures that both challenge and relax the mind and body. All levels are welcome. Lead by Matthew Feczko.

Avodat Lev (12:00 - 13:00) - The Snug

Grounding ourselves in song and incorporating parts of the morning service. Lead by Deana Gershuny.

Post Yizkor Remembrance Grief Circle (13:00 - 14:00) - Main Hall

The Remembrance Grief Circle is a space for anyone who needs support at a time when emotions can be heightened. You are welcome to just sit in silence, to cry in private without judgement or to share stories about the loved ones who have passed. The session will be facilitated with guided sharing. The grief may be recent or it may be many years old. Lead by Nikki Levitan and Katy Neale.

Judaism, Humour and Therapy (13:00 - 14:00) - The Snug

How laughter/comedy can help healing/caring. Dare we laugh? Lead by Brian Kaplan.

Meditative Chanting (14:00 - 15:00) - Main Hall

A session of meditative chanting and song based around Yom Kippur themes liturgy. Dive into devotion through harmony, breath, rhythm and sound. Lead by Kohenet Rachel Rose Reid.

Silent Space (14:00 - 15:00) - The Snug

A Silent Space on Yom Kippur for personal prayer, meditation and reflection. We will sit in silence in a similar way to a Quaker prayer meeting. This may be an hour of total silence. If you have a pull to share an insight that comes out of the silence, you may speak for a short period of time, no one replies, we listen and we return back to the silent personal reflection. Lead by Silent Space.

Forgiveness and Compassion (16:15 - 17:00) - The Snug

How do we open our hearts to compassion and let go of resentments, both towards others and towards ourselves? Join us for a guided meditation to connect us to what we are holding onto from the past year, accompanied by some practical techniques to help us to let go of the past, so that we may move freely and playfully into the new year. Lead by Emily Grossman.

Qi Gong (17:30 - 18:30) - Main Hall

Qi Gong means working with the energy. Based on the Chinese Energetic system, we will be doing a series of gentle stretching exercises which will rebuild and replenish our energy ready in parallel with the Neilah - the home stretch of Yom Kippur. Lead by Matthew Rosen-Marsh.




we are growing 


Every year the number of families with small children who attend Grassroots increases.  We have moved quickly from a community founded by dozens of 20-30 somethings to a community of hundreds, which now includes our parents, our grandparents and our children. 

bring the kids

We welcome babies and children to attend all elements of our high holy days celebration.  Feel free to breastfeed wherever you wish.  We are creating a dedicated family space where appropriate books, toys, snacks, bottle washing and changing facilities are included. However, the family room is open to all, with festival-themed games and songs for you to play and learn with your children. 

Please be aware that you will need to supervise your children at all times as GRJ does not have any childcare arrangements in 2019, although we will be running families sessions and services. You must include your children on your registration when you book, otherwise we can’t accurately know how many people will be joining us - under 16s can attend GRJ for free, we just need to know their names and ages please.


Based on roots service timings - alternative programming & Families sessions running throughout the periods below - see the jazzy booklet when you arrive!


Based on roots service timings - alternative programming & Families sessions running throughout the periods below - see the jazzy booklet when you arrive!

Rosh Hashana (both days)

  • 08:30 - Pesukei DeZimra
  • 09:00 - Shacharit
  • 10:30 - Kiddush
  • 11:00 - Torah Service
  • 12:15 - Shofar
  • 12:30 - Mussaf
  • Hopefully around 14:00 - Lunch

Erev Yom Kippur

  • 18:08 - Fast starts
  • 18:30 - Kol Nidrei
  • 19:00 - Ma'ariv
  • 20:40 - Finish

Yom Kippur

  • 09:00 - Pesukei DeZimra
  • 09:30 - Shacharit
  • 11:15 - Torah Service
  • 12:40 - Yizkor
  • 13:00 - Mussaf
  • 15:30 - Mincha
  • 17:30 - Neilah & Ma'ariv
  • 19:08 - Shofar
  • 19:09 - Havdallah & Breaking the fast

VOLUNTEERS at grj2019

VOLUNTEERS at grj2019


We all do! Yes, you too!  

We create mindful Jewish community as we focus on making meaningful, inspiring Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for ourselves, our families, and friends old and new.  We make it happen between now and October, gifting our time and skill in balance with the rest of our lives.  

When you join GRJ 2019  we will ask you some questions to find out what that could look like  for you, from creative visioning to hands on help, from logistics to love crew, from technical expertise to fabulous food.


This year, GRJ volunteering is (as the name suggests) voluntary, but we do encourage you all to take the plunge and sign up. We guarantee you’ll get more out of the grassroots experience than if you try to just consume it. Most of the volunteer shifts are things like: an hour on the kitchen crew, an hour on the welcome desk, or a couple of hours helping get the space ready before Rosh Hashana. In the past, the big job of creating these events has been carried by a small number of people, and we would dearly like to share the load and get a little help.

You can sign up for a 2019 volunteering shift here.

It's really important that our core volunteers do not burn out, and we need to take care of them! Hopefully, if everyone does a little bit, we can all feel like we are in it together. Please only sign up for shifts that you know you will be able to make, as it puts the team in an awkward position if you commit to volunteering and then fail to turn up… not a great way to start the new year! GRJ is entirely volunteer run, so we really value your input - thank you for chipping in!

2019 Blog

2019 Blog

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.