The Jewish High Holy Days are early this year – starting with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, tonight – and local synagogue Kol HaNeshamah is observing for the first time with its new leader, Rabbi Zari Weiss. She spoke with WSB while preparing her sermon for tonight’s service, which along with other High Holy Days celebrations will be held outside West Seattle because there’s just not enough room in their regular home – they’re co-housed with Alki UCC Church.
Rabbi Weiss joined Kol HaNeshamah two months ago, and says she’s gotten to know the congregation as an “incredibly intelligent, creative group of people.” Since KHN has only been in operation for seven years, “parts of the infrastructure are not (yet) in place” – but she’s been working on that along with a new board and new educator, to “build on what’s already been built these last seven years.” High Holy Days, says Rabbi Weiss, provide the synagogue with an opportunity for outreach, since many “non-affiliated” Jews come to the services – KHN will use the chance “to let people know we have a congregation, we have a new rabbi, a whole new way of approaching things.” That includes what she draws from her background in areas such as healing and spiritual exploration – and she says, “by virtue of the fact I am a woman rabbi.”
One thing Kol HaNeshamah has always done differently – no tickets required for High Holy Days services – rather than raising money by charging admission, they have counted on donations, whatever people wish to give. But the services are being held at Seattle First Presbyterian downtown (map) since they may have up to 700 people and there’s just no room for that at Alki UCC.
So what’s in her sermon for tonight? Rabbi Weiss laughed and said she didn’t want to give it all away, but it’s “about the changing nature of the Jewish community.” Her life has changed as well – her last full-time role as a rabbi was in Berkeley, California, before she moved to Seattle in 2001 (ten years after her ordination), but she has served many congregations in this area in a part-time role: “I hadn’t yet found the right community (to serve full-time) – and now I have.”
We asked what’s ahead after the High Holy Days; Rabbi Weiss is planning a series of classes, workshops, readings, discussions, and more, to “explore what it really means to be Jewish, and to be a Jewish community in the 21st century.” The dates aren’t all worked out yet; you can watch the KHN website for details. And if you haven’t already checked out the synagogue – you are welcome at their services and celebrations this season, wherever you are on your spiritual journey. Here’s the official announcement of what’s planned and where:
WHERE: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services are held at Seattle First Presbyterian, 1013 8th Ave., Seattle.
WHEN: Wed., Sept 8 – 7:30 p.m. Rosh Hashanah Evening service
Thurs., Sept. 9 -9:30 a.m. – 10 a.m., Rosh Hashanah Children’s service
10:30 a.m., Rosh Hashanah morning service; Tashlich picnic follows at Madrona Park Picnic Shelter, 853 Lake Washington Blvd.
Fri., Sept 17 – 7:30 p.m. Kol Nidre service
Sat., Sept. 18 – 9:30 a.m. – 10 a.m., Yom Kippur children’s service
10:30 a.m., Yom Kippur morning service
2 p.m. – 4 p.m., study sessions
4 p.m., Afternoon services with light break fast following