By Alan Hitsky
Detroit-area synagogues have been modifying the way they celebrate Shabbat for decades. But the current flurry of alternative services, musical services, young adult, yoga and healing services is going one step further at Adat Shalom Synagogue.
With a $100,000 grant from an anonymous donor, Adat Shalom is planning 10 once-a-month programs that are designed to bring people into the Farmington Hills synagogue throughout Shabbat.And the new programs will include anything from traditional Shabbat prayer services to nationally known speakers, Saturday night bonfires and s’mores treats, comedians, musical services, baby massage, pilates and nature walks — all on the same Shabbat. You don’t have to be an Adat Shalom member to participate.
Rabbi Daniel Nevins said the idea is to “not have people just sitting around listening to the rabbi and the cantor.” Adat Shalom, he said, is trying to make Shabbat participatory and a time for the family to come together.The first SYNergy Shabbat is scheduled for Sept. 16-17 and the congregation has a specific outline for SYNergy Shabbats Oct. 14-15, Nov. 11-12 and Dec. 16-17. The September program includes:
• 6 p.m. Sept. 16 — Minchah and Shabbat Rocks musical service with Rabbi Nevins on drums and Dan Shere and Marty Liebman on guitar; young family dinner, or sit-down dinner and Noam Neusner, former domestic policy speechwriter and Jewish community liaison for President George W. Bush, speaking on “Modern Day Mordechai: Representing Jews in the West Wing”
• 8:30 a.m. Sept. 17 — Shmooze with Rabbi Nevins, “Battlefield Ethics, an Oxymoron?”
• 9 a.m. — traditional Shabbat service in main sanctuary
• 9:30 a.m. — Shtiebel Minyan
• 10 a.m. — Neshamah Minyan, youth services, Junior Congregation and USY
• 10:30 a.m. — Prayerful Pilates (workout clothes OK), nature walk, “Darth Vader and Teshuvah” with U-M Hillel Rabbi Jason Miller, book discussion: Naomi Ragen’s The Covenant
• 12:30 p.m. — Kiddush lunch and Noam Neusner, who was once a Detroit Jewish News intern, speaking on: “Faith and Politics — A Personal Journey to the White House”
• afternoon — relay races, flip-flops and Frisbee, basketball
• 8 p.m. — outdoor Havdalah, songfest, comedy night, ice cream
For Adat Shalom’s youngest members, SYNergy starts Friday morning with a nursery-kindergarten Shabbat campout on the playground and an 11:30 a.m. shmooze. A Shabbat Shaboom service for preschoolers through first graders and their siblings will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Saturday morning programs include baby massage and Torah for Tots.Meal events for the September SYNergy will include a 6 p.m. Friday camp-style dinner and sundae bar for families with young children ($18 per family), a 7 p.m. catered, sit-down Shabbat dinner ($25 per family) with Noam Neusner speaking, 8:30 p.m. tea and shmooze with Neusner, and the noon Saturday Shabbat Kiddush lunch (no charge).
Rabbi Nevins emphasized that SYNergy will not “water down the message of Judaism, but expand the message. It will show why Shabbat is the centerpiece of our lives and where the synagogue thrives."
Rabbi Miller, an Adat Shalom member since childhood, is serving as director of SYNergy. He is making the focus “family time, not just the father praying.”
He said when he was growing up, “Shabbat meant putting on my uncomfortable sport coat and tie and sitting in a pew. With SYNergy, we are saying, ‘Come in your college sweat shirt. If Saturday morning for you means a pilates class or a book club, then do it as part of Shabbat. If you want to come and then leave — fine!’”
Adat Shalom President Paul Magy added, “We want to grow people spiritually at our synagogue. There are people who love to come to the synagogue wearing a tie. There are people who love chazzanut (cantorial music). This remains a place for those people ...
“But SYNergy is a way to make our mission and vision come to life. The quintessential day for the Jews is Shabbat.
”Rabbi Nevins said SYNergy will expand the boundaries of Shabbat. “Maybe people will make a challah on Friday afternoon. Maybe they will come to a melaveh malkah [get-together] Saturday night.
“There are new trends in Jewish music,” he said, “and we want to take advantage of that. We don’t want to make it a performance [where people sit back and watch]. We want people to get up and to sing and dance before sundown. We want to deepen our roots, not abandon our roots.”
SYNergy co-chairs are Barbara Kappy, Carol Weintraub Fogel and Gray Graff. Adat Shalom Rabbis Herbert Yoskowitz and Rachel Shere are involved in the planning with Rabbis Nevins and Miller.