How We Pray

From the moment Fringes was founded we knew we wanted a different kind of prayer life, including:

  • Liturgy that responded to Rachel Adler’s question, “If we don’t mean the words we say when we are praying, why are we doing it?”
  • Music and singing that would be part of the experience of praying, not just “filler” in between prayers
  • Ways to include and honor Jewish traditional prayers even within all of the changes
  • Torah discussions that were deep, challenging, wide-ranging, and built on whatever texts the group chose to engage with

Over the years we’ve developed our own rhythms and styles – our own new traditions! Here are a few you can expect when you come to our services:

1. Old structure, new words – we use the traditional structure of the shachrit service:

  • morning blessings
  • psukey dzimra
  • psalms
  • bar’chu
  • sh’ma and its blessings
  • amidah
  • torah study
  • aleynu
  • mourner’s kaddish

Our services are thematic, and have most of the content before the bar’chu. The poems and blessings are read by single voices, silently, call-and-response, or together so there is always a mixture of talking and listening.

learn more about our original liturgies and rituals

2. Singing and more singing! For us, singing IS prayer, so songs have equal emotional weight. When we sing the song goes on as long as it is needed, not merely a couple of verses between “real prayers.” Many of our songs are rounds or are in parts. Some are in English, some in Hebrew, and some in both. All Hebrew prayers and songs have transliteration, so you can join in even if your Hebrew reading skills are limited. Songs and parts of songs are modeled and taught so all can get comfortable and join in. We do some common Hebrew service songs, some Shefa Gold, some Jennifer Berezan, some Marcia Falk, and some Karen Escovitz originals.

3. Thematic services, new each month – our services tend to be deeply connected to the natural world, so are often seasonal. We’ve evolved a few special topics that come around once every year: in June, honey/bees/sweetness; in July, berries/gardens/abundance; sometime in the fall, a service that focuses on Time. We also do special topics in response to our world, such an “Ocean” service after the BP oil spill poisoned the gulf, several different services in response to violence against People of Color, a special Yizkor service after the attack at the Pulse nightclub, and a special service in loving memory of Pete Seeger after his death. We also mark moments of time in the Jewish world, such as services tied to Pesach, Tisha B’Av, Adar, and the High Holidays. You can find PDFs of all our past services here.

4. Poems and poems and poems. For the most part, we use contemporary poetry in English for our liturgy. And not just ANY poems – Elliott has done writing and training about what makes a poem work as liturgy, and has created a database of more than 700 poems (and counting) that we’ve used in Fringes services.

5. New liturgy – from the beginning, we wanted the havurah to be a liturgy lab. As a smaller, more flexible community, we knew we could try out new ideas and get good feedback on what works. Out of this practice we’ve developed new liturgy and new rituals – some have become monthly practices, some are used occasionally and some were dropped quickly after they just never came together. We’re always experimenting, including borrowing ideas from other communities and sending our ideas out into the world to share.

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