Archive of Resources

While the resources for our guided journey are presented stop by stop, all of the materials — a dynamic array of resources exploring the themes and liturgy of the High Holy Days through music, sacred texts, art, poetry, and literature — will be added to the archive as they are shared.

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From Love Me Again

Rabbi James Jacobson Maisels

Rabbi James Jacobson Maisels: A Meditation Practice for Elul

Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels, PhD, is the founder and spiritual director of Or HaLev: A Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation and the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Romemu Yeshiva, a new contemplative yeshiva that combines study and practice. He has taught Jewish thought, mysticism, spiritual practices, and meditation at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, at Haifa University, and at Yeshivat Hadar as well as in a variety of other settings around the world.

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin: Poetry for Teshuva

Joy Ladin, the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University, has published nine books of poetry and two books of creative nonfiction, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders, and The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective. She serves on the board of Keshet, an organization devoted to full inclusion of LGTBQ Jews and their families in the Jewish world; links to her poems and essays are available at wordpress.joyladin.com.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Elul’s Invitation to Love Again

Get the breakdown! Explore this series of resources that explain the essentials of the Yamim Nora’im. What does love poetry have to do with preparing for Rosh Hashanah? Learn more here.

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound Podcast: What’s Love God to Do With It?

On the Judaism Unbound podcast, Lex Rofeberg and Wendie Lash connect the month of Elul to love, looking at the book of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) through a contemporary lens.

A woman singing into a microphone

Songs of Love for Elul

Explore music inspired by Jewish and secular texts as a means to enter Elul with a loving and full heart. This playlist curated by the BJ team will set the tone for the month. Featured artists include Leonard Cohen, Moshav, Deborah Sacks Mintz, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

A toddler kissing a computer screen

All You Need (in Elul) is Love!

The Jewish month of Elul has arrived, and we are starting to prepare our minds and souls for the High Holy Days, which are coming next month. Family Life and Learning at BJ invites you and your family to begin the journey toward Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by watching this video and exploring the ways in which we each show and receive love.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Elul

Explore this series of resources that describe the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the Holy Days and help you go a little deeper in the process.

Sandee Brawarsky

Sandee Brawarsky: Elul By The Book

Sandee Brawarsky has been the longtime culture editor of The Jewish Week and recently received the Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. She has authored several books, most recently 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York City’s Jewel from Every Angle with photographer Mick Hales.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Our Spiritual Journey

Looking to get rooted in the spiritual work of this season? Check out the first installment of Nizakher Venikatev, a reflective guide filled with questions to consider as we engage in the heart-opening work of this sacred time leading into the High Holy Days.

From One Thing I Ask: A Psalm for Elul

Rabbi David Silber

Rabbi David Silber: A Prayer for Clarity

Rabbi David Silber is the founder of Drisha, renowned as an institute of deep learning and innovation in the United States and Israel. Also an author of a commentary on the haggadah and on Megillat Esther, Rabbi Silber shares commentary on Psalm 27.

Kirtar Rabbi One Thing I Seek

One Thing I Ask: Melodies for Ahat Sha’alti

Explore these soul-stirring, evocative, and diverse melodies for Ahat Sha-alti, taken from Psalm 27. This playlist features the voices of Chava Mirel, Yoni Genut, and BJ’s spiritual leaders.

Dorothy Richmond

Rabbi Dorothy Richman: Psalm 27 as Spiritual Practice

Rabbi Dorothy Richman serves as the rabbi of Makor Or: Jewish Meditation Center and is a founding faculty member of the Romemu Yeshiva. She released an album of original songs, Something of Mine, including the entire text of Psalm 27, available at Bandcamp.com.

Rachel Cowan

Rabbi Rachel Cowan z”l: Reflections on the Ebb and Flow of Tides in Tebenkof Bay

Rabbi Rachel Cowan was a civil rights activist, community organizer, the first female Jew by choice ordained as a rabbi, and a beloved and influential mindfulness teacher at BJ and across the Jewish world. After she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Rabbi Cowan’s life and legacy were profiled in the documentary Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing, which premiered this year. Here is an excerpt from that film.

Rabbi Nancy Flam

Rabbi Nancy Flam: My Heart Said “You”

Rabbi Nancy Flam is a pioneer in contemporary Jewish communal life. She co-founded the National Center for Jewish Healing and directed the Jewish Community Healing Program at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. She also co-founded the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, serving as its first executive director and then for many years as a senior program director.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Palm 27

Get the essentials of Psalm 27. How does this psalm relate to the High Holy Days? Where can I find this psalm, and what is it about? Learn more as we break down this psalm for Elul.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Psalm 27

Looking to get rooted in the spiritual work of this season? Explore this reflective guide for the deeper messages for Psalm 27, the psalm for Elul, as we engage in the heart-opening work of preparing for the High Holy Days.

Makai Dorfman

Family Mindfulness Practice for Psalm 27

Join BJ Family Educator Makai Dorfman for this special meditation on Psalm 27 just for families. Life will always be filled with uncertainty about what’s ahead, which can often bring about anxiety, fear, and worry. And yet, even amid the chaos, we can find comfort in always being able to practice feeling safe through restoring our faith in the great mystery of life.

From Homecoming

Yaffa Epstein

Rabba Yaffa Epstein: Return, Repent, Renew

This session examines the concept of teshuvah, often imperfectly translated as “repentance,” and invites us to attempt to understand the complexities involved in making real changes in our lives.

Silence is not an option with don lemon

Silence is not an Option Podcast: Finding Common Ground

In the wake of anti-Semitic comments from prominent Black athletes and entertainers, we examine the strong alliances and deeply ingrained tensions between the Black and Jewish communities. How does their solidarity during the 1960s civil rights movement inform these relationships today? In this podcast, Don Lemon talks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, historian Marc Dollinger, and political strategist Ginna Green.

Rabbi Avi Killip

Rabbi Avi Killip: Teshuvah Behind Bars

The American prison system relies on retributive justice. Teshuvah suggests a process of restorative justice. Together we will read Rambam’s Hilkhot Teshuvah (Laws of Repentance) through the lens of prison ministry to discover how confronting the potential healing of those who have done real wrong can teach us about our own relationship to God.

judy clark

Judy Clark: Thoughts on Teshuvah

Judy Clark has deep gratitude for everyone in the B’nai Jeshurun community who supported her efforts to gain release after serving 38 years in prison, welcoming her to services and activities since coming home. She extends the deepest gratitude to Rabbi Felicia Sol for her years of visits, spiritual direction, and support. She reminds us, “My efforts toward repair are not unique. So many women and men in prison spend years challenging themselves to change, to take responsibility, to repair, and to share the lessons of their struggles with others.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Teshuvah

What is the essence of teshuvah? How do I do it? Why do I do it? How do I know if I’ve really done it? Get the breakdown right here.

A woman singing

Songs of Teshuvah and Change

Prepare for the work of teshuvah with this playlist of Jewish and secular music inspired by the holy possibility of change. Listen here for evocative and beautiful music from Aviva Chernick, Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan, and more.

on being logo

On Being Podcast: The Refreshing Practice of Repentance with Louis Newman

The High Holy Days create an annual ritual of repentance, both individual and collective. Louis Newman, who has explored repentance as an ethicist and a person in recovery, opens this up as a refreshing practice for every life, even beyond the lifetime of those to whom we would make amends.

Lilly's purple plastic purse

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse: A Dramatic Reading

Watch Rabbi Anne Ebersman, Mike Witman, and Emma Miller in a dramatic reading of Kevin Henkes’ children’s book, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, a story about what happens when our feelings get the best of us and how we can show someone we’re sorry.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Teshuvah

What makes apologies easy or difficult to accept? In engaging in teshuvah, how can we move beyond simply acknowledging the ways we’ve hurt others and actually take steps to fix the hurt we’ve caused and repair those relationships? These kinds of questions invite us to dig deeper for a more meaningful process of teshuvah.

From Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

Becoming Wise

Becoming Wise Podcast: Evil Forgiveness and Prayer with Elie Weisel

When words bring you closer to the prisoner in his cell, to the patient who is dying on his bed alone, to the starving child, then it’s a prayer.” Elie Wiesel z”l, the beloved writer known for his memoir of the Holocaust, Night, spoke of the power of prayer and forgiveness in the wake of profound suffering.

Hamilton VideoChat

The Power of Forgiveness: A Hamilton Rewrite for Elul

Prepare for Selihot with BJ Teens as they perform an Elul rewrite of “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from Hamilton. As you listen to this song about the power of forgiveness, the teens invite you to share in the comments what forgiveness means to you.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Forgiveness and Selihot

Explore the deeper questions that are evoked in the piyutim and liturgy along with the broader complexities of forgiveness in our lives. Dive into this reflective guide for forgiveness and selihot.

Hadar Logo

On Forgiveness: Rabbis Shai Held and Joseph Telushkin in Conversation

Forgiveness is extremely important but also enormously difficult. It raises questions that elude easy answers: When should we forgive? Why should we forgive? Are there situations in which we should not (may not) forgive? If forgiveness is so important, why is it often so hard? Join us for this timely exploration of what it means to forgive (and not to).

This American Life

This American Life: Anger and Forgiveness

In this episode of the award-winning radio show This American Life, host Ira Glass leads us through stories that reveal the societal “trend” toward anger and away from genuine forgiveness.

Responsa Radio

Responsa Radio: After a Bad Breakup, Must I Ask Forgiveness of my Ex?

Ever wanted to know the answer to some deep and challenging questions in halakhah (Jewish law)? Join Rabbi Avi Killip in conversation with Rabbi Ethan Tucker answering questions sent in by Yeshivat Hadar alumni and others about all sorts of details of Jewish law.

Men speaking into a microphone

Selihot from the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem

Get a taste of this extraordinary example of Selihot from the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, led by three of the greatest living paytanim (authors of liturgical poetry): Rabbi Haim Louk (the preeminent living performer of Moroccan and Andalusian music), Ye’hiel Nahari (a leading hazzan in Syrian tradition), and Moshe Louk (the son of Haim Louk, continuing in the Moroccan tradition.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Selihot

What exactly is Selihot? What are we singing about and does it always happen so late at night? Learn the answers to these questions and more as we break down Selihot for you!

Build Me A Sanctuary

 Rabbi Ebn Leader

Rabbi Ebn Leader: Prayer Practice on Zoom

Rabbi Ebn Leader has been a student of Rabbi Art Green for the past twenty years and, together with him, was one of the founders of the Rabbinical School at Hebrew College in Boston. Rabbi Leader is dedicated to helping his students understand and apply prayer as a spiritual practice.

Rosh Hashanah Seder

Rosh Hashanah Seder

Fresh off the presses from the Rabbinical Assembly, this Seder for Rosh Hashanah follows the contours of a Pesah Seder, but is filled with the themes and liturgy of the Yamim Nora’im, crafting a meal experience full of ritual food, discussion, song, movement, and connection. Be sure to check out this beautiful resource, from a creative team that includes former Marshall T. Meyer Fellows, Rabbis Sarit Horowitz, Alex Braver, and Sarah Krinsky.

Jan Uhrbach

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach: A Look Inside Mahzor Lev Shalem

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach is director of the Block/Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and founding rabbi of the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons in Bridgehampton, NY. She was the associate editor of Siddur Lev Shalem and served on the editorial committee for Machzor Lev Shalem. She is also a grateful member of BJ.

Tokah - rosh hashana honey dish

Tobi Kahn and Nessa Rapoport: Art and Poetry for Rosh Hashanah

Tobi Kahn has had more than seventy solo museum shows of his paintings, sculpture, installations, and ceremonial art. Selected collections include those at the Guggenheim Museum; the Houston Museum of Fine Arts; The Phillips Collection; the Jewish Museum in New York; the Jewish Museum of Florida, Inc.; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Nessa Rapoport’s new novel, Evening, was published by Counterpoint Press on September 1, 2020. She is the author of Preparing for Sabbath, a novel; A Woman’s Book of Grieving, prose poems; and House on the River, a Summer Journey; among other works.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Mikdash Me’at

How can I create a mikdash me’at (small sanctuary) in my home? Where does this concept come from? Check out BJ’s breakdown.

Shira Averbuch

Songs for Rosh Hashanah with Shira

Create a sacred space by filling your family’s home with music! Enjoy these classic Rosh Hashanah songs with BJ’s own, Shira Averbuch!

Jenna Weissman JoselitJenna Weissman Joselit: Hallow the Halls

Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies & Professor of History at the George Washington University, and the author, most recently, of Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments, also writes a monthly column on American Jewish history and culture for Tablet.

From Rosh Hashanah

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Avinu Malkeinu

The image of a father and the image of a king are very different from each other. What connotations come to mind for each role? Which image represents your idea of the Divine? Is there a different image that fits better with your understanding of God? Explore these questions and more as we go deeper into Avinu Malkeinu.

Elie Kaufner

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer: God as King and Avinu Malkeinu

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is President and CEO of the Hadar Institute. A graduate of Harvard College, he completed his doctorate in Liturgy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was also ordained. Elie is a co-founder of the independent minyan Kehilat Hadar and the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Avinu Malkeinu

What’s the essence of Avinu Malkeinu, the prayer so integral to the themes and liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? We’ll break it down for you.

Roots

Banishment of Ishmael: A Talk with Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and Khaled Abu Awwad

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger is co-founder of Roots/Judur/Shorashim, a joint Palestinian-Israeli grassroots peacemaking initiative dedicated to understanding nonviolence and transformation, where he currently remains director of international relations. Khaled Abu Awwad is among the foremost figures in the Palestinian community working toward peace and reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. He has been awarded the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of nonviolence and tolerance in 2011, and he was named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in 2010 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

Sally Gottesman

Sally Gottesman: Recusing Ourselves from Bone-Ignorance

Sally Gottesman has been a member of BJ for more than twenty-five years. She currently is the chair of Encounter, an educational organization committed to informed, courageous, and resilient Jewish communal leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to working with Encounter she was co-founder and chair of Moving Traditions. Thousands of teens across the country, including BJ teens, participate in Moving Traditions’s Rosh Hodesh and The Brotherhood programs. She happily lives a block away from BJ with her three children, Alice, Ezra, and Charlotte.

Danya Ruttenberg

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Why is Abraham Complicit in Cruelty?

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is an award-winning author and writer. She was named by Newsweek and the Daily Beast as one of ten “rabbis to watch” and by the Forward as one of the fifty most influential women rabbis, and Publishers Weekly called her a “wunderkind of Jewish feminism.”

Two animated people

People of the Book: Avraham and Ibrahim in Judaism and Islam

Abraham/Ibrahim is one of the most important figures in Judaism and Islam due to his devotion to God and moral standing. Come learn more about his unique personality according to the two religious traditions.

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound Podcast with Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson

This Rosh Hashanah, Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson look at the four major biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to twenty-first-century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from biblical source criticism. In this episode, they tackle Genesis 21, which tells the story of Hagar and Ishmael’s banishment by Abraham and Sarah.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Torah on the Frist Day of Rosh Hashanah

Have you been able to find healing in a family dynamic this year? Have you experienced rupture in those relationships? Where in your own close connections are you seeking reconciliation? Consider these questions and more as we explore the deeper themes of the Torah reading for the First Day of Rosh Hashanah.

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound Podcast with Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson

This Rosh Hashanah, Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson look at the four major biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to twenty-first-century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from biblical source criticism. In this episode, they tackle 1 Samuel 1:1–2:10, which tells the story of the birth of Samuel (or perhaps someone else?!).

Rani Jaeger

Rani Jaeger: Prayer for Hannah and for Each of Us

Dr. Rani Jaeger is a research fellow of the Kogod Research Center and head of the recently formed Tanakh Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He was one of the founders of the Institute’s Be’eri Program for Pluralistic Jewish-Israeli Identity Education. He is co-founder of Beit Tefilah Israeli, a secular synagogue in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Penninah Schram

Peninnah Schram: Pearls of Wisdom

Peninnah Schram, storyteller and professor emerita at Yeshiva University, is the author of fourteen books of Jewish folktales and the recipient of the Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator and the National Storytelling Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Haftarah on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah

Hannah weeps as she prays to God. Have you ever experienced this level of emotion during prayer? What was the situation in which you were praying? What would it take for you to bring this high level of emotion to your Rosh Hashanah prayer this year? Consider these questions and more as we explore the deeper themes of the Haftarah for the First Day of Rosh Hashanah.

Yardaena Osband

Yardaena Osband: Connection Of Anguish and Despair

Often when we suffer we feel farthest from God, yet Hannah approaches God in the moment of her greatest despair. She takes those moments of pain and sorrow and uses them to connect to the Divine. How can we?

The Akedah Project

The Akedah Project

The Akedah Project explores the story of the Binding of Isaac (“akedah” means “binding” in Hebrew), which is one of the most confounding narratives in the Bible. Scholars, rabbis, artists, teachers, poets, and readers have tried to make sense of this story for millennia, which has given us a range of lenses through which we can read it, even as we bring the new questions, ideas, and perspectives that come with every new generation of readers.

Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: You Want it Darker

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is a British rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author, and politician. He served as the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth until 2013 and has since served on the faculties of New York University, Yeshiva University, and King’s College London.

Tali Adler

Rabbi Tali Adler: Isaac’s Binding, Rachel’s Tears

Sacrifice and the High Holy Days: Akeidat Yitzhak, the Torah reading for the Second Day of Rosh HaShanah, is usually seen as the ultimate Jewish model of personal sacrifice. But is willingness to die for God really the epitome of sacrifice? In this session, we will explore a midrash that questions Akeidat Yitzhak’s role as the central model of sacrifice and offers a story about Rachel, our matriarch, as an alternative. We will use the midrash to explore questions such as: What does sacrifice look like? What role should it play in our religious lives? And what might our High Holy Days be like with a different model of religious sacrifice at the center?

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound Podcast with Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson

This Rosh Hashanah, Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson look at the four major biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to twenty-first-century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from biblical source criticism. In this episode, they tackle Genesis 22, which tells the story of the binding of Isaac.

A rembrant painting

Anne Gordon: The Akeida in Art

From Rembrandt to Caravaggio, the drama of Akeidat Yitzhak has been captured by some of the greatest fine artists. Join Anne Gordon in an exploration of how their interpretations might inform our own.

Reading and Re-reading the Akedah with Rabbis Ethan Tucker, Erin Leib Smokler, and Dov Linzer

The Binding of Isaac raises many core religious questions: Is true service to God achieved through submission? What is God trying to communicate in asking Abraham to sacrifice his son? What is achieved when God cancels that command? Hear this spirited conversation as our three panelists (Erin Leib Smokler, Dov Linzer, and Ethan Tucker—from Yeshivat Maharat, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and Mechon Hadar, respectively) engage in a live collaborative reading of Genesis 22 that aims to probe the depths of this text while grappling with its ongoing relevance for contemporary religious life.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Torah on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

What does it mean to “show up” for the people, causes, and communities we care most about? How have you worked to notice voices of people who have been marginalized or difficult to hear? Explore these questions and more as we go deeper into the themes of our reading from Torah.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Haftarah on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is a time to think about both individual and communal shortcomings. How do you feel about the concept of communal punishment? Think about contexts where this continues to happen in our time. How do team sports, climate change, and the pandemic relate to this idea? Consider these questions and more as we explore the deeper themes of the Haftarah for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi David Silber

Rabbi David Silber: A Lesson on Jeremiah

Rabbi David Silber is the founder of Drisha, renowned as an institute of deep learning and innovation in the United States and Israel. Also an author of a commentary on the haggadah and on Megillat Esther, Rabbi Silber shares commentary on Jeremiah.

Thalia Halpert Rodis

Rabbi Thalia Halpert Rodis: A New Covenant

In every moment of challenge and despair, we have the opportunity to choose: Do we uproot or do we build; remain or start from scratch? Each instance requires its own answer. Rabbi Thalia Halpert Rodis invites us to find our own.

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound Podcast with Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson

This Rosh Hashanah, Lex Rofeberg and Dan Libenson look at the four major biblical readings associated with the holiday. They ask how these texts can apply to twenty-first-century life, and they provide a variety of answers, including many that incorporate historical understandings of the Bible gleaned from biblical source criticism. In this episode, they tackle Jeremiah 31, the Haftarah reading for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah.

Michael Strassfeld

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld: Unetaneh Tokef

 Rabbi Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi emeritus of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, the Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan founded by Mordecai Kaplan. He is the author of A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice and is one of the co-editors of The Jewish Catalog.

 Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman

Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives

Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman writes, “Friday would have been the 65th birthday of my first wife and her yahrzeit is this week. As I thought about the beauty of her laugh and the pain of her end, so different from those on whose behalf we cry out, the words of the Unetaneh Tokef—a prayer that inspires fear and awe during the High Holidays—came to me.”

Elie Kaufner

Who By Fire: The Most Controversial Prayer in Jewish Life

Are you troubled by reciting: “Who shall live and who shall die?” every year on High Holy Days? Does God really mete out just reward and punishment each year? Learn with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer about the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, looking at its biblical allusions and discovering its radically divergent internal theological approaches.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen: Who by Fire

In perhaps the most prominent piece of art to be inspired by Unetaneh Tokef, Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire” adapts the text from sections of the piyut almost word for word. The result is a stirring, beautiful, and haunting adaptation of our prayer on the High Holy Days.

Admiel Kosman

Admiel Kosman: Divine Teaching Which is Given in Silence

Admiel Kosman, an Israeli poet, is professor for Jewish studies at Potsdam University as well as the academic director of Geiger College, a training school for liberal rabbis in Berlin. One of his poems can be found in Mahzor Lev Shalem beside Unetaneh Tokef.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Unetaneh Tokef

What’s the essence of Unetaneh Tokef, the piyut that illuminates the central drama of our liturgy? Take a look inside as we break down Unetaneh Tokef.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Unetaneh Tokef

The theology expressed in this poem—that God judges us for life and death during the Ten Days of Awe—is always challenging. In a year marked by pandemic and civil and political unrest, it may be all the more so. How does it feel to confront this kind of theology this year? How do you make space for liturgy that feels painful? Is this a text you feel ready to confront this year, or do you feel an urge to avoid it? Explore these questions further as we dig into the deeper meanings of “Unetaneh Tokef.”

Frank London

Frank London: Berosh Hashanah

Frank London is a New York City-based trumpeter, bandleader, and composer active in klezmer and world music. He also plays various other wind instruments and keyboards, and occasionally sings backup vocals. With The Klezmatics, he won a Grammy award in Contemporary World Music for “Wonder Wheel (lyrics by Woody Guthrie).” He offers this piece as an interpretation on the Berosh Hashanah theme from Unetaneh Tokef.

Judith Plaskow

Judith Plaskow: Submitting to the Great Aleinu

Judith Plaskow is professor emerita of religious studies at Manhattan College and a Jewish feminist theologian. She is author or editor of several works in feminist theology, including Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972–2003, and Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology (co-authored with Carol P. Christ).

Nizahker Venikatev

Reflective Guide for Malkhuyot, Zikhronot and Shofarot

How do you understand the idea of a “king” in our time? What does it mean to be remembered? How does it feel to know that someone, or something, is thinking of you at a time of need? What does it mean to feel truly shaken? Can you imagine bringing that feeling to this moment of prayer? We invite you to explore these questions and more as we investigate these powerful themes of the Musaf service.

Joanna Samuels

Rabbi Joanna Samuels: Rosh Hashanah in the Birthing Room

Rabbi Joanna Samuels serves as the executive director of Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center. She, along with her husband Jeremy Hockenstein and their children Orli and Natan Hockenstein, are proud members of B’nai Jeshurun.

Nigel Savage

Nigel Savage: Why Do We Blow Shofar?

Nigel Savage and the team from Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability invite us to consider why exactly we blow the shofar, its meaning for us today, and its connection to our past.

Rabbah Yaffa Epstein: The Cry of the Covenant – Understanding the Shofar of Sinai

The first time the shofar is mentioned in the Torah is in connection with the giving of the Torah. But what is the connection between the shofar and the covenantal moment of Sinai? And what can the shofar teach us about our own relationship to Torah? This session will explore these questions and attempt to understand how we bring our full selves to both repentance and Torah study.

Jonathan Silver

Jonathan Silver: Hearing the Shofar Mindfully

Jonathan Silver first learned to make a sound from a shofar when he was twelve years old, and he is grateful to be one of the baalei tekiya for BJ for more than twenty-five years. He began his mindfulness journey with Rabbis Marcelo Bronstein and Rachel Cowan (z”l) and completed the course in Jewish Meditation Mindfulness Teacher Training from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

Michael Strassfeld

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld: The Gift of Hayom – This Day in These Challenging Times

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, the Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan founded by Mordecai Kaplan. He is the author of A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice and is one of the co-editors of The Jewish Catalog.

Mira Cohen

Start Hayom (Today) with Mira Cohen and the BJ Teens

Hear Mira Cohen, Jewish Life Coordinator on the BJ Teen Executive Board, share how she is looking into the next year, with a taste of what it’s like being on a trip with the BJ teens.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Hayom

Where are your communities seeking strength right now? Where are you able to strengthen them? Have you experienced spiritual nourishment connected to a pursuit of justice? What are your other sources of spiritual sustenance? We invite you to go deeper into the text of this piyut with these questions and more.

Nathaniel Berman

Nathaniel Berman: The Kabbalistic Shofar

Nathaniel Berman is the Rahel Varnhagen Professor in Brown University’s Religious Studies Department. He is the author of Divine and Demonic in the Poetic Mythology of the Zohar: The ‘Other Side’ of Kabbalah (Brill, 2018).

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Shofar

The shofar blast called “shevarim,” meaning “broken,” consists of three short blasts. How do the three separate blasts remind you of brokenness? What does the idea of being “broken” mean to you? What does repair of this brokenness look like? Explore these questions and more as we uncover the deeper meanings behind one of the most prominent symbols of the High Holy Days.

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Tashlikh

Perhaps you’ve seen people throwing breadcrumbs into the water on Rosh Hashanah. Have you ever wondered what it’s all about? Wondered what you might need to know before trying tashlikh out for yourself? Look here as we break down the essentials.

Grace Gleason

Grace Gleason: Shame and the Psychology of Tashlikh

Grace Gleason is the incoming Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at BJ. She is a third-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

A hand throwing bread

Tashlikh: Text-based Guided Conversation

Use this resource to prepare before the waterside Tashlikh ritual—ideally immediately before Tashlikh, but it can also be used as a text study in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah. This was originally created for Tashlikh 5778 at B’nai Jeshurun.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Tashlikh

Is there a regret or mistake from the past year that you are struggling to let go of? What does an embodied ritual accomplish that prayer alone cannot do? In your experience, is it harder to forgive others or to forgive yourself? Go deeper into the experience of Tashlikh exploring these questions and more.

From Open the Gates

Jeannie Blaustein

Jeannie Blaustein: Taking Stock and Taking Action

Jeannie Blaustein, PhD., D. Ministry, former president of the BJ board, is a clinical psychologist, pastoral counselor, and professor of psychology. The founding board chair of Reimagine End of Life, Jeannie is dedicated to bringing about public and private conversations on death, dying, and disparities in how we die in America that transform our relationship to life and to each other.

Nizahker Venikatev

Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for the Ten Days of Teshuvah

The medieval sage Maimonides once said of these ten days, “Even though repentance and crying out to God are always timely, during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur it is exceedingly appropriate and accepted immediately.” What about this period makes reaching out to God more appropriate? Explore this question and more as we uncover the deeper meanings of the Ten Days of Teshuvah.

Martha Ackelsberg and Mike Lenox

Martha Ackelsberg and Mike Lennox: Opening the Gates of Understanding

Listen to a conversation between BJ member Martha Ackelsberg and Mike Lennox, a corrections officer and member of the Michigan Corrections Organization, discussing the “Bridging the Gap” exchange in which they participated a couple of years ago. They talk about their fears and nervousness before meeting each other, how their conversations revealed both areas of common ground and many misconceptions, and how they ended up surprised by the warmth they felt, and still feel, for people with whom they disagree. (The day after this conversation was recorded, Mike was seriously injured at work, when one of the incarcerated men stabbed him three times, puncturing his ear drum. We send him wishes for a refu’ah shleimah, a speedy and full recovery.)

Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down the Ten Days of Teshuvah

This period gives us the opportunity to dig harder and go deeper into the spiritual work of the season while the gates are open. To better understand what the Ten Days of Teshuvah really mean, read this breakdown.

Rachel Cowan

Rabbi Rachel Cowan z”l: The Enoughness of My Life

Rabbi Rachel Cowan was a civil rights activist, community organizer, the first female Jew by choice ordained as a rabbi, and a beloved and influential mindfulness teacher. After she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Rabbi Cowan’s life and legacy were profiled in the documentary Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing, which premiered this year.

Rabbi David Silber

Rabbi David Silber: The Prayers of Yom Kippur

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav famously said that the goal of studying Torah is to transform our study into prayer. The ancient liturgical poets, however, strove to make our prayers into a form of Torah study by interlacing the blessings with liturgical poems (piyyutim) that recount biblical narratives. How do the piyyutim of Yom Kippur reflect the essential nature of the day? How can these poems help us arrive at a deeper understanding of ourselves?