Brooklyn Jews is part of Congregation Beth Elohim and is located in Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York. It prays in the traditional and egalitarian format and is not associated with a Jewish movement, but I would say more closely resembles a mix between Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism. There are instruments and lively singing on Friday nights, and the community is very open and inclusive.
Reviewed By Jewishly
Brooklyn Jews is part of Congregation Beth Elohim, located in Park Slope in Brooklyn New York. It prays in the traditional and egalitarian format and is not associated with a Jewish movement, but I would say more closely resembles a mix between Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism. There are instruments and lively singing on Friday nights, and the community is very open and inclusive.
I found my way to Brooklyn Jews via a recommendation from a very random potential Bumble date. I can not remember how much I paid exactly, but tickets for Yom Kippur were under $50 per person. I think tickets for all of the High Holidays are under $100 per person. So it isn’t free, but it is close by New York and Brooklyn standards. I attended Yom Kippur services with them in the fall of 2018. I have also been to Brooklyn Jews Friday night dinners.
For Yom Kippur I was welcomed by both the Rabbi and the Cantoress, which was lovely and a nice touch. Looking around, many people looked to be in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Traditional tunes for Kol Nidre were used. I would say that the people attending the services were familiar with the prayers and sang along with the Cantoress. This was not just a show to watch and observe— this was a service to be joined in with in a meaningful and spiritual way, which I really appreciated.
When it came time for the sermon, or the D’varh Torah, I was worried as I generally dislike the time when I am forced to listen to a Rabbi or Clergy lecture me on their opinion on the state of Israel or a pseudo-spiritual take on Judaism, or even worse, a theatrical, overly dramatic rendition of what it means to be Jewish or how badly my soul “needs” this. But I was very surprised to find Rabbi Greens sermon/D’var Torah to be thoughtful, funny, and reflective.
I appreciated that Rabbi Green felt grounded and sincere when he spoke. I liked how he said we should consider what we heard. I also liked how it was a mix of observances. I felt at home even though I came from a Conservadox background.
I have one major critique of this group: they asked for money on Yom Kippur, which I get is standard, except that if you want to be a “go-to” place for 20- and 30-somethings in Brooklyn, it’s time to create fundraising that reflects that. There are other ways to get money than doing a traditional pitch on Yom Kippur. The same way I don’t want to pray in a normal way, I also don’t want to give money in a traditional way.
Other small things I would add or change: When I attended Friday night services with Brooklyn Jews, there was a guest who came to talk about their book. I was interested in what this person had to say but found that it turned into a divisive conversation about Judaism, politics, and the history of Judaism in the United States. If this is supposed to be a welcoming community, then perhaps one should consider welcoming people no matter their political affiliation in an effort not to drive a larger wedge between Jews.
In my experience, singing from the heart is the way to get people to keep coming back. The instruments cannot be avoided but I want to feel drawn towards singing, not listening to the music of the band. A good example of this is how Romemu does it. The music/instruments feels like they are accompanying the singing, not leading or overpowering it.
This community has the thoughtfulness and the kindness down pat, but it’s time to open the spirituality up a bit more. Ask the congregation to meet you, invite them forward, and they will come.
274 Garfield Place
New York, NY 11215