Marking 15 years, Beit Tefilah Israeli’s Summer Kabbalat Shabbat Becomes a Tradition For Thousands
TEL AVIV, June 30 – Marking 15 years for its increasingly popular seaside Shabbat services, Beit Tefilah Israeli (Israel House of Prayer), an innovative liberal egalitarian community organization that is part of the burgeoning grassroots Israeli Judaism movement, is bringing back its Tel Aviv Port sunset Kabbalat Shabbat and adding new venues in Caesarea and Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Beit Tefilah Israeli Rabbi and Co-founder (and former award-winning filmmaker) Esteban Gottfried announced this week the beloved seaside Kabbalat Shabbat at the Tel Aviv Port will restart July 1 this summer and continue every Friday through Aug. 26.
For the first time this year, Gottfried also began leading a Kabbalat Shabbat at the Caesarea port, on the site of an ancient synagogue. The next Caesarea event will take place July 1 and be held every two weeks through Aug. 26. Gottfried also led a Kabbalat Shabbat at the Wailing Wall’s egalitarian prayer platform on June 24. All the services start at 6:30 p.m. local time.
These unusual services blend Israeli pop tunes, poetry, literature, traditional prayers like Shalom Aleichem and feature groups dancing to the Beatles, klezmer and Louis Armstrong.
“Each Kabbalat Shabbat gathers secular, religious and traditional Israelis and Jews from around the world in a sacred space of prayer, poetry, music and dance,” Gottfried says. “The Tel Aviv Port Kabbalat Shabbat has grown so much that we decided to bring this joyful community to even more people this summer.”
Beit Tefilah Israeli is part of a growing grassroots movement throughout Israel called Israeli Judaism, with some 200 similar communities sprouting up. Israeli Judaism creates new spaces where Israelis can integrate and fulfill their authentic national and spiritual identities, Gottfried says.
Together with Rani Jaeger, Gottfried founded Beit Tefilah Israeli in 2004 to offer creative, meaningful and relevant spiritual experiences in Israel’s public spaces to a wide range of Israelis, many of whom do not belong to religious communities or congregations. Modeled on the pluralistic Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City, Beit Tefilah Israeli multiplied from just a few members to over 150 families, and 20,000 participants in its activities annually.
The seaside services started in 2007, almost by accident. Gottfried hoped to hold a musical Shabbat service at a seaside Tel Aviv hotel, but the hotel declined, saying the use of electricity would endanger its religious permits. Hotel after hotel continued to decline to host the services, forcing Gottfried to opt for holding the event outdoors at the Tel Aviv Port.
The first beachside Kabbalat Shabbat drew so many people that Gottfried continued the weekly gatherings, and the events ultimately became a popular draw with 1,000 participants or more. Beit Tefilah Israeli has held the services occasionally around Israel including in Herzliya, Ramat Gan, Haifa, Beer Sheva, Ramla, and Nof Hagalil and held High Holiday gatherings at the Tel Aviv Port.
Please see the attached photos of the Tel Aviv Port Kabbalat Shabbat.
Photo 1: Crowds at a recent Tel Aviv Port Kabbalat Shabbat, an event that is part of the Israeli Judaism grassroots movement. (Credit: Or Glickman)
Photo 2: Crowds at a recent Tel Aviv Port Kabbalat Shabbat, an event that is part of the Israeli Judaism grassroots movement. (Credit: Or Glickman)
Photo 3: Rabbi Esteban Gottfried leads a recent Tel Aviv Port Kabbalat Shabbat, an event that is part of the Israeli Judaism grassroots movement. (Credit: Rinat Halon)
Photo 4: Rabbi Esteban Gottfried with musicians at a recent Caesarea Kabbalat Shabbat, an event that is part of the Israeli Judaism grassroots movement. (Credit: Lia Lahav)