Jews Without Shuls

Makom-Shalom-High-Holy-DaysContemplative Chai Holiday Experience

In 2012 a group of Jews who were not members of shuls gathered together under the guidance of Rav Shoshana Mitrani Knapp to enter into a High Holiday experience. Over these past 4 years we have come to depend upon one another to create a holy sacred space in which to celebrate the newness of possibility, to clear away old patterns and offer forgiveness for self and others, as well as to connect to the wisdom of our tribal ways during this most life-affirming time of the year.

There is beauty in the music of our voices along with guitar, clarinet and percussion, holiness in the intention of our tradition, and meaning as each person who walks through the doors (note new location this year!) brings a soulful offering of wanting to feel something larger than themselves and to be transformed to their best selves.

For those not familiar with our service, we do things a little differently at Makom Shalom for the High Holidays. We begin and the end the service together. Everyone comes 15 minutes before the service time and stays until the end. Our intention is to create a solid container without the traditional distractions of people coming and going. In our time together we sing, pray and enter into the heart of the service with prayers that stir the soul. Brief explanations of the structure and meaning of the service offer a pathway to understanding, the Torah is chanted in Hebrew and in English at which time the entire community has the opportunity to be called to the bima. We add depth to the sacredness of Erev Yom Kippur with the lone voice of the cello to accompany the Kol Nidre prayer.

On the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah we gather at Pruyn Sanctuary in Chappaqua for a morning prayer walk- weather permitting. We make God’s sanctuary our own as we walk through nature carrying the Torah, and we use the call of the shofar to call us back after a few minutes of contemplative time alone.

We are grateful our offering has resonated with people.


“The services were so much more meaningful than the services I have attended over the last 20 years. Your presentation and the specialness you attach to the prayers, along with the purpose and meaning of things,made me feel so much more connected to my prayer. This is very important to me this year as I look for a spiritual connection in my life. ”

“I want to thank you again for opening up for me a new world of Jewish observance and spirituality. This is the first time in a long time that I can say I am looking forward to Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur services.”

“Thank you again for making our holidays so special this year. We enjoyed the services and I find myself humming some of the tunes from the services even at work! The services were engaging and accessible and memorable!”

“Loved the service! Just beautiful and so warm and genuine.”

“I just wanted to tell you how much my wife and I enjoyed your Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur services. It was heart felt and spiritually uplifting.”

“I really enjoyed the service and walked out feeling great!
I felt engaged during the service and didn’t experience the mind wandering that I usually do (of course it was new and I had no idea what to expect). Your service was both spiritual and optimistic, which ultimately provoked self reflection.”