Ritual Life


Our most important holiday is the one that comes every week. Our community religious practice is centered on the observance of Shabbat. As Abraham Joshua Heschel noted: “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.”

We come together in community to daven (pray), to sing and chant, to share words of Torah, to discuss issues of personal importance and in the larger world, to share meals at the JCA and at home, and simply to relax and enjoy life in a particularly Jewish way.

KABBALAT SHABBAT SERVICES are on Fridays from 6:15 – 7:30 pm followed by an oneg (reception) or vegetarian/dairy potluck supper. Prayers are in Hebrew and English from Kol Haneshamah, the Reconstructionist siddur (prayerbook). On occasion, special programs follow Friday night services.

SHABBAT NE’IMAH, on the third Friday of every month from 6:15 – 7:30 pm, features a small group of instrumental and vocal musicians, our “musical daveners” who accompany the rabbi and set the tone for a soul inspiring service with the rest of the congregation joining in the singing and chanting.

FAMILY FRIDAY NIGHT, beginning at 5:30 pm on the first Friday of the month, is a Shabbat celebration with dancing, a community dinner and more. Open to members and non-members alike, families and children of all ages. Dinner is provided and potluck vegetarian salad toppings are welcome. No nuts please.

SHABBAT MORNING SERVICES begin each week at 10:00 am on Saturday, last between two and two-and-a-half hours, and are followed by a kiddush (light lunch) for the community. Prayers are in Hebrew and English from Kol Haneshamah, the Reconstructionist prayerbook.

RENEWAL CHANTING SERVICES are held regularly throughout the year in the small sanctuary, generally on the first Shabbat morning of the month, concurrent with services in the main sanctuary.

SHABBAT YOGA, an embodied experience of prayer and Torah study, is offered two Shabbat mornings a month, beginning at 9:00 am.

TORAH READING by members is encouraged and trope tutors are available to teach and support new readers. For more information, contact Randi Stein at 413-549-0526 or randistein@earthlink.net or Ruth Love Barer at 413-253-4923 or ruthlove7@hotmail.com.

Weekday Minyan

Your presence at daily services is a gift that allows those who are currently in mourning or commemorating a yahrzeit (anniversary of a death) to be able to say kaddish (the mourner’s prayer). Please join with us in gratitude for the many blessings in our lives.

7:30 – 8:30 am

Shacharit masorti (traditional) and egalitarian service using the Sim Shalom daily siddur (prayerbook)

7:30 – 8:30 am

Shacharit (morning) service of meditation, prayer and chanting, and quiet time in the beauty of our sanctuary

Thursdays (on hiatus)
5:30 – 6:00 pm

Either mincha (afternoon service) or ma’ariv (evening service) depending on the time of year


If you have a yarzheit coming up and would like to have a weekday service, please let us know. Contact the JCA office at 413-256-0160 or info@jcamherst.org or Aaron Bousel at 413-253-3544 or abousel@comcast.net. A listing of parshiot (portions) along with the readings for each aliyah (both full and triennial) can be found at www.hebcal.com/sedrot

A number of our members have allergies to perfumes, colognes and other fragrances. Please try to minimize the use of these products when coming to JCA services and other events, and inform your guests about this policy. Thank you.