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High Holidayless in Seattle: A Message from Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Dear Friends of Panim Hadashot,

After much consideration and a full discussion with the Panim Hadashot-New Faces Board, I have decided as Director to not hold High Holiday services this year.  While I felt that the services we offered last year were spiritually meaningful and beautiful, the amount of work to prepare the services and the music distracted me from our core mission to renew the traditions of Shabbat Hospitality. The past two years have seen a tremendous growth of Shabbat activity for Panim Hadashot. We have decided to keep our focus and expand our Shabbat Home Hospitality offerings as you will soon see in the redesigned web site by the end of the summer.

Fundamentally, Panim Hadashot-New Faces is supportive of the efforts of synagogues to provide a full range of worship services including the High Holidays. There are many choices across the gamut in Seattle. However, there is only one organization that is focusing on focusing on Shabbat home hospitality and the fellowship of shared Shabbat meals. That's us.  We believe this practice is so important, that it is imperative we retain our focus and capacity to enhance this core Jewish tradition in our community.

Below is a description of Panim Hadshot-New Faces which articulates what we are and what we are not.  This will help the community better understand our role and what we contribute to Jewish life in the Pacific Northwest.  Thank you for understanding and I wish you a Shanah Tovah U'metukah,  A good and sweet New Year. We also appreciate your continued financial support to enable us to make progress in renewing the tradition of Shabbat Hospitality.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg,

Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces


What is Panim Hadashot-New Faces?

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is not a synagogue. We do not function as a traditional congregation such as offering regular worship services and a religious school program. We do not have membership dues, a common feature of most synagogues.

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is also not affiliated with a specific Jewish movement.  We are pluralistic in our outlook.  Our Shabbat hosts come from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Secular backgrounds.  Our work is primarily with the Liberal and Secular Jewish communities since use of live music to enhance Shabbat singing is not permitted by the Orthodox rabbinic authorities. 

While Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a very innovative model within the Jewish community, it does have precedent in Jewish tradition.  We see ourselves as a “Gemach”.  The word Gemach is an acronym for the Jewish term gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness).  Jewish tradition views hospitality as one of the most praiseworthy acts of loving kindness. (Other acts of loving kindness in Jewish tradition include, Visiting the Sick, Burying the Dead, and Dowering the Bride)  Many of the people involved in our Gemach share a love for Shabbat hospitality or who want to see this particular act of loving kindness become more pervasive in our Jewish community. 

Our Gemach, Panim Hadashot-New Faces promotes Shabbat hospitality with a singular passion.  Our work in the community centers around encouraging people to host gatherings at their homes.  We help both hosts and guests to adopt Shabbat hospitality as a “spiritual practice in their lives” by modeling the special activities that can be shared around a table such as music, song, Torah study, elevated conversation, and the empathy of hospitality. 

How do people get involved in our Gemach?  Many connect by hosting Shabbat in their homes. Others connect to Panim Hadashot-New Faces by attending our monthly Community Shabbat Gatherings. A new way for people to get involved is to be trained as a Shabbat Animator as a teacher, singer, story teller to "animate" Shabbat table gatherings.  Another way to connect to Panim Hadashot is to support this initiative through a financial contribution or a subscriptions. Your gifts enable us to offer our “Animated Shabbat Gatherings” across the community.  

Many synagogue affiliated Jews have volunteered to serve as hosts. They see Panim Hadashot as a valuable supplement to synagogues.  We also attract many nonaffiliated Jews who find our emphasis on Shabbat hospitality to be a meaningful expression of their Jewish identity.  Ultimately we see our Gemach as a vehicle for acts of loving kindness, specifically sharing Shabbat with new faces.