Ritual Life

Beth El offers both Conservative and Orthodox worship opportunities. Our conservative worship services are egalitarian and are conducted mostly in Hebrew with English translation and transliteration in the siddur (Sim Shalom). In conjunction with the Rabbi, men and women act as service leaders, as well as Gabbaim & are welcome to read Torah and Haftorah. We especially encourage youngsters who have completed Bar / Bat Mitzvah to participate as prayer leaders.

Members of our Orthodox community conduct services in a sanctuary on the lower level of the main building. The Durham Orthodox Kehillah sanctuary includes a mechitzah. These are held weekly & on holidays with regular participation by the Rabbi. Also, periodically we hold an Egalitarian Chavurah Service which uses an Orthodox Siddur.

We welcome families with children at all worship services. We welcome even the youngest children and provide a toy box in the library for those who become restless. Children are also invited to walk in the Torah procession on Saturday morning. In addition, services for children (Jr. Congregation, Alef bet/Jr. Jr. Congregation, and Tot services) are held on the High Holidays and twice monthly on Shabbat morning during the school year.  Erev Shabbat services for children are also held monthly as part of Shabbat 25.

See below for:



Want to read Haftarah or Torah on Shabbat?

Even if you've never chanted a Haftarah, it's been a long time, or you have thought it would be a meaningful way to commemorate an occasion, you like the sound of the trope, or you would just like to learn this as a new skill, please contact Randi Smith - rbsmith.521@gmail.com

If you would like to read a Torah portion, please contact Jeff Derby - jhderby@us.ibm.com



Shabbat 25
January 30-February 1, 2015: Scholar-in-Residence weekend with Rabbi Charles Sherman

Shabbat 25 represents two important values: Welcoming and Tradition.  By creating many moments throughout Shabbat to come to Beth El,  we hope to welcome everyone giving as many people as possible a chance to participate in our community.

Our Shabbat 25 programming gives the community a chance to connect with Beth El throughout Shabbat. We begin with Shabbat Shirah - a joyous Friday night service led by Rabbi Greyber using the melodies of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (services begin at 6:00pm). These services are followed by a *community Shabbat dinner (details & registration link below). Our celebration continues on Saturday with Shabbat Morning Services which are followed by a kiddush lunch.  Often, during the winter months, as Shabbat wanes, we return in the evening to study, enjoy a seudah sh'lishit, singing, and havdalah together. When Havdalah comes much later or another special evening event is planned, our studies are moved to earlier in the afternoon - approx. 1:15pm following kiddush lunch.

*The 1/30/15 Community Shabbat Dinner hosted by the Synagogue Life Committee with Guest Chef Jared Resnick at 7:00 p.m. You must RSVP for the dinner by Sunday January 25th, 2015.

$18 per person 13 and older / $9 per child 7-12 / no charge for children under 7. Family maximum charge for dinner is $45
For any questions, feel free to call the office: 919-682-1238.

Following dinner, Rabbi Charles Sherman will give a lecture on "The Broken and The Whole, Discovering Joy After Heartbreak."

Please mail payment to Beth El Synagogue with the dinner date & CSD noted in the memo line or use the Paypal link provided on the registration form. Any cancellations made after the reservations deadline will still need to be paid for in full. Thank you for your understanding.

Beth El is committed to ensuring that everyone in our community can participate in all programming, regardless of financial circumstances. If you would like to help those in financial need attend dinner, please consider a donation of $18 or more.

Synaplex Shabbat at Beth El
April 18, 2015
Click for schedule details.

Come to "Synaplex Shabbat" at Beth El and find Jewish experiences that speak to your heart.  In addition to our weekly Mishnah study led by Rabbi Emeritus Steve Sager, our engaging and participatory egalitarian and traditional Orthodox Shabbat morning services and our children's programming for kids of all ages, Synaplex Shabbat offers options such as a yoga experience based on the morning prayers, an in-depth Torah discussion with a local scholar, creative services with more gender sensitive language, a learner's minyan, a tefillah hike, meditation, storytelling and more.  
Our community then comes together for a D'var Torah/Commentary or special guest speaker.

On April 18, 2015 we are happy to welcome:

Vivian Connell

When teacher turned lawyer, Vivian Connell, was diagnosed with ALS, she wrote on Facebook:
"Help me do THIS: I want to raise about $15k to take our 32 students at the alternative high school here in Chapel Hill to the US. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Many of them have never even left the area, much less the state, but they are fascinated when we teach about the Holocaust. Many of them have also encountered racism and cultural hatred, and a full day at the USHMM would make a permanent positive impact in their lives."

April 15-16 is Yom HaShoah, Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Shabbat April 18th Vivian Connell will speak at Beth El and share her inspiring story to make sure the lessons of the Holocaust continue to live on for generations to come.

To learn more about about Vivian, visit her blog: https://vivcon.wordpress.com/

Services are followed by communal lunch
where everyone is invited.

 If you're interested in helping us with this exciting initiative, contact Rabbi Greyber at rabbigreyber@betheldurham.org.  

Synaplex Shabbat is an inclusive program.  In an effort to ensure that everyone can participate successfully, buddies will be available through the Federation's BRIDGES program to help anyone with special needs.
Please contact the office in advance (info@betheldurham.org)
if your family would like to be partnered with a "buddy".

Click here for a sample of a past Synaplex morning schedule.

Yahrzeit, Birthday and Anniversary Calendar

Enter date (and optionally, name) in the form below to generate a list of Yahrzeit dates, Hebrew Birthdays, or Hebrew Anniversaries for the next several years. After clicking the Compute Calendar button, you will also be able to download the results.

Or visit http://www.hebcal.com/yahrzeit/ to list up to six dates.


Month: Day: Year:     Name:


Gabbai Training

Would you like to become a Second Gabbai at Beth El? The Corps of Gabbai’im is open to interested members who have a good reading knowledge of Hebrew and know or can learn the tropes (cantillation marks) well enough to be able to help the Torah reader. These sessions focus on the work of the Second Gabbai. Experienced gabbaiim will help you perfect your ability to read trope and correct pronunciations; and will familiarize you with the protocols and finer points of the gabbai's job.

No sessions currently scheduled.





Hagbah and G'lilah Workshops

Have you been wanting to learn how to lift and/or dress
the Torah at the end of the
Shabbat morning scriptural reading?

No workshop dates are scheduled at this time,
however, if there is suffient interest in holding more, we will.
Please let the office know if this is of interest to you.


Beth El Service Leader Resources

Shabbat Tunes
Visit above link for a listing of MP3 audio files featuring Shabbat Melodies often used at Beth El.

Tips for Beth El Service Leaders:
Word Document / PDF Document

Included in the document above is a general framework for the timing of Shabbat morning services in the Main Sanctuary at Beth El, general tips on how to lead a group in prayer, thoughts on maintaining the balance between keva & kavannah, and specific choices that can be made for leading each service - Pesukei D'Zimrah, Shacharit, Torah Service and Musaf - with kavannah and within the time allotted for each service at Beth El. 


D'var Torah from Laurie L. Patton, 8/31/13 - Shabbat Nitzavim



Sanctuary Seating Reconfiguration

Update/Decision sent Dec. 21, 2012:

Dear Beth El Chevre,

We write to share with you some developments concerning the sanctuary's seating configuration.

As many of you know, Beth El embarked on a trial reconfiguration of the sanctuary last April. The seating was rearranged into a U-shape, and the Torah table was brought into the center of the congregation. After a few weeks of experimenting with that new arrangement - and after a congregational survey revealed both enthusiasm and lingering apprehension for the new configuration - Beth El's Board of Trustees voted in June to extend the Trial Period until the December 2012 Board meeting. This meant the community would observe how the layout performed during the High Holidays,well attended Shabbatot, and other events.

To prepare for the December decision, the Ritual Committee produced a follow-up survey in November. The results of this survey, in which 172 congregants responded and offered meaningful comments, continued to demonstrate a mix of opinions among the congregation. Approximately half of the respondents were positive about the change, and an equal number were either neutral or negative about the change. Just over one third of the respondents endorsed returning to the former configuration (36.1%), slightly fewer (29%)favored the new configuration, and an additional quarter (24%) preferred the new configuration "with modifications," though the modifications suggested were not uniform and often involved complex new designs.

After considering these deeply ambivalent results, the Beth El Board concluded that there is not a clear mandate to make the current reconfiguration permanent. Accordingly, the Board voted that the sanctuary be returned to its previous layout while authorizing the Ritual Committee, in conjunction with the House Committee, to institute some minor modifications. Nonetheless, the Board recognized-and the survey results reflected-that the eight-month experiment was effective in triggering new ideas for the sanctuary and inspiring new conversations regarding how we want to shape our space for communal prayer.

It is our hope that the community will continue this conversation about near and long-term possibilities for the sanctuary. Also at the December Board meeting, the Strategic Planning Committee issued a draft of its report, which is available at www.betheldurham.org/docs/shlosha_dvarim_BESP.pdf. Among the report's central recommendations is the creation of a working group charged with creating proposals for Beth El's physical environment. This working group will continue soliciting community preferences and assessing physical possibilities for the sanctuary, as well as implementelements of what we have learned from our recent experiment and community feedback. We recognize that there are many positive attributes to each of the alternative configurations we have experienced thus far, but we also acknowledge that we have not yet achieved an arrangement that enjoys widespread enthusiasm from the community. We hope that the working group will lead us through a process that produces a prayer space that is befitting to our remarkable community.

We appreciate the time that many of you took to respond to the survey. Your opinions and ideas meaningfully informed the Board's decision, and they will remain critical for any deliberations going forward. Please do remain engaged in this process, as there will be ample opportunity to participate in important community decisions to come.

With best wishes for a restful winter holiday,

Barak Richman, President
Rabbi Daniel Greyber
Ian Davis, Ritual Committee
Shula Bernard , Ritual Committee

Update sent on June 15, 2012:

Earlier this week, Beth El's Board of Trustees voted to extend the Trial Period for the proposed sanctuary reconfiguration until the December 2012 Board meeting.  We received much excellent feedback via email, the SurveyMonkey survey, and informal conversations with many of you.  Of the 90 or so people who responded to the survey, many expressed a preference for the new configuration; a smaller percentage preferred the older configuration, and a significant percentage expressed a desire to extend the Trial Period to allow more time to consider options before any sort of permanent decision.

People who expressed a preference for the new configuration liked its warmth, intimacy, and generally more welcoming atmosphere.  People who preferred the former configuration missed the ability to focus on the bimah in front and being able to be "anonymous" either in the back of the sanctuary, or by not facing others during services.  Over the course of the next few months, we will gain a better sense of how the configuration works (or doesn't) during "bigger" prayer moments such as b'nei mitzvah and High Holidays, and how it works for other events such as our Yiddish concert.  All of that will help us to think through a more permanent decision.  The board also discussed the long term benefit of sanctuary chairs, or other non-pew sanctuary furniture options, that might provide more ongoing flexibility for our prayer space.  

Many thanks again for your feedback and participation as we explore the relationship between prayer and the physical space of our sanctuary.  We will continue to keep you up to date.  In the meantime, please feel free to continue to share your suggestions and thoughts through the channels already open.

B'virkat Shalom,
Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Barak Richman

Proposed reconfiguration of sanctuary seating, Spring 2012:
Please click the thumbnails below for
larger images of these renderings.

rear left

Ritual Committee Ritual Committee

lib door            full

Click here for a PDF containing all 4 of these illustrations along with Rabbi Greyber's letter regarding the proposed changes.

Update from Rabbi Greyber, 4/12/12
Last night Beth El's board voted to approve moving forward with a "trial period" during which we will reconfigure seating in the main sanctuary.  Response to the materials sent out was overall very positive.  Even those who raised concerns about the different configuration expressed openness and support for trying something different for a few weeks.  The most common concern raised about the sketches was rows of seats directly against the east and west walls, next to and across from, the memorial board.  Based upon that concern, the configuration for the trial period will shift those seats elsewhere.  

As a reminder of what was sent out in the April bulletin, here is an outline of the process described:

1.       May 20 - June 10 –the proposed re-configuration will take place during the week of May 20th following the final bar/bat mitzvah of the Spring, and a 3-week trial period (Stage 1) ensues.  Congregants can visit the reconfigured sanctuary through this period –on Shabbat and during the week. Feedback is sent via email to Executive Director, Laura Quigley at laura@betheldurham.org, via electronic survey, and/or given informally to members of the Board.  Details about the survey will be forthcoming.

2.       May 30th (Wednesday evening, 7:30 to 8:30pm) & June 10th (Sunday morning 9:30 to 10:30am) –additional opportunities to meet together, “walk”the sanctuary with Rabbi Greyber and other members, and to discuss the reconfiguration. 

3.       June 12 - Board Meeting during which Board considers decision regard proceeding with Stage 2 over the summer.  Stage 2 to be completed by early August, well-before Bat Mitzvah in mid-August and the commencement of the Fall season. 

I hope as many of us as possible will have the chance to visit the Main Sanctuary during this period and give valuable feedback on the proposed reconfiguration.