Shir HaShirim
Song of Songs Minyan

The Song of Songs Minyan comes together for a community Kabbalat Shabbat
on the second Friday of every month at 7:30pm for egalitarian Jewish spiritual practice,
attracting participants from multiple communities and denominations
within the greater Bay Area and beyond.

Uniting the musical liturgy of the Sephardic, Mizrachi, and Ashkenazic traditions,
these gatherings draw upon the deep wells of Jewish sacred music, poetry,
dance, and prayer from around the world, as well as from Global Wisdom Culture
and cutting-edge science.

Upcoming Dates for 2020 are:

February 14
May 8

Services are co-ordinated by Hazzan Richard Kaplan, with musical accompaniment
by a panoply of truly extraordinary Bay Area musicians and singers,
and the contributions of an array of marvelous poets

Co-sponsored and held at:

Jewish Community Center of the East Bay
1414 Walnut Street
Berkeley, CA 94709

For more information call: (510) 848-0237


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Shir Hashirim was the dream of our founder, Rabbi Michael Ziegler, who had the vision to create a Friday Night service with the remarkable ingredients listed herein. Professor and wife of the famous scholar and writer Daniel Matt, Hannah Matt, soon got on board with Michael. They initially thought of a "Ba'al Shem Tov Minyan," named after the great Hasidic master, but Hazzan (Cantor) Richard Kaplan, who joined the initial circle from its inception, came up with a more widely embracing title ... "Shir Hashirim" (The Song of Songs, the Aum, the Kol Demamah Dakah/the Sound of Silence, Nada Brahma, The Mother Tone of the Cosmos, The Music of the Spheres, The Melody of Melodies, The Lovesong of Lovesongs, The Ultra-subtle Sound Current).

On the scene from the beginning were director and producer Laura Sheppard and vocalist Laurie Polster, as well as oudist John Erlich and percussionist Jano Bogg, and we were off and running, holding our first service at the original Chochmat Halev space on 8th Street in Berkeley, in the
Fall of 1997. We rapidly outgrew the space owing to popular demand, and moved to our home of
20 years now, The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay.

And over the years, as a substantially volunteer enterprise, the Shir Hashirim vision has been blessed by the many exquisitely talented folks who have given their time and leadership energies to the group effort, including Julie Batz, Rachel Brott, Adam Heilbrun, Gabriel Evan Fiske, Daniel Eshoo, Rabbi Daniel Lev, Lynn Feinerman, Skye Pelicrow, Morton Felix, Lilly Artel, Collette de Gangier-Rettner, Susan Felix, Nessim Enver, Tamuz Shiran, Rachel Valfer, Eliyahu Sills, Faisal Zedan, Hannah Dresner, Renee Benmeleh, Josh Horowitz, Cookie Segelstein, Stuart Brotman,
Lila Sklar, Gary Haggerty, Sheldon Brown, and many more poets, singers and musicians who have graced our services over time.

Music is central to Shir Hashirim,. We are one of the few minyanim in the United States that features authentic Mizrachi/Middle Eastern Jewish music, played on indigenous Middle Eastern instruments. We've been so very fortunate to have resident oud (pear-shaped lute), kanun (plucked zither), dumbek (hour-glass drum), and riqq (Middle Eastern tambourine) players, as well as guest musicians over the years who play ney (cane flute), kemanche (spike fiddle), and sitar (Indian lute), among others.

We thus sing Jewish songs from Morocco, Andalusia, North Africa, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and

In addition, we chant many many gorgeous melodies in our gatherings from the Jews of Spain, drawing from the great corpus of Sephardic song, and are enthusiastic admirers of the music of the Sephardi Yerushalmi the Sephardic Sacred Musical Tradition of Jerusalem.

We also have tremendous love and respect for our Ashkenazic forbears, and emphasize the experiential prayers, teachings, and music from the Jewish mystical traditions of Hasidut and Kabbalah. We have loved chanting hasidic musical meditations without words, devekut niggunim, over our 20-year run, and continue to do so, even encouraging congregants to create their own improvisatory sacred movements "on the spot." Sacred dance is hence an important part of our services, including Sufi zikr, a dance of remembrance of our Ultimate Source. And we love meditation.

We have remarkably and seamlessly been able to combine these disparate Jewish World Music identities within a single service.

Much of our music may be heard (and was pioneered within our services) on several CDs - Tuning The Soul: Worlds of Jewish Sacred Music, Life of the Worlds: Journeys in Jewish Sacred Music, and The Hidden One: Jewish Mystical Songs - and more of our music may found in the recorded work of the marvelous group Za'atar, of whom our oud player John Erlich is a founding member.

Please see the "Recordings" and "Reviews" sections of to hear and read about some of this music and, please visit:

Za'atar Band and
for a taste of Za'atar's music.

We have a definite ecumenical bent, and include poetry and teachings from such World Wisdom traditions as Sufism, Buddhism, mystical Christianity, Hinduism, Kashmir Shaivism and Indigenous traditions from across the globe. As well, we include perspectives from cutting-edge science, including emerging cosmologies, quantum physics, eco-feminism, and neuro-science.

We strive to be as utterly integral as possible in this world of rapidly-shifting paradigms. We thus have tremendous respect for the work and writings of such 'lights' as Brianne Swimme, Matthew Fox, Thomas Berry, Teihard de Chardin, Joanna Macy, Ervin Laszlo, Sri Aurobindo and Jean Houston.

Shir Hashirim has been a longtime supporter of the Jewish Renewal Movement, and is blessed to incorporate many of the liturgies and approaches to ritual pioneered by its progenitor, the eminent rabbi and trailblazer, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, may the memory of such a tsaddik (righteous master) be a blessing to us forever!

At the time of Rabbi Michael's initial vision, there were no such broadly-based Friday night musical shabbatot (Sabbath gatherings) in the Bay Area. As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we are overwhelmingly happy to have inspired such a flowering of such gatherings all around the Bay Area, and in all forms of denomination.

Over the years, each Spring, Shir Hashirim featured a larger version of itself, in conjunction with the Jewish Music Festival, and these events were extremely memorable for us, as we had the chance to bring in master musicians from all around the world to join us in "praises to The Mystery of Mysteries."

We hope to grow with the times, both particularly Jewishly and globally, and thank you for any help you can offer to help more folks know about this unique creative spiritual endeavor.

News. Recordings. Concerts. Reviews. The Hidden One.
Teaching. Past Appearances. Biography. Writings.
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