Discovering Our Own Authentic Service

Rabbi Jonathan Slater

January 14 – February 9, 2024

The siddur, prayer book, is one of the greatest treasures of Jewish religious life, expressing generations of spiritual struggle and exaltation, and the deepest concerns and yearnings of the Jewish heart. Yet, for many Jews, the siddur can be an impediment to prayer rather than an invitation or source of inspiration.

In this four-week course, you will be guided to investigate your own modes of praying through body, heart, and mind – and then to discover which of the many prayers in the siddur might serve as a vehicle for your genuine expression. Through our collective investigation and your individual practice, you will begin a process of sketching out your own matbe’a, or “fixed” structure of prayer, for the sake of nurturing your deepest kavvanah, or true intention in prayer, and for the sake of connecting authentically and vibrantly with the Jewish tradition.

Each Sunday, you will receive an email with a half-hour video teaching, recorded by Rabbi Jonathan Slater. These video teachings accompany a written lesson, which includes links to Jewish texts, secular writings, poems, music, videos, and other references to supplement your learning. You can choose the best time in your schedule to watch the half-hour video teaching and read the written lesson, as well as to log onto the community forums to post your questions and reflections. Throughout the week, you will receive daily emails, which will encourage you to keep up with your own internal work with twenty to thirty minutes of daily practice.

The course also includes a live weekly practice group with Rabbi Jonathan Slater. Sessions will take place on Thursday evenings from 8:00-9:00 PM ET on Zoom on the following dates: January 18, 25, February 1, 8. These sessions are a wonderful opportunity to practice together in real time, reflect on the week’s experiences, and to ask questions.

You are also encouraged to meet with a chevruta (learning and practice partner) weekly to further support your exploration. You may find that your sense of accountability to practice, your feeling of being part of a community of practice, and your satisfaction in the course will be enhanced by learning with a practice partner (or chevruta). This is completely optional. To learn more about Mindful Chevrutah Practice, click here.

The course is open to all. No Hebrew or prior knowledge is required.

Liturgical Prayer

Meet Your Instructor

Jonathan was a long-time faculty member and beloved teacher with IJS. Among other roles with IJS, he co-directed and taught in IJS’s Clergy Leadership Program and wrote our weekly Hasidic Text Study. He also developed “Open My Heart”, a podcast on contemplative prayer practice featuring leading spiritual teachers. Jonathan regularly teaches meditation at the JCC in Manhattan. He has written numerous books including, most recently, A Partner in Holiness: Deepening Mindfulness, Practicing Compassion and Enriching Our Lives through the Wisdom of R. Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev’s Kedushat Levi.