Synagogue: Young Israel of Santa Barbara, 1826-B Cliff Drive

Service Attended: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Rabbi: Simcha Green

Denomination: Jewish (Orthodox)

Congregation Size: 40

Special Offerings: Shabbat dinners, 6:30 p.m.; lunch-style Kiddush following Sat. morning services; individual and group Rabbinic counseling and Bible Study; holiday meals; non-Jews welcome

Contact: Call 966-4565, or on the web at

Although Young Israel (YISB) upholds traditional Jewish practices – such as seating men and women separately – “you don’t have to be completely Orthodox to be comfortable,” according to Rabbi Green. This was immediately clear, judging from the numerous warm smiles, humorous discussion involving Ellen Degeneres during the study session preceding the service, the Boston Red Sox logo emblazoned on the cantor’s yarmulke, and the free movement of congregants in and out of the service. For the majority of the three-hour service, the cantor led the congregation through Hebrew psalms of praise and blessing, with congregants rising and adding their voices sometimes individually, sometimes as a group. Though the harmonies filling the small room were undeniably beautiful, this was no performance; it was communal prayer.

The service focused on the Shemitah cycle, which ordains that every seven years land is given a Sabbatical from farming and commerce. “So for anyone going to Israel next year, it will be interesting to see how it functions,” Rabbi Green said during one of his brief interjections in English. The rules governing this observance and the rationale behind it were explained by our recital of the Parashas Behar-Bechukosai, in which G-d told Moses, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine.” Thus the Shemitah year is intended to lift observers out of materialism and reawaken their appreciation of G-d’s gifts.

Another break in the singing allowed congregants to offer prayers for individual community members, as well as for members of the Israeli Defense Forces, calling to mind this passage in the Torah commentary that accompanied our chants: “Though Israel has suffered countless reversals in its history, none of them is cause for despair:Jews in more secure places step forward to help. And when all seems to be lost, it never is.”

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