Alternative T’filot Friday: A Window Into Tzad Bet’s Spirituality and Creativity!

Tzad Bet chanichim (Side-B campers) were treated to another set of Alternative T’filot this past Friday morning.  The chanichim chose which one to attend, and could thus experience a somewhat different t’fila than the usual daily Palmer service (as well as one option: the usual daily Palmer service!).

These creative new pathways to prayer were personally engaging and spiritually invigorating.  In addition to some of the t’filot that were offered and blogged about for the past three Fridays (see here:  and here:  and here:, some of the new offerings were:

Minyan Madness Learner’s Minyan with Dan Ornstein* (see bio below) – The chanichim engaged in a profound discussion of “mechayeh hametim” and “mechayeh hakol” in the Amida, as well as various aspects of including the imahot in the Amida.

T’filot Tutorial with Ephraim Rosenberg – Want to get a taste of leading services, but aren’t sure where to start? Everybody gets a chance to practice leading in this t’filot tutorial with Ephraim!

Traditional Ramah Minyan – Want your t’filot to be as similar to the traditional Machaneh Ramah t’filot as possible? Come to minyan!

Meditation with MaorCenter yourself with Maor, as he guides you through a meditative service.

Musical T’filot with Akiva Harris – T’filot with as many songs and as much ruach as can fill the Beit K’nesset!

T’filot with a Jedi Master with Josh Kulp – If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Yoga T’filot with Meghan Cum – Connect your davening with movements, breath, and intention.


Niggunim and Contemplation with Andy Pepperstone

 Sports in Religion with Yoni Offit and Yoni Gelb

Storytelling T’filot with Andy Katz** (bio below)

Andy told the story of Itzhak Perlman, and related it to our Palmer 2017 camp-wide theme of Hakarat HaTov (gratitude):

Perlman was scheduled to play a difficult, challenging violin concerto. In the middle of the performance one of the strings on his violin snapped with a rifle-like popping noise that filled the entire auditorium. The orchestra immediately stopped playing and the audience held its collective breath. The assumption was he would have to put on his braces, pick up his crutches, and leave the stage. Either that or someone would have to come out with another string or replace the violin. After a brief pause, Perlman set his violin under his chin and signaled to the conductor to begin.

One person in the audience reported what happened: “I know it is impossible to play a violin concerto with only three strings. I know that and so do you, but that night, Isaac Perlman refused to know it. You could see him modulating, changing, and recomposing in his head. At one point it sounded as if he were re-tuning the strings to get a new sound that had never been heard before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence that filled the room. Then people rose and cheered. Perlman smiled, wiped his brow, and raised the bow of his violin to quiet them. He spoke, not boastfully, but quietly in a pensive tone, ‘You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

He discussed further with the chanichim how to always look for what is good. We must appreciate even inanimate objects, and not just focus on the benefit we can derive from other people and objects.  When we do this, we treat people and objects differently.  Andy reviewed the prayer Modeh Ani, which we recite every morning upon awakening.  Essentially, we are grateful at just being alive, and affirm that through this prayer.  Even though we might have pain, suffering, and lacking in our lives, with all of that — Modeh Ani.  Finally, the group read and discussed Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”, and the ambiguity of the story.  The tree appreciated the boy’s mere presence, as companionship was enough; did the boy (and then man) appreciate the tree?

*Rabbi Dan Ornstein has been with Congregation Ohav Shalom for nearly twenty three years and he is proud to call Ohav his synagogue and his work place. Rabbi Dan devotes much of his effort to leading and serving our congregation and the Jewish people through educational programming, worship, teaching, pastoral care and spiritual counseling, and creative and educational writing.

Rabbi Dan currently serves as the rabbinical representative to the northeast district council of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  He is also a member of the Albany Law Enforcement Reconciliation Team and he volunteers his time and leadership at the New York State Labor Religion Coalition.

Rabbi Dan blogs at the Times of Israel and contributes essays at WAMC Northeast Public Radio.  He has published poetry in the Jewish Forward and on line at the Pine Hills Review and in the Jewish Literary Journal, as well as essays in the journal, Conservative Judaism.  He writes for the multivolume Mesorah Matrix book series on Judaism from New Paradigm Matrix Publishing. He is currently writing a book about Cain and Abel, tentatively set to be published by the Jewish Publication Society.

When he is not serving Ohav or writing, Rabbi Dan loves to read, hike, watch movies and binge watch Netflix, as well as listen to Bruce Springsteen.  He has been married to Marian Alexander for nearly thirty three years. They are the very proud parents of Joseph, Shulamit and Vered.


Rabbi Andrew Shapiro Katz

Director of North American Engagement

Rabbi Katz is an alumnus of the Conservative Yeshiva and the Pardes Kollel, receiving smicha in 2004 from Rabbis Daniel Landes. He holds a B.A. in American Studies and M.A. in Educational Administration from Stanford University, and an M.B.A. from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He lives in Beer Sheva with his wife and four children, where they co-founded the intentional pluralistic religious community, Kehilat Be’erot. He teaches pizza-making and cooking science, caters small events, and hosts a periodic pop-up restaurant.