Singing Communities – Kehillot Sharot
An Invitation to Piyut
"Our impression was that the power of Kehillot Sharot lies in the fact that several powerful channels of connection—community-based, spiritual, musical, Jewish—are operating simultaneously. Singing together was experienced as immensely powerful for the vast majority of participants. To sum up, it can be said that piyut is perceived as something wonderful and enchanting, unique and special, leading to pleasure and meaning."
Evaluation Report submitted by Zofnat Institute for Organizational Consulting, Development and Research, 2006
What is piyut ? Derived from the Greek word for "poetry, "piyut is a liturgical poem, which began as sacred poetry adorning the prayers during the period of Late Antiquity. Over the years piyut has widened its scope and reached out beyond the range of prayers. As a living, creative work that is constantly renewed, piyut became a dynamic textual, artistic, and ritual form incorporating several key elements of Hebrew culture: language, music, history, legend, kabbalah, and prayer.
As liturgical poetry that is actually sung, piyut was central in the lives of individuals and communities. Piyutim were communal poems that answered the needs of the Jewish community. They expressed and dealt with communal life cycles, be they ritual, social or political. There are piyutim that follow the yearly cycle: Shabbat songs and piyutim for holidays and festive occasions; songs of supplication; and piyutim that follow the human life cycle: from birth (piyutim for a brit and for the birth of a daughter), through bar and bat mitzva, to marriage, and back to the beginning.
Who We Are
"Singing communities" bring together diverse audiences to experience, celebrate, and deepen their connection to Jewish culture via Jewish music, singing and learning. Participants in kehillot sharot study selected liturgical pieces, led by traditional paytanim and facilitators and learn to sing piyutim and understand their texts as a gate to Jewish culture.
Established in 2002, Kehilot Sharot carries out a wide variety of initiatives, activities and events across the country. The centerpiece of Kehilot Sharot is 10 'singing communities', a remarkably diverse group of some 250 participants who regularly meet on a weekly basis to sing and study piyutim together. Hundreds more attend special study events, weekends seminars and holidays sponsored by communities from Haifa to Yeruham.
In addition, we train senior position holders in community centers, schools, and batei midrash about the opportunities offered by piyut for increased participation in Jewish learning.
The Avi Chai Foundation is the primary funder of Kehilot Sharot.
The role and relevance of Jewish song, especially piyut, in the lives of individuals and communities was central in the Diaspora. Piyutim were community poems that met Jewish community needs and were adapted to its various rituals.
With the founding of the State of Israel and the waves of immigration and absorption that followed, piyut faced a huge challenge. With time, people from across the ethnic and cultural spectrum have come to rediscover the wisdom, beauty and meaning of piyutim. However, piyut is far from realizing its potential vis-à-vis Israeli society as a whole: to give Israeli society a different and friendly kind of exposure to the Jewish sources, to strengthen the concept of community in general, to cross denominational lines and bridge generation gaps, and to deepen existing affinity through a shared musical experience.
The general public, including secular Jews, have rarely had access to piyut or opportunities to be exposed to the essence of piyut, before Kehilot Sharot started its mission. Kehilot Sharot appeals to diverse population groups and exposes them to the wealth and diversity of the Jewish tradition in a non-threatening, enjoyable way.
Kehilot Sharot ICCy ( International Cultural Youth Center), 12 Emek Refaim, Jerusalem
Tel: 02-5618208, 025670948