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B’nai Sholom Adopts New Prayer Book for High Holy Days, Welcomes All to Services

B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation is opening its doors to welcome the Capital Region community for the High Holy Days with complimentary attendance at all services and by adopting Mishkan HaNefesh, the inspirational new prayer books of Reform Judaism for the Days of Awe.

The congregation once again offers visitors and guests the opportunity to attend High Holy Day services at no charge.  They can attend any or all of the services either as guest of a congregation member or by making arrangements directly with the synagogue office.  Guests also may enjoy B’nai Sholom’s reception after the Rosh Hashanah evening service, lunch at a congregant’s home after Rosh Hashanah morning service and the break-fast following the concluding service on Yom Kippur.

B’nai Sholom has adopted the two-volume Mishkan HaNefesh, published in 2015 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis to succeed Gates of Repentance as the prayer book for the sacred days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  A hugely successful fundraising campaign enabled the congregation to exceed its goal of purchasing 200 sets.  The format of the new prayer book parallels Mishkan T’filah, incorporating updated translations, readings and poetry, as well as easily accessible transliteration and other liturgical innovations.

Gates of Repentance has served Reform congregations since its introduction in 1978 and was a liturgical innovation in its time for including more Hebrew and incorporating gender-neutral language.  The prayer book is still used by Reform congregations throughout North America, and B’nai Sholom has donated 110 of its Gates of Repentance copies to City Shul, a four-year-old Reform synagogue in Toronto.

The High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday evening, September 20. 

“The translations in this new book are skillful and meaningful, and the new prayers will enliven worship.  Our excitement percolated through the congregation so that achieving our fundraising goal for the books was done simply and quickly.  I know that it will be a universally welcomed change, one that comes once in a generation,” said Rabbi Donald P. Cashman, who has been the congregation’s spiritual leader since 1985.

“We love having visitors with us at our Days of Awe services,”’ said congregation president Libby Liebschutz.  “We are proud that so many people find our services to be accessible and meaningful, even when they are worshiping with us for the first time.”


For families, B’nai Sholom offers a specially tailored program for children in grades K-4 on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mornings, and babysitting is available at those times for children ages 4 and under.  Advance registration for babysitting is requested.

Rebecca Pacuk, a graduate of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and an Albany area native who attended B’nai Sholom during her youth, will be the cantorial soloist for the Days of Awe once again.  Pacuk is a music teacher in Salem, New Hampshire, and resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition, Elizabeth M. Huntley will return to furnish harp accompaniment to the services.  She is principal harpist with the Glens Falls Symphony and has performed widely as a soloist, in regional productions and orchestras and with touring musicians.   Since 1998, Huntley has been the editor of The American Harp Journal.

 B’nai Sholom is located at 420 Whitehall Road in Albany.  For the full schedule of High Holy Day services, and forms for registering to attend and reserving childcare, visit the website at or contact the office at 518-482-5283 or   


Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region.  Nearly 130 diverse households from eight counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.  For information about B’nai Sholom and the benefits of belonging, visit  or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or

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