We would like to extend a warm invitation to join us for the High Holy Days this year at Temple Hillel B’nai Torah (HBT). For a small shul, we provide a wide variety of programs that support our principles of Avodah, Torah, Havurah and Tikkun Olam (worship, study, community, and social justice). Our programming reflects the passionate commitment of our members and the diverse nature of our community, which is welcoming to the LGBTQ community, multi-racial families and interfaith couples.

In our unique Reconstructionist services, Rabbi Barbara Penzner serves as cantor as well as rabbi, leading us in uplifting song. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our building buzzes with activity, all intended to bring reflection and renewal to our otherwise busy lives. We offer programming for children from infants to teenagers on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur day. During the break on Yom Kippur afternoon, we offer yoga, meditation and discussion.

For members and those new to HBT, please use this link to let us know you will be joining us for High Holiday services. If you have any questions, please call the Temple Office at 617-323-0486. Best wishes for a summer of renewal and relaxation, and for a peaceful, healthy, and joyful New Year!

Rabbi Barbara Penzner
Judith Levine, President

Holiday Schedule


SELICHOT: Preparing for the High Holy Days

Saturday, September 16th 8:30 - 10:30 pm @ Temple HBT

Selichot ushers in the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah. With Selichot we intensify our efforts toward teshuvah, “turning” or repentance. This year, we will host Reconstructionist Congregation Dorshei Tzedek and Shir Hadash to nourish our bodies as well as our souls for the new year.  

We will learn about the Sephardic custom of the Rosh Hashanah “seder,” and make some of the traditional Sephardic foods associated with beginning the new year on an auspicious note.  The evening starts with havdalah at 8:30pm, followed by cooking, learning and eating! Those who prefer not to cook will be tasked with jokes and puns, and will still get to eat the goodies. We will close with songs and reflection to guide us into the High Holy Day season.

ROSH HASHANAH:  Welcoming the New Year 5778

Our services offer food for the heart and mind, filled with music and based on traditional Hebrew prayers (with poetic translations), using the innovative Renew Our Days machzor (prayerbook for the High Holy Days).

Erev Rosh Hashanah:

Wednesday, September 20, 6:30 - 7:30 pm

We welcome the New Year with music and storytelling. Stephanie Sher will lead with the Rabbi; Rich Moche invites us to share his family's tradition: a Sephardi piyyut, Achot Ketanah/The Little Sister, for a new beginning to the year.

First Day of Rosh Hashanah:

Thursday, September 21, 9:30 am - 1:15 pm

Programming for children (toddlers through 7th grade) begins at 10:15 am and ends at 12:15 pm.
At 9:30 am Tracy Rich will open the adult service with fifteen minutes of chanting in the sanctuary.
The Rabbi’s sermon takes place at 11:15 am.
At 11:45 am, children join adults for a story and the sounding of the shofar.
After the Torah service, stay for the contemplative Musaf (afternoon) service, featuring reflections by Raquel Rosenblatt, with lots more shofar blasts.

Tashlich: Rosh Hashanah "Recess"

Thursday, September 21, 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Meet by the boat launch at Millenium Park off VFW Parkway in West Roxbury

Tashlich is the custom of symbolically releasing our transgressions and cast bread crumbs to help us throw off that which holds us back from complete teshuvah. Get out of your seat and work off your holiday meal! Bring your family, your friends, your dogs, a few bread crumbs, and enjoy the ritual and the fresh air by the Charles River.

Second Day of Rosh Hashanah:

Friday, September 22nd, 9:30 am - 1:00 pm

Our second day observance offers different approaches to prayer, including group aliyot to the Torah for everyone and interactive study, as well as the traditional prayers. 

Shabbat Shuvah: Shabbat, Shuvah/Shabbat, connecting Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

Saturday, September 23rd, 10 am – 12 noon

On this special Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we include prayers and melodies from the High Holy Days and encourage introspection on the themes of the High Holy Days.

YOM KIPPUR: The Day of Atonement

One day a year we devote to reviewing our lives: where we have been, where we are, and charting a course for where we want to go. In our congregation we follow the tradition to dress entirely in white during Yom Kippur. Many refrain from wearing leather, especially leather shoes. In body and mind, we seek ways to return to our Source and be renewed. Be sure to join us for the closing of Yom Kippur for Neilah and the final shofar blasts.

Kol Nidre: Evening Service

Friday, September 29,  6:00 pm – 8:45 pm (Doors will close at 6:15 pm for the Kol Nidre prayer)

Kol Nidre, the prayer of release from vows, is traditionally said before sunset. We will start the service promptly at 6:00 pm; please plan to arrive a few minutes early.  This is the one service of the entire year when a tallit (prayer shawl) is worn in the evening. Bring your own tallit or use one provided by the congregation. We will put the tallit on together as a community at the start of the service. Lev Mamuya will play cello. We close the doors to provide more focus on the haunting Kol Nidre prayer, which is sung through three times as the temple leaders hold the white Torah scrolls. The temple co-presidents will reflect on the temple community in the past year and invite you to support our unique congregation. Susannah Sirkin will offer reflections while the Rabbi chants the evening service. The Rabbi's sermon  takes place at the heart of the evening service.

Yom Kippur Day: Rising above our material needs to attain a new spiritual level

Saturday, September 30th, 9:30 am - 1:30 pm

Programming for children (toddlers through 7th grade) begins at 10:15 am and ends at 12:15 pm.

Rich Moche will lead us in a Sephardi melody toward the end of the morning service. At 11:45 am Britni de la Cretaz will give the Personal Offering, a personal expression of the meaning of the day. At 12 noon, all the children will join the adult service for the Rabbi’s story and participate in returning the Torah to the ark. David Brenner will provide reflections during the Musaf (afternoon) service, along with Rabbi Penzner. The Musaf also features a guided meditation on the theme of “Avodah,” worship.

Afternoon Mind-Body Alternatives:

Saturday, September 30th, 1:30 - 4:30 pm: Additional ways to touch your heart and mind.

Stretch your body and soul in yoga with certified yoga instructor Laurie Rotman, open your heart in meditation with Christer Larsson and chanting with Tracy Rich, or join in a discussion.   No experience necessary. Bring/wear comfortable clothing for yoga.

Yizkor and Mincha: Memorial Prayer and afternoon service

Saturday, September 30th, 5:00 - 6:15 pm

Yizkor is the quiet, intimate gathering with others who have suffered losses, either recently or long ago. Mincha includes the Torah reading from Leviticus 19 (The Holiness Code) and features the reading of the powerful Book of Jonah, with commentary by a member of the congregation.

Special Break-Fast for Families with Young Children

Saturday, September 30th, 5:30 pm

Gather with other families with young children to break the Yom Kippur fast with a dairy-only pot luck meal. Location: the Knopf Social Hall.


Saturday, September 30th, 6:15 - 7:00 pm

Ne’ilah, “the closing of the gates” is the dramatic finale of the day. We sing our hearts out as we seek one last chance for our hearts to open in prayer and for our prayers to be received with compassion. Everyone is invited to come stand on the bimah and offer private prayers before the open ark.


Saturday, September 30th, 7:00 - 7:15 pm

All ages crowd in the sanctuary to end the day with the rituals of Havdalah, followed by a communal shofar-blowing. Bring your own shofar if you have one!

Communal Break-Fast

Saturday, September 30th, 7:30 pm

Members open their homes in various neighborhoods for potluck break-fast meals. This is a great way to meet temple members and neighbors. Check with the office to see who is hosting in your area or if you would like to host a break-fast: 617-323-0486 or