Beth Am to hold outdoor Shabbat at Maryland Zoo

Beth Am Synagogue Services in the Park event in June, 2021
Beth Am Synagogue Services in the Park event in June, 2021 (Courtesy of Jim Burger)

Looking for a change from the traditional Friday night Shabbat service?

Beth Am Synagogue is extending an open invitation to its Services in the Park at the Maryland Zoo’s Waterfowl Pavilion on June 10.

“These services are high energy, joyful, multigeneration and laid-back experiences,” said Rabbi Tyler Dratch, a resident of Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood. “So the whole community can come together. Long-time Beth Am congregants and also new members or people from all over the Baltimore Jewish community come together for a kind of bring your own dinner at these beautiful picnic tables at the Baltimore Zoo pavilion.

“It’s an opportunity to see people you haven’t seen in a long time, to make new friends and just kind of relax,” Dratch continued.

Beth Am typically holds this event a couple of times during the summer, with the second iteration currently set for July 29, Dratch said. In addition to the pavilion’s relative proximity to Beth Am, the synagogue chose it as the location for these services for its beauty.

“It’s in a pavilion on a hill that is just a great place to feel in nature,” Dratch said. “If you look out, it’s very relaxing up there and also a great way to bring in Shabbat and connect with a really beautiful, natural place. You’re right in the middle of the city, but you’ve also kind of left the city, with just a lot of space to run around and just really enjoy the beauty that is Druid Hill Park.”

One highlight of the outdoor service will be its musical component, Dratch said, noting that it will feature the informally named band, Uncle Ira’s Washboard Band. Composed of eight members, the band is made up of congregants and led by Dratch and Rabbi Daniel Burg. The band’s instruments include the saxophone, clarinet, guitar, drums, mandolin and even spoons. The band typically plays a diverse range of songs by different Jewish musicians, as well as a some tunes composed by Burg himself.

Rabbi Tyler Dratch
Rabbi Tyler Dratch (Jim Burger)

Dratch expects as many as a couple hundred attendees to come to the service, he said. In past services, many of the attendees have been families, as the setting is well-suited to children.

“A lot of people bring their families, just because it’s a great place to be able to move around,” Dratch said. “So there’s a lot of space to play, and also a lot of kids like to stand with the music and dance, and that adds so much joy to the service.”

In addition to bringing a dinner for themselves, attendees can also bring chairs to sit in, although there are picnic tables available at the site, Dratch said. The service is also a place where attendees “are invited to come as they are,” Dratch said, explaining that casual clothing is welcome.

“It’s just joyful,” Dratch said. “There are kids dancing in front of us, there are people davening, there are people enjoying the weather, and it’s just a really nice way to bring in Shabbat in the summer, and to be a part of the Baltimore Jewish community.”

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