WHAT IS JEWISH RENEWAL?                      

We are pioneers in the movement for Jewish Renewal, a movement that was born in the late '60s and found it's expression in independent havurot, fellowships of young Jews around the country such as Fabrangen, the Bnei Or community, the Jewish folks arts revival movement, and new social and political activist groups such as Jews for Urban Justice and Naaseh.

The philosophical grounding for Jewish Renewal comes from the teachings of Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordecai Kaplan.  Other contemporary teachers include Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shlomi, Dr. Judith Plaskow,  Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and Rabbi Arthur Green, and Rabbi Michael Lerner just to name a few.  We draw much inspiration from the Jewish mystical tradition and the Hebrew prophets.

Jewish Renewal teaches that people can draw wisdom from a variety of diverse sources, including Hasidism, Kabbalah, feminism, the Prophets, environmentalism, and the writing of the ancient rabbis.  Renewal focuses on a welcoming, egalitarian, hands-on approach to Jewish worship and community.  It encourages mixing both traditional and feminist ideals. What’s more, Renewal congregations have embraced lessons from diverse spiritual traditions, such as Eastern philosophy and both Eastern and Jewish meditative practices.  Renewal programs support a spiritual ecology, relating Jewish practices to both political as well as ecological actions.


Am Kolel is a welcoming and diverse Jewish Renewal community located in Montgomery County, Maryland and serving the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area. Shabbat services are held in Bethesda, MD and once a month at the Sanctuary and Renewal Center, Beallsville, MD.

Founded in 1990 by Rabbi David Shneyer in response to requests for a more personal and responsive Judaism,  Am Kolel is devoted to the revitalization of the Jewish heritage and the Jewish community, seeking to discover and rediscover a Judaism that is spiritually and socially meaningful.

Hebrew for "an inclusive people,"  Am Kolel was originally created as a "synagogue without walls" dedicated to meeting unmet spiritual needs in the Jewish community and responding to social issues with a progressive Jewish voice.  We are an inclusive and caring community welcoming anyone seeking Yiddishkeit ("Jewishness").  Am Kolel  seeks to bring creativity, relevance, joy, and an all embracing awareness to spiritual practice, as a path to healing our hearts and finding balance and wholeness - tikkun halev.  We are a unique voice in the Jewish community, expressing a Judaism that is joyful, spiritual and responsive to social issues, and engaged in tikkun olam, repairing the world.

Am Kolel is a community whose members find fellowship, guidance and support for all life-cycle events, in addition to celebrating Shabbat, annual holidays and festivals together. We offer adult learning opportunities throughout the year, Jewish renewal weekends at the Am Kolel Sanctuary & Renewal Center, guest speakers and performers, and a summer youth Kibbutz. 

Our services are upbeat, joyful and participatory, blending Hebrew and English song and chant with opportunities for reflection and sharing. In addition to reading the weekly Torah portion we discuss and try to understand it in the present world structure.

The Am Kolel Shabbat Havurah is affiliated with the Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal and with the Network of Independent Jewish Communities and Havurot of the Greater Washington D.C. Area. 

 We seek a Judaism that speaks to the heart and also the issues that we face in our daily lives; a Judaism that is compassionate towards others and towards this earth. At the core of the Jewish Renewal philosophy is a commitment to: Torah (Learning and Wisdom Seeking); Tefila (Prayerful awareness); Mitzvot (Doing right actions); Chesed (Loving and caring relationships); Simcha (Joyfulness); Ahavat Yisrael (Love of the Jewish people); and Ahavat Kol Yoshvey Tevel (Love for all humanity).


Rabbi David Shneyer is the founder, director and spiritual leader of Am Kolel. Reb David studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and in Israel, earning degrees in Judaic studies from Rutgers University and Baltimore Hebrew College. He received his "semicha" ordination from the Aleph Seminary founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shlomi. The past president of Ohalah, the Rabbinic Association of Jewish Renewal Rabbis, Reb David is also an accomplished musician, founding and leading The Fabrangen Fiddlers, and a composer of new liturgical music. He also helped found Jews United for Justice, and is active in the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Rabbis for Human Rights and other social justice organizations. Reb David is also the spiritual leader of Kehila Chadasha, a havurah based in Bethesda.


Renewal communities have also embraced lessons from diverse spiritual traditions, Eastern philosophy and both Eastern and Jewish meditative practices. In this spirit we sponsor an ecumenical retreat center for the benefit of our members and others who seek spiritual renewal, communion with nature, learning and fellowship.

Open Shabbes - where individuals, youth groups, havurot and congregations celebrate the Sabbath, sing and dance, explore Jewish thought and culture in a casual and nurturing retreat setting. 

Spirit Days -  where religious & cultural groups explore their commonalities & their differences, to develop greater understanding & trust. The Spirit Days would also create bridges to Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, Jewish, African-American, Hispanic, Asian & other ethnic communities.

Simcha Center - where families & communities celebrate special occasions such as Bnai Mitzvahs & weddings.

Tikkun Center - where students of social & environmental ethics & justice come to recharge their batteries & explore new approaches in healing & transforming the world.

Gene Lipman Acre Plus - named in memory of Rabbi Eugene Lipman who, in his retirement, farmed an acre of land raising vegetables for shelters & soup kitchens in the greater Washington D.C. area. Through Sanctuary, Am Kolel continues this project & provides opportunities for the community to participate.   Several families support this project as CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscribers.

The Am Kolel Sanctuary Retreat Center is a place of natural beauty and serenity, where you can experience rest, relaxation and renewal. It also provides a beautiful venue for group or individual retreats and life-cycle events. (Click here to go to the Sanctuary & Renewal Center's website.)

Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Community of Greater Washington
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