Rock Creek Gardens

Rabbi: None

Congregation Size: 150

Service Length: 3 hours

Sample Dress: khakis, green sweater

Tie-Dyed Tablecloths: 1

Congregational Fervor

Fabrangen, which means “to bring together” in Hebrew, was founded in 1971 by a group of Jews seeking to instill progressive values into their worship. An “independent, egalitarian, participatory community,” the congregation employs no rabbi; instead, members are called on to lead services. “Everybody has a role,” says one community member. There are no bourgeois frills like a temple space, either. In an effort to keep things DIY, Fabrangen operates out of a building owned by the Washington Ethical Society.

Food for the Soul

“What does the text tell us as we read it, when we look at it as if we do not already know the story?” asked a prayer leader during a recent Shabbat service. (Uncomfortable with the idea of taking the spotlight, prayer leaders asked to remain anonymous.) Encouraging the congregation to take a fresh look at the Passover story, she had volunteers perform it before the congregation; where there were inconsistencies between the text and popular conception, she banged a tambourine and pointed them out.

Food for the Body

“It’s not always like this,” said Fabrangen member Lloyd Wolf, as if in apology for the contents of the snack table. “We switch off every week, so things are always different.” Though in no way meager, the spread was slightly schizophrenic, with a hearty helping of baba ghanouj next to a plate of vanilla wafers.

Overall Worship Power Rating

Members of Fabrangen readily supply anecdotes explaining what makes their congregation special. “At synagogue, sometimes only the bigwigs down in front get to touch the Torah as it comes around,” explains one worshipper. “So here we decided that during the high holidays we would pass it around for the entire congregation to hold. That way, everybody gets the chance to touch it.”

—Aaron Leitko