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The Kol Nefesh High Holy Day Retreat

The period of the High Holy Days is a culturally supported time for reflecting on our lives. It provides an opportunity for turning over our core values and assumptions and pondering which areas of our lives we need to develop and work on. 


Each year, Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue offers a unique ten-day spiritual retreat during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in which we take a theme and explore it in depth from a variety of perspectives. Through this process, we allow ourselves to stop, think, and re-order our priorities – to re-connect to our deepest take on reality. We aim to arrive at Yom Kippur having done the inner work necessary to put our utmost into that great day of reckoning.

This year's theme is...........


הַיּוֹם קָצָר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְרֻבָּה – The day is short and the work is much


Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short and the work is much,

and the workers are lazy and the reward is great,

and the Master of the house is pressing.

He used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work,

but neither are you free to desist from it.


The modern world lends itself to a growing sense of confusion and powerlessness. Significant decisions are taken far away from us and our private decision-making can feel uninformed and even irrelevant. What is our role in the great scheme of things? What is the right way to take responsibility, step up and play our part? In what parts of our lives are we letting ourselves off the hook too easily; in the words of Rabbi Tarfon, feeling "free to desist from it" because of our overwhelming sense that the "work" is too much?

Schedule of events and services


  • All services will be at the Leonard Sainer Centre (our usual home). You'll find a map here.

  • Alternative sessions during services will be at the Larches Trust, a few meters away from the Leonard Sainer Centre.

  • Our communal Erev RH meal will be at the Emmanuel Centre (the former Brady Maccabi),
    4 Manor Park Crescent, Edgware HA8 7NN (see map below).

  • YN Retreat study sessions will be at the Leonard Sainer Centre unless otherwise specified.


Motza'ei Shabbat 1 Sept

Selichot, 9.45pm at Hatch End Masorti. For details, click here.

Sunday 9 Sept

Erev Rosh Hashanah service at Leonard Sainer, at 6.30pm, followed by a communal potluck meal at the Emmanuel Centre (see map below). Please bring a milky dish to share. Our tradition is to bring a dish that represents your goals or hopes for the coming year. Contact to let us know you're coming!

Monday 10 Sept

  • Rosh Hashanah service at 9am.  

  • Creche and activities for infants to teenagers between 11am and 12.30pm.

  • Alternative session at ~12.15pm led by KNM member Nahum Gordon.

  • Tashlich, tea and a study session at 5.45pm (for details on the venue contact

Tuesday 11 Sept

Rosh Hashanah 2nd day service at 9am. 

Creche and activities for infants to teenagers between 11am and 12.30pm.

Wednesday 12 Sept - Evening study session at 8.00pm:

Simon Eder: "What is our task? What are human beings and what is our job?”

The Hasidic master R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischke said we should each have two pockets. In one should be a note saying: “I am but dust and ashes.” In the other should be a note saying: “For my sake was the world created.” The dividing line between humanity and God has often appeared blurred - in ancient times rulers were thought of as gods. Christianity speaks of the son of God, Islam the prophet of God and today many atheists have echoed Nietzche's question that to justify our dethronement of God "Must we ourselves not become gods simple to appear worthy of it?" Yet, Judaism has always trodden a careful path when discussing human nature between an elevated status - imbued with a divine soul and yet mere mortal too! As Ecclesiastes says: “The dust returns to the earth as it was but the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7). As we approach this most auspicious time of year and mining the depths of Jewish sources from an historical context, this session asks, what are we? And just how has the tradition come to understand what we are here to do?

Simon is a Director of Student Beans which runs a global marketing platform connecting leading brands and services to drive student engagement with offices in London, New York and Melbourne. He is also Director of the Friends of Louis Jacobs and writes a regular column for the Judaism section of the Jewish Chronicle.


Thursday 13 Sept- Evening study session at 8.00pm:

Creating Social Activists  with KNM members Sara Levan, Marc Shoffrin and Shelley Marsh

Where does the responsibility lie for developing the skills and consciousness of the next generation to continue making the world a better place. Parents? School? Communities? Youth movements? Or shall we just back off and trust the young to come up with the goods themselves?"

Friday 14 Sept

Kabbalat Shabbat and potluck dinner for families, 6pm at a member's home (contact for the venue).

Shabbat Shuva, 15 Sept

Shabbat morning service at 9.30am.

Motzei Shabbat, 15 Sept.

Study session and film at 8.30pm.  We will view ‘Human Turbine’, a thought-provoking Israeli  documentary about the difference individual action can make.  Members of Kibbutz Shoval use their expertise in ecology and agriculture to bring change to a Bedouin village.  We'll discuss the film with Rabbi Joel.  Contact for the location.

Sunday 16 Sept -  Evening study session at 8.00pm:

A Panel Discussion organised by Leonie Fleischmann:  What to do when you don't know what to do: Overcoming despair and disillusionment of democratic politics.

There is widespread sense of growing despair and disillusionment with the status of democratic politics and its practitioners – sentiments which manifest themselves in political disengagement, withdrawal, and apathy. When the world seems impenetrable and intractable, it is hard to know what to do. However, for many, it is just the impetus needed to get out of their chairs and off their computers to do something. Alongside other forms of grassroots activism, in recent years we've seen a rise in the number of demonstrations being held, with people taking to the streets to voice their despair. But, are actions outside of the institutionalised avenues of politics going to change anything? Should we, rather, re-engage with the political parties? Is Professor Mark Lilla right when he says, "We need no more marchers. We need more mayors"? This panel will explore what the best course of action is through the experiences of individuals who have not yet given up.

Leonie Fleischmann is a Lecturer in International Politics at City, University of London. She researches social movements and civil resistance. She is a former Mazkira of Noam, a Trustee of Masorti Judaism and an active member of the Green Party.



Monday 17 Sept -  Evening study session at 8.00pm:

John Levy:"Minimizing the disastrous environmental  impacts of rapid and dynamic growth in contemporary Israel".  

John Levy is the Hon. Director of The Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East (ASG) an educational charity established in 1978 that seeks to promote an  informed and analytic understanding of Israel and the Middle East;  and forge closer collaborative research ties between academics and other experts in the UK and their professional counterparts in Israel. John is also the senior Trustee of the UK branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; and Co- Chair of the Indian Jewish Association


Tuesday 18 Sept

Kol Nidrei. Service begins at 6.30pm.

Wednesday 19 Sept

  • Yom Kippur service all day from 9.30am.

  • Creche, and activities for infants to teenagers between 11am and 12.30pm.

  • Alternative session at ~12.45pm with KNM member Adam Greenfield - ‘How responsible are we for our own health, can we develop good habits?’

  • Book group and junior book club will be held during the break between Musaf and Mincha (adult book group to discuss Philip Roth's The Plot Against America; junior book club to discuss Wonder by R.J. Palacio).

  • At the end of the service you are invited to break the fast with us at the synagogue (~8.00pm).

Please contact the synagogue for more details.


Our Erev Rosh Hashana meal will be at the Emmanuel Centre (the former Brady Maccabi), 4 Manor Park Crescent, Edgware HA8 7NN. Please see the map.

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