Village Yontif is a non-denominational synagogue service where all are welcome to explore their spirituality as well as their connection to our ancestors, each other, and the melting pot that is New York City through prayer, song, ritual, story, reflection, and commentary (midrash).

When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street

book by Elsa Okon Rael
lyrics by Shellen Lubin
music by Matthew Gandolfo
from the book by Elsa Okon Rael

with: Bob Ader,  Anna Frankl-Duval
Jacob Harran, Jane Ives, Doug Shapiro
and introducing Hinano Kuzukawa as Zeesie

Direction: Shellen Lubin
Musical Direction: Matthew Gandolfo
Production Stage Manager: Zija Lubin-West
Assistant Stage Manager: Samantha Stone

Based on the award-winning picture book by Elsa Rael, When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street tells the story of Zeesie--a bright, inquisitive girl on the lower east side of New York City in the 1930s--and what surprises await her the day she is forced to go to temple with her very stern grandfather while her mother is in the hospital giving birth to her new baby brother.

There will be a talkback after the reading with the production team and performers.

If you are unable to attend at that time but would like to see the recording, please RSVP and let us know in your email, and we will send you a link to view it.

This concert reading is sponsored by Brotherhood Synagogue, Daniel Neiden, and Judith Shapiro. It is also supported by a City Artist Corps Grant. Matthew Gandolfo and Shellen Lubin are among the 3,000 New York City-based artists to receive grants through the City Artist Corps Grants program, presented by The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), with support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) as well as Queens Theatre.

Promotional partners include NYTF (National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene), the Village Yontif, Living Lotus Project, St. John's Lutheran Church, Theatre Breaking through Barriers, and the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition.

Illustrations by Marjorie Priceman used by permission of Simon & Schuster.

Bereishit d'var Torah

by Nancy Coren

Bereshit gives two different accounts of the creation story. The first begins with verse one of chapter 1 and continues through chapter 2 verse 4. The second account begins with verse 5 of chapter 2 and continues through the end of chapter 3. The traditional rabbinical explanation of these two lines of text is that they compliment each another.

In the first account, G-d brings order to chaos by creating light on day one, the firmament on day two, dry land and vegetation on day three, the sun, moon, and stars on day four, fish and birds on day five, and wild beasts and humanity on day six. In this account, humans are told to “be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and take dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”

The Rabbis have interpreted this version of creation in a way that makes sure that the words “take dominion” do not infer the right of humans to exploit the natural world. In Sanhedrin 38a of the Babylonian Talmud the Rabbis taught: “Adam was created last of all beings on the eve of Shabbat…. Why? so that if people’s minds become too proud, they may be reminded that the gnats preceded them in the order of creation.”  Rashi discusses the word dominion v’yirdu, which comes from the word radah, in light of the word descent, which is derived from the word yarad. He explains that “when humanity is worthy, it will have dominion over the animal kingdom; but when it is not, we descend below the level of animals and animals rule over us.” Rashi was trying to point out by his play on words that our power over nature depends on our morality and ability to deal wisely with the Earth.

The second account of the creation story focuses on the creation and nature of human kind. Humanity moves from the culmination of creation in the first story to the center of the narrative in the second story. In this story, Adam is created from the earth (adamah).. “The Eternal G-d formed a human from clods of adamah and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. Thus the human became a living being….The Eternal G-d took and placed the human being in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to watch over it."  The Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 16:5 points out that the two verbs “laavod to work” and “lishmor to watch over” are also used in religious contexts as well. The first word la’avod, refers to sacrifices and the second word lishmor, means to observe mitzvoth. When seen in this context, it becomes a religious duty to work and watch over the soil.

The Rabbis did not see the Genesis stories as giving permission to exploit and abuse the environment. Instead they saw the role of humans as shomrei adamah, guardians of the earth. In Midrash Rabbah, Kohelet 7:13 we read that “When the Blessed Holy One created the first human beings, G-d took them and led them around all the trees of the garden of Eden and said to them: ‘Behold My works! See how beautiful and commendable they are! All that I have created, for your sake I created it. Pay heed that you do not corrupt and destroy My universe; for if you do corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.'”

All of these interpretations of the creation stories would lead one to believe that the idea of shouldering responsibility for the Earth is not a new line of thought. Yet, as we look at the state of well-being of the Earth within our own generation we seem to have ignored the message. Perhaps that is because in some strange way, we feel the Earth belongs to us and that we somehow have the right to do whatever we want in our pursuit of material wealth and comfort.

The following folktale, “A Garden of Choice Fruit,” attempts to send the message that the land does not belong to us:
Two people were once fighting over a piece of land. Each claimed ownership, and each bolstered the claim with apparent proof. After arguing for a long time, they agreed to resolve their conflict by putting the case before a rabbi. The rabbi sat as an arbitrator and listened carefully, but despite years of legal training could not reach a decision. Both parties seemed to be right. Finally the rabbi said, “Since I cannot decide to whom this land belongs, let’s ask the land.” The rabbi put an ear to the ground, and after a moment stood up. “My friends, the land says it belongs to neither of you- you belong to it.”

We need to think, if we belong to the land, what responsibilities do we have to it? What are we doing as a holy community to fulfill our obligations to preserving the Earth and all of its bounty?

I hope by the time our children and grandchildren are old enough to analyze the stories of Bereishit, that they will be able to acknowledge that we took our obligations toward the stewardship of Earth seriously.

Weekly Shabbat Services

Join Us!


While we are all home-bound, Village Yontif is excited to announce ongoing Shabbat services.  We've been loving our weekly services, and the sense of community is restorative and healing. We hope that you will join us. 

Services run approximately 90 minutes.

A one-time registration for each is required.


Friday evening, Kabbalat Shabbat Services begin at 7:30 pm EST.

Soft beautiful traditional Shabbat melodies, more of a time for profound story-telling than study.
Services led by Daniel Neiden. Stories from Shellen Lubin.

Saturday morning, Shabbat Services begin at 10:30 am EST.

Traditional prayers around the centerpiece of spirited, interactive discussions based on the parshat of the week.
Services led by Nancy Coren and/or Daniel Neiden. Commentary and reflection by Shellen Lubin.

Services are free. Donations are gratefully accepted.


A Prayer for 2021

A Poem by Natan Alterman Z’L

Give us one year of true silence
A year of the white of the blossoms and the green of the grass
A year of passionate love and a warm home stove
That we for once experience that which is good and that which is pleasant.
A year without voices of hatred and cries of the bereaved
Without the sight of blood, without the beating of war drums
Without the paralyzing fear of the worst of all
Without the laughter of the future that is buried in the ground.
Behold, we are not pleading for the treasures of kingdoms
Nor for transcendent joy and high-end luxury cars
Just for a modicum of tranquility and white of blossoms
Which we can easily boast of.
To get excited once in a while from the smells of autumn
To gallop toward joy with the speed of a whistling locomotive.
Build us a tent of peace now
And may we be worthy of sitting in it.

Photo credit:


We are in search of your favorite soup or stew recipes, so we can share them with our community.
Please email us your favorite recipes (and a picture, if you have one) to

Hey, Good Lookin', What Ya Got Cookin'?

Some of our Favorite Comfort Foods

Many of the artworks featured on our website this year are original works by the widely-collected Israeli artist, Elena Kotliarker.  Follow this link to read more about her and see more of her works.
Village Yontif is a website designed to provide information about our free High Holiday services in Greenwich Village, New York.

Rosh Hashanah

2020 Message

Yom Kippur

Forum on Forgiveness

Kristallnacht Remembrance 2020

Favorite Quotes

We are able to provide services year after year because of your incredible generosity. Thank you for your donation!