Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021


The European Union for Progressive Judaism is pleased to offer a new prayer training course for lay leaders — Baalei Tefillah Europe.

Participants from communities across the continent are receiving a year of online training – and will participate in an in-person gathering in Brussels in December 2021. The programme teaches how to run religious services in the absence of a rabbi. Baalei Tefillah means Master of Prayer. Graduates will obtain a comprehensive knowledge in both the practical and theoretical aspects of prayer leadership. Among other skills, students will develop a repertoire of music and songs for services, receive tips and ideas for life-cycle events, and develop a sense of cultural heritage. By the conclusion, participants will have become confident in leading Shabbat prayers, both evening and morning, and other skills to lead services for life-cycle events and festivals.

After completing the course, our graduate lay leaders will participate in a virtual minyan. They will share a safe and sacred online space to practice prayer leadership. The virtual minyan will later be opened up to the wider EUPJ community and help inspire future cohorts.

By compiling notes, recordings, stories, and accumulated knowledge, Baalei Tefillah Europe aims to build educational resources for other communities and students, stirring up greater collaboration, exchange, and bonding between Progressive communities, and strengthening Progressive Judaism in Europe.

The training is participatory. Students will not just be listening to lectures. They will take turns leading and presenting. They will be given opportunities to practice, receive the tools and the know-how to transform their own ideas into actions, putting their own personal touch into future services and holiday celebrations.

The course is led and taught by Rabbi Nathan Alfred. A Cambridge University and Leo Baeck College graduate, Rabbi Alfred has spent a decade working for Jewish communities across Europe and Asia, in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Singapore. There will also be a series of guest lectures.

The course is taught in English.

For more information, please contact


Guest Lecturers

Sofia Falkovitch

Paris-based mezzo-soprano, Sofia Falkovitch, is the first woman cantor trained and ordained in Europe and the only one in France. Born in Moscow, she studied in Israel, Germany and Canada, and was trained by sought-after voice professors and masters of Jewish music from all over the world.

Sofia is a scholarship recipient of the German National Academic Foundation Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich for Gifted Students. She studied Cantorial Arts at the School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College and the Steinsaltz Institute in Jerusalem, and was also a student at the Abraham Geiger College in Berlin and the University of Potsdam.

While Sofia’s main specialties are Jewish sacred music and Yiddish art song, she also boasts extensive non-Jewish repertoire in various genres and styles and collaborates with international artists.

Intercultural and interfaith dialogue are at the core of Sofia’s creative work and she has performed in concerts and recitals all over the world. She also sings in many different places of worship including cathedrals and synagogues, and represents all major branches of contemporary Judaism.

Sofia’s voice is regularly featured on radio and TV, and she is an accomplished actress who has appeared in numerous theatre and TV productions. She also worked as a journalist for RTVi Overseas Media in New York.

Sofia’s life story has always been a source of fascination. Her creative and personal journey was documented from 2012 to 2014 by Julia Poliak of Puppok Productions in co-production with the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF). The short film was called Di Shtim iz di Feder fun Hartsen (The Voice is the Pen of the Heart) and was released in 2014.

Sofia captivates her audiences with her magical personality, rare distinctive voice, stage presence and natural charisma. She is also a master of languages and speaks French, German, English, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and Yiddish. Sofia and lives in Paris with her husband and two children.

Leonid Bimbat

Leonid Bimbat was born in Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg). In 1998, he graduated from Ural State Pedagogical University (Russian Language and Literature Department). During his studies, he taught himself Hebrew and started to work as a teacher of Hebrew at a Jewish Religious Sunday School and at the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). In 1999, he joined Machon – Institute for Modern Jewish Studies and worked in Tyumen (West Siberia) as a para-rabbinical leader.

Leonid was accepted into the rabbinical programme at Leo Baeck College, London, in 2002. He spent a year in Israel and then served his fifth (final) year at the Nottingham Progressive Jewish Community. Leonid’s Master’s dissertation was dedicated to connections between Israeli culture and classical Jewish heritage. After he was ordained as a rabbi in July 2007, Leonid joined the Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism and has been there ever since.



Dmitry Karpenko

Dmitry Karpenko is a cantorial soloist at the Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism. A professional musician, he plays guitar and clarinet.
He studied at Machon – Institute for Modern Jewish Studies from 1997 to 1999, and from 2004 to 2005, he studied to be a cantor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.

Dmitry teaches a Jewish Liturgy class at the Machon. As the only full-time Progressive Reform cantor in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), he regularly visits the Jewish communities of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic countries where he leads Shabbat services, gives concerts and teaches master classes.

Prayer music is the music of his heart. His work comprises the motives of Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian folklore. Perhaps this is why his melodies become “hits” so quickly, filling people’s prayers with familiar tunes and patterns.


Gabriel Szulanski

Gabriel Szulanski is a professor of Strategy at the Singapore Campus of INSEAD business school where he earned his PhD in 1995. He joined the faculty of INSEAD in 2002 after having served on the faculty of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania since his graduation. Gabriel’s research interests focus on strategic management, with a specific focus on the management of knowledge assets and the making of strategy

Gabriel is the author of two books and many academic and managerial articles. His research has been published in a variety of academic and business journals. A native of Argentina, Gabriel currently lives in Singapore with his wife, Ody.

Gabriel has volunteered as the music director of the United Hebrew Congregation in Singapore for the past four years. He coordinates and develops the music for the UHC, provides support for services on Shabbat and High Holy Days, and helps plan all events and festivals including Channukah, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, Pesach, Interfaith events, the APJ summit, and Mimouna.

He has also helped to establish a baseline repertoire for regular services, develop booklets with the music for services, acquired instruments and audio equipment, and recorded audio and video clips for services, which are streamed throughout the region. Gabriel plays the acoustic and electric guitar and, when absolutely necessary, will even participate in singing.


 Meet Some of Our Aspiring Pray Leaders

The participants come from all over Europe, from Finland to Portugal. Each has a personal motivation for becoming a prayer leader in their community. Together, they share a desire to help achieve the EUPJ’s goal of bringing together Progressive Jews from all over Europe.

Avigayil – Lev Hadash, Milan, Italy

“Born on September 3, 1967 into a multicultural family who transferred their passion for other cultures and languages, as well as the love of music to her. In the last few years, beside the study of biblical Hebrew she studied the Hebrew calligraphy to prepare for Sofrut’s studies. The deep study of the sign has helped her join the musical idea of the letters and words. Always being involved in the study of the liturgy in all its aspects, the opportunity to attend this course is a great way to learn and to be more directly involved in this aspect of the synagogue’s life.”



Yael – England

“Being an active participant in my local Jewish community is a big part of who I am. It would be a privilege to assist my local synagogue with leading weekly services in support of the rabbi or chazan. I am the Mother of two wonderful little boys; I want to be a good role model, encouraging and supporting them in their religious journey. I am a passionate and keen student who likes to take study seriously. I view this opportunity as part of an on-going commitment to developing and increasing my contribution to the local Jewish community.”



Iiro – Reform Judaism of Finland

“I am 48-years old, the chairperson of the Reform Judaism of Finland, a father of three, and a university professor. The core values of Judaism, principles of Tikkun Olam and social justice are very central to me. Reform to me means living as a Jew in our modern world, autonomy of each individual in educated interpretation of halacha, full acceptance of patrilineal descendance, and equal participation of women and men in worship. Worship, prayers, and Torah study in my view help individuals connect with their core Jewish values together with others. As a small though growing community, we do not always have a Rabbi to lead our services in Finland. My motivation to participate in the Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 Jewish lay leadership training stems from my desire to gain stronger skills to support our community to grow and become increasingly meaningful to the members, and others interested in Reform Judaism, in Finland.”


Marianne – Association des Juifs Libéraux de Toulouse, France

“My name is Marianne, I am 21 years old. When my community proposed me to participate in this programme, I saw it as a great opportunity. Learning how the prayers work and how to lead them is a step in taking more responsibility for my community. I wanted to participate in this course because I think that it will bring me a lot in terms of practice and knowledge of my Judaism, but also that I will be able to share what I have learned here, in turn, with others. I see this programme in one hand as a personal enrichment, and on the other hand that it will benefit my entire community in the future.”



Mayaan – Association des Juifs Libéraux de Toulouse, France

“My name is Maayan Burroughs, member of La Maison du Judaïsme Libéral in Toulouse. I am a morah at our gan and an ESL teacher for children. For the last year, I have had the privilege of leading services of our young community, at least once a month. Bringing people closer to God, to uplift them and to inspire them through prayer is a privilege and a joy. This responsibility is the reason why I want to participate in this course to progress and get more knowledge, know-how and confidence to lead a full service.”



Julia – Sim Shalom, Budapest, Hungary

“I come from a family with Jewish roots, but without any practice of heritage or religion. Judaism always seemed like a secret mysterious world where I feel a sense of belonging, but also feel cut off from. The past 10 years have been an exciting and profound journey of inner exploration, while becoming a psychotherapist, researching and writing a book about family history, and moving back home from Holland where I lived for 7 years. Joining the course feels like an important step on a path of integration, deepening into Jewish cultural heritage and prayer in an open-minded, international setting. I hope to be able to share what I have learned with Sim Shalom community.”


William – Jewish Community of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania

“I was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. My parents are of a different origin, my mother is Jewish and my father is catholic. Since I was a teenager I started to participate in activities of the Jewish community. I joined a youth organisation. I volunteered in summer camps. When I was 16 years old I made Aliyah to Israel. Studied two years in high school and joined the IDF. After three years in military service, I worked in tourism in the Israel hotel industry. I spent ten years in Israel and decided to relocate to my hometown Vilnius, Lithuania. Since I came back I took a course for tour guides and worked for a tourist company. Now after 12 years working as a professional tour guide I started work in the Jewish community as a project manager. I am married, and have 4 children. “


Batsheva – Association des Juifs Libéraux de Toulouse, France

“I was born and grew up in France in a Catholic family. I studied marketing and then English but after teaching for five years I finally chose to be a librarian. I currently work in a public professional High school. I am also a mother of three children, a daughter, who is a nurse, and two sons. My family is inter-faith and multi ethnic. I converted in 2011 after seven years of private practice just like anusim. I want to join the course because I love singing at the service and want to be able to step in when the Rabbi is not there just in case my help is needed.”



Mikael – International Jewish Centre, Brussels, Belgium

“I was born in Sweden where I was very active in the Jewish Community. I taught in the Hebrew School and organised Shabbaton for the Hebrew School students. Following my marriage, we moved to Brussels for professional reasons. We joined the International Jewish Centre in Brussels and both of our children have had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah with the IJC. I regularly attend services and I have started to lead on-line Shabbat services. It gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to keep our Jewish traditions and to contribute to the religious and social activities of the Community.”



Paco – Agudas Achim / International Jewish Center, Spain/Belgium/USA

“I am participating in this course first and mostly, because it is taught by rabbi Nathan – who is the former rabbi at IJC Brussels and with whom I took many classes – he is a very good teacher. Secondly, because although the synagogues which I attend now are well provided with well-established gabayim (thus, unlikely to require my services) and while I know the Shabbat siddur quite well (through regular attendance to Shabbat services), I have never had a formal training in this regard.”





Check out a snippet from our first class



The course began April 11. Classes are two hour sessions conducted online via Zoom. They will take place every two weeks on Sundays at 3pm CET from April until December 2021. An immersive long-weekend experience will take place 9 – 12 December at Beth Hillel in Brussels.

EUPJ Virtual Minyan

As part of the BTE Programme, the course is having a virtual Zoom Minyan on the first Friday of each month. Stay tuned through our social media channels to find out when we will open these Shabbat Services to the public.


Applications for this course are now closed.