Listen to a new recording of the Shirat HaLev Ensemble


“Hashkivienu” means “Lay us down”. It is a prayer for protection and peace. This beautiful prayer is traditionally chanted twice in the evening- once during the evening prayers and once before sleep, while lying in bed.

_924730The Shirat HaLev ensemble has been creating musical alchemy for Shabbat services since February of 2000.  The music creates a rich tapestry that brings traditional Jewish prayer to life.  The CD “Shirat HaLev” is currently available for purchase.




New!  CD by Chochmat’s wonderful guitarist Lior Tsarfaty.  The recording seamlessly blends voices in Hebrew, English, Sanskrit, Hindi and Arabic. It features Tsarfaty’s warm, textured vocals and renowned musicians from Israel(Yossi Fine), Morocco(Bouchaib Abdelhadi), and the United States(cellist Jami Sieber, pianist John R. Burr) and guest artists Jennifer Berezan, Silvia Nakkach and Rita Sahai. Purchase here.  25% of the proceeds go to Chochmat HaLev.  A great way to support the artists and organization you love.

The Shirat HaLev ensemble:

image002-2Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks. Inspired by Martin Buber’s writing while procrastinating from piano practice at High School Jazz camp, Brian Yosef began a quest for finding the inner truths of Judaism, beyond dogmas and tradition. Finding that truth ironically led him back to tradition. Brian Yosef currently teaches meditation and Jewish spirituality at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley, where he serves as Sacred Music and Ritual Director. He holds a Bachelor in Music from Eastman and received s’mikha (ordination) as Minister of Sacred Music from Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi and Jewish Meditation Teacher from Chochmat HaLev. His band, Captain Zohar, plays original Jewish devotional and concert music. He lives in Oakland with wife Lisa and two children, to whom he owes constant gratitude for keeping him far from cheap, egocentric substitutes for G-d.

Jeannette Ferber feels blessed to be able to share her voice at Chochmat HaLev. In 2008, her journey of renewed connection to Judaism and yearning for song led her to the Chochmat choir and later to the bimah. Originally from Ohio, she grew up performing in numerous school musicals and choral groups and took private voice lessons. However, after high school, singing fell into the distant background of her life for over a decade until its heartfelt reemergence at Chochmat. She can also be heard singing sacred music with the vocal ensemble, Ya Elah. Jeannette has a Masters degree in Public Health and works as a data analyst studying a range of reproductive health issues, from depression during pregnancy to Bisphenol-A (BPA) exposure. She lives with her husband, Cory, in Berkeley.

dougDoug Chermak is an active Chochmat HaLev member and co-coordinates the Chevra Kadisha. He is grateful to accompany wonderful musicians and service leaders in helping to create deep, prayerful containers for Chochmat members and visitors to connect with Spirit. He has studied middle eastern percussion for five years with teachers including Aharon Wheels Bolsta and Faisal Zedan. At shul, he plays middle eastern drums, djembe, and occasional Indian tabla. He is also beginning to play electric bass. In the “real” world, Doug practice environmental law, focusing on water quality, with Lozeau Drury LLP in Oakland. He also coordinates meditation and mindfulness programs for legal professionals as an Associate Director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies, directing its Mindfulness in Law Program.

bonBon Singer has been singing at Chochmat HaLev since before we had a home on 8th Street. She was originally asked to be part of the musical leadership by Rabbi Avram Davis. She says, “Weirdly enough, I think he asked me because he is a Bulgarian music-phile, and that is my area of musical expertise. That is why sometimes I will sing in that voice quality and harmonic style.” Bon is probably best known for her work with the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble, Kitka. She served as Artistic Director, composer, arranger, and a singer for 14 years, and is recognized as one of the foremost directors of Bulgarian choral music in America. Bon’s musical experience ranges from performance in remote eastern European villages to performing with Olympia Dukakis. She has directed a number of ensembles, including most recently, Chochmat’s Tikkun Olam Chorus. Bon feels that Chochmat is her spiritual home and she is happy to be back singing on our Bimah. She has led singing in several other places, but has not “remotely felt as completely connected spiritually as I do at Chochmat. I am always so grateful that there has always been a place for me.”

samSam Markewich has played drums for 30 years, mostly focusing on various kinds of progressive fusions of groove-oriented and odd-metered Western, Eastern, Afro-Cuban, Samba, and West African musics (and Led Zeppelin!). He considers his highest calling as a musician to be asking music what it needs him to do for it, and doing his best to do it for the sake of transcendence of the explicable. In addition to drumming, Sam is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, and a Fitness Trainer and Sustainable Sports Nutritionist. Sam offers free training to anyone who is willing to live by certain sustainable life style choices. In addition to hearing Sam’s drumming at Chochmat Halev and in Captain Zohar, listen to a new improvised Jam of the Week by Sam’s fusion trio Sizemo (astounding improvisations over eclectic grooves).

yariYari Mander has been drumming in the Chochmat Halev band for 10 years. He is the founder and lead teacher of Heart of Rhythm, a drumming school for adults. He is also a credentialed music teacher, teaching music currently to grades K-5 in the Oakland Unified School District. Visit his web site at


By day Jjoshosh Miele is a scientist who develops accessible information technologies for the blind, but for Shabbat he sheds the lab coat, grabs his electric bass, and dons a kippah to rock the house at Chochmat Halev. He is also the bass player for the acclaimed Jewish avant rock ensemble, Captain Zohar. Josh’s elite musical pedigree is extraordinary, but is shrouded in kabbalistic mystery and cannot be discussed openly. His style is renowned for its funk roots, art rock sensibility, and raw danceability. It has been said that his music has the power to make even stone tablets get up and shake their stuff. Josh lives in Berkeley with his beautiful wife and two delightful children.

eliyahuEliyahu Sills has been studying and performing music for over 20 years on many instruments, including upright bass, bansuri (the bamboo flute of India), and Turkish and Arabic ney (the reed flute of the middle east). In the early 1990s, he studied the upright bass at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Deeply influenced by teachers Makanda Ken McIntyre, Arnie Lawrence and Reggie Workman (bassist who played with John Coltrane and Art Blakey), Eliyahu began performing as a sideman and bandleader in renowned jazz clubs such as The Village Gate and Small’s. After leaving NYC, he began his studies of North Indian music on the Bansuri under the great master G.S. Sachdev, and began performing Middle Eastern music on the ney, which he studied in Instanbul with masters Neyzen Omer Erdogdular and Neyzen Ahmet Kaya, and in Morocco with Akdii Abdesalaam. He currently performs with many musicians in the SF area and throughout the country, and leads his nationally touring band, The Qadim Ensemble whose CD, “Eartern Wind”, recently hit #7 on BillBoard’s world music charts.

bruceBruce Silverman is a drummer, world percussionist, and music educator: schooled in numerous musical forms. He has studied African, Afro-Brazilian, Cuban and Haitian drumming and spirituality, as well as North Indian music, orchestral, jazz, and rock drumming. Bruce founded and continues to direct the Sons and Daughters of Orpheus: a drumming and healing community offering weekly groups and seasonal rituals to the Bay Area. The Orpheus community explores Afro-Brazilian “bateria” music, hand drumming and world spirituality. Bruce also plays dumbek, tar, and other North African and middle eastern instruments and is on the faculty of Chochmat Halev where he has taught the art of drumming and accompaniment. Over the years he has specialized in playing and leading music in various healing contexts: liturgical music, sound healing, and mythic work with Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, Caroline Casey and numerous others in the world of social artistry.

liorLior Tsarfaty is a professional musician and a graduate of both the Voice, Sound and Music Healing program of the California Institute of Integral studies and the Vox Mundi School of Voice and Transformation. He is also a student at The Hakomi Institute of California – a body and mindfulness oriented psychotherapy. After he came from Israel to the Bay Area he started gathering prayers and chants and founded the “Prayer Songs Project”, a project that brings together prayers and sacred music from different cultures and countries into a concert of art and community. Lior’s passion is to intertwine music and personal transformations, he works with individuals and groups. For more information:, 510-704-8232

Aharon Wheels BolstaAharon Wheels Bolsta has played with Chochmat’s Shirat Halev ensemble since 2002 and appears as the drummer and percussionist on the Shirat Halev CD.  He plays North Indian tabla and bansuri as well as drum set, middle-eastern percussion, West African percussion, cajon and many other instruments.  Aharon also regularly plays sacred Jewish music with the Saul Kaye/Elana Jagoda ensemble at Temple Beth El in the Peninsula, with Cantor Ilene Keys at Temple Sinai in Oakland, and performs and teaches at Wilderness Torah festivals, synagogues all over the country, and with leaders such as Mia Cohen, the Kirtan Rabbi, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Achi Ben Shalom, Ibrahim and Issa Abdurrahmani, Hyla Shifra Bolsta (The Illuminated Kaddish) and many groups playing Sephardic music, Klezmer, Sufi, Turkish Classical music, Classical Indian music and Aharon’s own original sacred music. See his website at

Peter with saxPeter Allen has been playing clarinet since fourth grade, with occasionally heavy doses of chamber music and musicals, a smattering of New Orleans and klezmer, and a predilection for sappy Yiddish ballads.  He loves to play with the wonderful musicians in the band at Chochmat HaLev, where he has been playing regularly since 2011.  In addition to Chochmat HaLev, Peter plays tenor saxophone with Josh Jones’ Latin Jazz Orchestra at La Pena, and he has studied and performed at the Jazzschool in Berkeley.  Peter lives in Berkeley with his wife, Lynne-Rachel Altman, and their two daughters, and works as an attorney for the California Public Utilities Commission, focusing primarily on energy and environmental issues.