Sunday, June 06, 2010

My Conservative crew misbehaves

Our rabbis, past and present, can give all the lectures they want about not carrying anything in public on Shabbat/Sabbath, but the old ladies of our shul (synagogue) are still going to show up with their pocketbooks.

Then there's the guy roughly my age who whips out a comb right there in the sanctuary and combs his hair. On a weekday, that would be tacky enough, but on Shabbat . . . I mean, seriously, if you're going to violate Shabbat, must you be so blatant about it?

There's really no point in yelling at anyone. The ladies have already been told (as mentioned above). And the gentleman prides himself on his Jewish learning, but obviously isn't interested in applying it.

A few weeks ago, I complained to one guy that he's not a serious davvener (pray-er). He became quite indignant, and claimed that he comes to synagogue over an hour late on Shabbat mornings because he's such a fast davvener that he can catch up anyway. It obviously doesn't register with him that this excuse doesn't account for the fact that he usually misses Minchah (Afternoon Service) altogether, and gets to shul sometime during Seudah Shlishit.

Then there's the president, who just came up with a new one--he thinks that if, he relieves my husband (the Ritual Committee chair) of the honor of giving out honors, and also makes sure to stay in the shul building until the end of the Torah service, it's okay for him to sneak out for coffee at one of the local cafes during the Musaf service. Now I've heard everything.

1:25 AM update:
I forgot to mention the woman, probably in her seventies, who showed up yesterday morning in jeans and sneakers. I'm used to that kind of informal attire among folks my own age and younger, though I consider it a bit disrespectful on a Shabbat or holiday, but that's first for someone of that age.

Then there was the old guy who showed up to Minchah yesterday in shorts.

I give up.


Anonymous Miami Al said...

Your davening takes too long. You have a small minyan, and large chunks of it don't want to be there.

Sun Jun 06, 01:09:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...


I must admit that my immediate reaction to your comment was to laugh. :)

"Your davening takes too long." Depends on how quickly you like to davven. I've been making it a point lately to say the Matbeiach shel Tefillah, the required part of the service (from Barchu [or Yotzer Or, if you don't have a minyan]) with the congregation, on the off chance that my presence will help make a minyan so that we can do Chazarat HaShaTz (the Reader's Repetition of the Amidah prayer). But I still say Birkot haShacher (the Morning Blessings) and P'sukei D'Zimrah (Verses of Song--mostly psalms and other biblical quotations) at home, because I'm a slow davvener and I don't appreciate being rushed.

" You have a small minyan," Tell me about it. :( I didn't count, but I think we got about 30 people yesterday morning.

"and large chunks of it don't want to be there."

We have a few of those, but most of the folks who don't want to be there don't bother coming at all. There are a Jews in our neighborhood who've been living here for decades and have never set foot in any of the surviving local shuls (or, at best, only show up for the High Holidays, or even just for Yizkor/Memorial Service on Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement).

Sun Jun 06, 01:22:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

If the President is stepping out for coffee at a cafe, he's bored and needs a break. If people are routinely showing up 1 hr+ late (and it's not families whose kids throw a fit), you are going on for about an hour too long.

It doesn't matter how quickly I "like to daven," your congregation is disappearing mid-minyan, that's a sign.

Sun Jun 06, 11:08:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

I'm not sure what your complaint is.

Is it that some/most members of your congregation pick something other than what you pick to be observant of?

Is it that you have been appointed the shul police for your congregation and no one is accepting your authority?

Or are you just in a particularly grumpy, uncharitable mood these days?

I agree the guy combing his hair in shul, regardless of shabbat, is tacky. Isn't there a restroom in your building? But is it possible the shul is within an eruv?

As to the dress code, I understand but this is a matter of shul culture. In the shul I attend, its rare for any female member to appear on shabbat in slacks. Such apparel immediately indicates, with one or two exceptions, visitors. But at my parents' shul, where I'm still involved and daven from time to time, slacks on women, with the possible exception of the rebbetzin and her daughters, are common and perfectly acceptable.

And on a hot day, what's the problem with shorts at mincha? Most of us don't wear ties on shabbat after memorial day, and often no jackets, either.

Sun Jun 06, 01:06:00 PM 2010  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

I'm going to point you to your blog title.

I have a Reform shul, for which I am too frum. I have a Conservative Shul for which I am too frei. I am also more of a particularist than is either of those congregations' norm. Congregations come off a rack, but every Jew is custom-fit.

My wife will ALWAYS carry her purse to Shul on Shabbos - the chance that something with nuts in it that she doesn't know about will be presented at Kiddush is too high for her to be without her Epi-Pen, Benadryl and Zantac. This is pikuach nefesh. Who knows what's in those other ladies' purses that they might need to save their lives at a moments notice?

Sun Jun 06, 04:40:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

here's my orthodox perspective:

1) there is nothing inherently wrong with carrying a purse on Shabbat, assuming an eruv. I'm assuming, of course, that the purse doesn't contain money and other impermissible items. Women in my orthodox shul routinely carry bags that could be termed purses (although for marit ayin purposes, they don't look like typicaly purses).

2) My son, like Reform BT's wife, wears a backpack to shul, containing his epi-pen and benadryl. We are training him to carry it everwhere he goes.

3) I also agree with Miami Al. Your davening is clearly problematic if you are losing folks mid-stream. Coming late is one thing (we start brachot with a bare minyan and wind up with a packed house by musaf), but leaving early is another.

Mon Jun 07, 08:13:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before I was Orthdox, I used to attend a Conservative shul that had a rule that the shul President could not PUBLICLY violate Shabbat (according to the Conservative definition of what consitutes permissable/forbiden Shabbat activities.) So a Shabbat restaurant goer would have been stripped of his presidency. He could also not drive anywhere besides shul and then go home. So the president was not allowed to go to any of-site bar mitzvahs that were not in walking distance. The same rules applied to the Rabbi.

Mon Jun 07, 10:56:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I asked my husband whether he could think of anything that could be cut to make the service shorter, and he couldn't think of anything other than telling the chazan--who doesn't listen to us anyway--to sing less chazanut (operatic-style cantorial music) and more nusach (traditional melodies that can be sung by anyone who can carry a tune.) :( I suggested that we borrow an idea from Kehilat Hadar--I have a post about it somewhere--and limit divrei Torah/Bible discussions to 5 minutes once the rabbi leaves at summer's end.

TOTJ Steve, I guess the answer is that I'm "in a particularly grumpy, uncharitable mood these days." Guilty as charged.

I wasn't surprised or scandalised that a woman wore pants, but I *was* surprised that the pants were jeans. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer synagogue attire that's at least a tad more formal.

"And on a hot day, what's the problem with shorts at mincha? Most of us don't wear ties on shabbat after memorial day, and often no jackets, either."

Again, it's a matter of degree. No ties or jackets? Not the end of the world. But I prefer not to see people dressed in shul on Shabbat as if they were headed to the basketball court.

"I have a Reform shul, for which I am too frum. I have a Conservative Shul for which I am too frei. I am also more of a particularist than is either of those congregations' norm. Congregations come off a rack, but every Jew is custom-fit."

:) Well put, Reform BT.

Anon, when we were members of a previous synagogue, the rabbi forbade anyone to carry out of the building the lulavim that we had used in synagogue on Shabbat because more traditional Jews don't use a lulav on Shabbat and he didn't want us to offend the neighbors.

To one & all:
(a) There's no eruv in this community. The local Orthodox synagogues and the Conservative synagogue built one years ago, but discovered that the cost of maintaining it was beyond our means. The poor eruv only lasted about a year.

(b) You're right in saying that I should cut people some slack re carry in public on Shabbat because the congregants may have medications in their handbags.

Mon Jun 07, 12:58:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

in my shul, we say everything. Yet the minyan I go to takes 2 hours (sometimes 2:10) start to finish. Our slow minyan takes 2:35plus or minus 5 minutes. Fire the chazan. Use the money to convince some JTS undergrads to come and lead services 3 of 4 shabbatot a month. problem solved.

Mon Jun 07, 04:06:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, we already didn't renew the rabbi's contract--we can't fire the chazzan, too! :)

In the cantor's defense, I must say that he's a good leiner/baal koreh/Torah reader, which was his original job.

I also don't think that bringing in a student from the Jewish Theological Seminary to replace him would be either easy or cheap (that is, it wouldn't be easy because it wouldn't be cheap).

Mon Jun 07, 05:07:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Cut the sermon to 10 minutes, cut announcements to 5 minutes, and cut back on operatic cantorials.

You can do the entire "Conservative" service (which cuts a bunch of the, different Ashkenazi communities said A, B, C, or D, let's say all of them, and throw a Kaddish in there since someone might have said one when visiting the other community), which is shorter than the "Art Scroll" service, in 90 minutes, 2 hours tops.

Every minyan but the main minyan in my town in 2 hours even, since the rooms are in use later. The main minyan in 2.5 - 3 hours. My in-laws Conservative synagogue is 3-3.5 hours.

Ditto Jdub's comments. If your minyan doesn't want to be there than long, cut it back. Make Kiddush a little longer. Maybe even turn Kiddush into a sit down lunch with the time savings... when I visited a Shul in Germany, they served a sit down Kiddush, it was the only hot lunch I had on my short trip. :)

Mon Jun 07, 06:11:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Cut the sermon to 10 minutes"

Since we'll be without a rabbi starting this fall, that may be the easiest part. We'll have a hard enough time recruiting congregants to speak as it is.

"cut announcements to 5 minutes"

What?! Shut the president up? Good luck!

"cut back on operatic cantorials."

Anyone who can (gently) convince our cantor that he's neither Luciano Pavarotti nor Yosele Rosenblatt is welcome to the job. :( He's clueless. We can't even get him to stop repeating "yaaseh shalom" a dozen times at the end of the Amidah despite the fact that his doing so forces the elderly to stand for an extra minute. (I go on strike--once he says "Amen" for the first time, the Amidah is finished, halachically speaking, so I get off my bad foot and sit down.)

"You can do the entire "Conservative" service . . . in 90 minutes, 2 hours tops."

I suppose that, if one alloted 1/2 per "section" (Birkot HaShachar/P'sukei D'Zimrah, Matbeiach shel Tefillah of Shacharit, Torah Service, Musaf Service), it would be too fast for me, but possibly more acceptable to others.

" Maybe even turn Kiddush into a sit down lunch with the time savings... " Time, schmime--you need money for that.

Miami Al and JDub, I've been discussing your suggestions with my husband. Let's see what happens at future Ritual Committee meetings.

Tue Jun 08, 08:31:00 PM 2010  

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