May 30, 2024
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May 30, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

With so many shuls closed or offering very limited seating capacity during these Covid times, are there aspects of attending shul that people do not miss?

One of the least missed items has to be in-shul fundraising appeals. Shul appeals are important and serve a noble purpose but most congregants do not like to be hounded for money during davening. They also do not enjoy the needless competition that in-shul fundraising appeals often trigger. Here is a hypothetical example:

Shul President: Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Boaststein for their pledge of $1,000.

[The Shul Vice President walks over to the Shul President and whispers in his ear.]

Shul President: And thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Oneupberg for their pledge of $1,001.

In-shul appeals also can create unfortunate and awkward situations, especially when pledges are miscommunicated. The following is another hypothetical example:

Shul President: Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Cheapowtiz for their very generous pledge of $50,000.

[Mr. Cheapowitz, sitting in the last row, shrieks and faints. The folks from Hatzalah rush to his aid while his son, Stingy Cheapowitz, rushes over to the Shul Vice President and whispers in his ear. In turn, an ashen-faced Shul Vice President races over to the Shul President and whispers in his ear.]

Shul President: I’m very sorry but a mistake has been made. That last pledge of $50,000 was not made by Mr. and Mrs. Cheapowitz. It was made by the Geltfinkel family.

[The Hatzalah guys stop working on the fallen congregant and give a “thumbs down” hand gesture to the Shul Vice President, who leans over and again whispers in the ear of the Shul President.]

Shul President: And, in a related story, we send our heartfelt condolences to the Cheapowitz family on the passing of Mr. Cheapowitz.

During Covid closures, most congregants also do not miss it when the kiddush is sponsored by the shul because that usually means that the kiddush will be relatively underwhelming. It is hard to satisfy hungry daveners with ginger ale, herring and crackers. They prefer Schnapps, cholent and kishke but will settle for Kedem, kugel and kichel.

Most congregants also do not miss shul announcements at the end of davening, especially when prolonged announcements infringe on kiddush time (unless it’s a shul-sponsored kiddush). The only announcements congregants truly want to hear are, for example, (i) “This week’s kiddush is hot and artery-clogging,” (ii) “Shul dues are now optional” and “The rabbi has laryngitis and therefore cannot deliver his weekly sermon.”

Any congregant who serves as gabbai does not miss the weekly stress of finding individuals to read Torah. The only thing more stressful for a gabbai is trying to figure out the name of a congregant to whom he wants to give an aliyah. This is particularly stressful with respect to lifelong congregants whose names the gabbai simply cannot remember. Thus, the more unusual the name, the easier the gabbai’s job will be. The best are memorable names like Yossi Toshiningsy, Yehuda Factofthematteritz, Evan Masuhabonim Heshy Nanigans and Schlomo Townsgreatesthitz.

Congregants also do not miss after-shul stroller battles, when couples try to figure out which stroller is theirs. It certainly would help if couples did not purchase the exact same strollers. Of course, if your child is a colicky, hyper-allergic nightmare, perhaps taking the wrong stroller with the wrong child in it might be an upgrade.

Congregants also do not miss the type of chazzan who turns davening into “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” the world’s longest opera. While most congregants enjoy a quality performance from the bimah, they prefer davening along the lines of the Sands of Time, the world’s shortest opera. How does the chazzan know if he is going on for too long? If even the rabbi has heard enough, then wrap it up.

Most congregants also do not miss the pressures of a weekly fashion show at shul. Entering shul can be like walking the runway, with eyes on both sides of the mechitza watching, evaluating and critiquing. In some communities, if you wear the same outfit more than once, you will be chastised. If you wear the same outfit as somebody else, you will be trashed. If you wear an outfit that does it fit, you will be ridiculed. You’re almost better off not going to shul. The only upside of going to shul under those circumstances is that there will be no paparazzi to memorialize each fashion faux pas on film.

Final thought: It is better to open a shul than to open an old wound, a can of worms or Pandora’s Box.

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