Volume 54 Number 86
                    Produced: Sun Jun 10  8:24:55 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bowing for "Gadlu la-shem iti"
         [Saul Davis]
A conundrum
         [Batya Medad]
The Importance of Shuls
Synagogue membership and dues
         [Chana Luntz]
Yetziv Pisgam and Cultural Imperialism
         [Saul Mashbaum]


From: Saul Davis <saul.davis@...>
Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2007 17:25:58 +0200
Subject: Bowing for "Gadlu la-shem iti"

In my youth I was a gabbay of various different shuls. 2 in London and 1
in Jerusalem. I was very strict about all sorts of things: closing the
aron before gadlu, in the UK the person holding the sefer torah must
stand for the prayer for the Royal Family and in Israel must sit for the
prayer for the Medina (I can explain this at length). There are more and
I will not bore you with them. Now that I am old and wise (well at least
the former), I realize that these are just not important. Minhagim are
very nice and we all love them. We lost a lot as a result of the
upheavals caused by the Shoah and the mass Jewish emigration of the last
100+ years. BUT the "mahut" (the essence) is that the teffiloth be
accepted, tefillah betsibbur (everyone davening together), kavanat halev
(concentrating and understanding the tefillah), and NOT the minutiae of
the minhagim. Especially where 2 different minhagim exist: you or your
shul can pick either one and you do not even have to be
consistent. There are many, many more important things to be worried
about (issues which are raised eg in this forum).  There is even an
urban myth of a shul in Europe where the hazzan used to bow down at a
certain point when returning the sefer to the aron.  No one knew why
until one old man remembered that in the old shul there was a protruding
beam above the aisle which forced passers-by in the procession to
mishtahaveh. When the shul moved or the ceiling was fixed the
minhag/habit stuck. The validity of this myth is very dubious - I take
it more as a mashal!

Saul Davis


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2007 08:07:35 +0300
Subject: Re: A conundrum

> Is it possible to be religious and Zionist without being a "religious
> Zionist" as portrayed by the followers of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook?
> When...

I'm religious and a Zionist and even live on a yishuv, but I've never
associated or considered myself a member of the NRP... that is until it
aligned itself in the last elections with the Ichud Le'umi.  I still do
not consider myself part of the NRP faction and when we had an
English-speakers activists meeting, I was repulsed, yes, repulsed, by
their way of looking at things, even to the point of trying to find
another political party.



From: <skyesyx@...>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 16:17:47 -0400
Subject: The Importance of Shuls

Reb Shaya wrote:

> In any case, let's not forget that the strength of any Jewish
> community is not found in the Federation nor the Yeshiva....it is the
> Shul and its' climate of camaraderie and conduct of 'beyn adam
> l'chavero'. Before Kristelnacht and the Shoah, the most established
> Kehilot in Europe were due to the strength, success and infrastructure
> of the synagogue, its rabbi and lay leadership.

If the shul ever was the focus of strength in a Jewish community it
certainly is not the case today.  (I would posit that in earlier
generations the family and home was most important.)

Today the center of a vibrant Orthodox community is its schools.    


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 16:31:58 +0100
Subject: Re: Synagogue membership and dues

 Rabbi Shaya Kilimnick writes:

>     In other words , there are so many items out there that are costly
> to be a Jew. Why is the Shul the first being suggested as the place to
> eliminate dues or to introduce other means of support?

I think it is because, in general, synagogue membership seems optional,
given that, at least in a large community, one can always join the
minyan in the house with the sefer torah to solve one's prayer needs.

I would point out though, something that my husband remarks upon
frequently, which is that the dues for the Sephardi synagogues here in
England are much lower than for the Ashkenazi ones.  This, he believes,
is due to the general practice in the Sephardi shuls of auctioning off
everything and everything (every aliyah and honour every shabbas,
sometimes on weekdays as well I think, etc etc).  He says that as a
child, he used to be desperately embarressed about this, as it was such
an "unEnglish" thing to do, and very uncomfortable about even mentioning
it in front of his Ashkenazi friends.  But over the years, he has come
to recognise the value of it, in that it means that those most able to
pay, do and willingly - and even if people feel that they have to step
up to the mark, there is a sense of obtaining value from doing so, while
those who really can't pay aren't obligated (although I confess we did
feel rather uncomfortable when my hysband's elderly uncle, the Cohen at
our son's pidyon haben, decided to then auction off the coins used for
the pidyon haben, with our mostly Ashkenazi crowd not knowing what to
make of it).  It also can become something of a social networking game
and way by those who have money of recognising those who give in other
ways (in general, at least in his shul, people buy aliyos and then
donate them to somebody else, so it becomes a form of social binding,
and also means that women can take part - there is a woman in my
husband's shul who regularly buys aliyos for her grandson.  It also
means that people may bid against each other for the cohen's aliyah even
if there is only one cohen in shul to then give it to).

However, you do need a culture for it, and the "throw your money around"
culture that such a form of giving requires is a little difficult for an
Ashkenazi to stomach (albeit that we do exactly the same thing when it
comes to big money, the plaques etc, just not for the little things).
But doing this does allow membership to be kept a lot lower than it
would otherwise be, and means that the shul can afford to be more
welcoming in general (my husband's shul throws full meal buffet lunches
every shabbas - mostly due to the donation of a local caterer, and still
has extremely low dues).

>     In any case, let's not forget that the strength of any Jewish
> community is not found in the Federation nor the Yeshiva....it is the
> Shul and its' climate of camaraderie and conduct of 'beyn adam
> l'chavero'.

Yes but I do not think many of our communal institutions genuinely offer
this.  To bring a personal example, for years, even after I married
Sephardi, I paid my dues to the local United (Ashkenazi) Synagogue,
despite rarely going, on the basis that we could afford it, and that it
was appropriate to support my local community institution (and thereby
keep the fees lower for others who might not be so fortunate).  However,
about a year ago, I am afraid I resigned my membership.  This was due to
receiving a letter that went like this:

"Dear Member,

You will find enclosed the security rota list for the forthcoming month.

Your name has been highlighted for the period that you are on duty.
Your name has been added to the list as part of the new policy of the
Shul, where ALL members and other regular users are asked and expected
to help out with security.  This has been agreed to by the Board of
Management and the Rabbi.


In the very unlikely event that you cannot swap with somebody else
please let the Team Leader responsible for your shift know."


As I wrote to them:

"It seems perfectly clear from the passages quoted above [which I quoted
in my letter] that the Shul, including the Board of Membership and the
Rabbi, neither welcomes nor expects to have as members, the aged, the
infirm, the pregnant or those with the responsibility of looking after
small children.

While the thought of me doing security while:

(i) seven months pregnant;

(ii) pushing my disabled four year old in his wheelchair; and

(iii) chasing around after my three year old,

might seem humorous were the implications not so sad, I do not think
that even were circumstances to be different, I would want to be
associated with an institution that so totally ignores the existence of
the weaker and more vulnerable members of our community".

They wrote back to me promising that I would be taken off the security
rota list, but sure enough, a month later, I get another one of these
letters.  What particularly frustrated me, I confess, even after I
remonstrated again, is that they did not seem able to understand, at any
level, why I might find a letter sent out with the tone above so
exclusionary.  I can fully understand their point about the security
risks facing synagogues and other Jewish institutions today.  However,
nobody, but nobody, drafts the pregnant, the injured, the elderly and
those responsible for small children, and the assumption that ALL
members of a Shul are able to do security and can be gaily added to a
list, makes a clear statement that this is not a community that expects
to include such people.  So, at least now in this case, it doesn't.  

But it does mean that those people who may struggle to pay the
membership fees, but are quite able and happy to do security are now
having to cover that amount that would previously been paid for by my
membership fee, and no doubt by others who for whatever reason are
willing and able to contribute money but not time.  Part of the problem,
I think, is that the Shuls have lost the sense of being there for the
entirety of the members of their community, and not that smaller (and
more likely male) fraction who actually show up to services.  I would
note that while I did receive a phone call from the Rabbi wishing me
mazel tov after the birth of my first child, there has never been any
communication from the shul particularly since, nor has there been any
form of acknowledgement or anything that might remotely resemble support
after my son was diagnosed (at age six months) with his (life limiting,
extremely disabling) condition, or at any time thereafter.  Would your
shul have done differently? If you want a Shul to be paid for as a
community institution, it has got to function as a genuine community
institution, and I think that, at least at the moment, you are asking
people to fund something that does not, in most cases, exist.  If people
genuinely felt that the Shul would be there for them (not so much
financially, but emotionally) in time of need, I fully believe they
would be much more willing to open their purses.  But rather, many Shuls
seem merely to be about making demands, whether financial, or as in this
case, in terms of time commitment, without any regard to the particular
situation of their members.  And given the availability of options,
people vote with their feet and their pocket books.



From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Sun, 03 Jun 2007 23:39:13 +0300
Subject: Yetziv Pisgam and Cultural Imperialism

David Riceman <driceman@...> wrote:
> I own many siddurim and mahzorim composed in Israel.  All of them make
> accommodations for the diaspora, yet none of them include yetziv
> pisgam.  Is this an Evil Zionist Plot to denude the exile of one of
> its fairest liturgical flowers, or is there a benign explanation?

It would seem that the beginning of second sentence above would
basically refute the subject line of this posting.

In any event, one of the most widely-used machzorim in Israel, Rinat
Yisrael, contains Yetziv Pisgam (P. 297 in nusach Ashkenaz).

Saul Mashbaum


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End of Volume 54 Issue 86