Monday, March 16, 2015

Who are the people in your synagogue?

Yep, still doing countdown posts. Don't be a hater. Some are really great! Click here to see them all.

Every Orthodox synagogue I visit has the same type of people. Two years ago I tried to list these archetypes, though as per usual, some of the best ideas came from the comments. Also, as per usual, one or two people thought the post was mean, when really it was (for the most part) written with affection. These are my people after all.  In today's countdown post I reprint that famous list and invite you to evaluate and update it. (and to put in on Facebook, please!)

Shul casting call

Originally posted Monday, May 13 2013

You're opening a new shul. Along with a rabbi to make speeches and a control-freak to serve as gabbai what are some of the roles that must be filled if your shul is going to feel "authentic?" My list:
  • Banger A guy to bang a table to remind people to say prayers that aren't part of the daily liturgy such as ya'aleh v'yavo. This role can be filled by the gabbai, but most proper shuls have at least two or three self appointed tablebangers.
  • Shevach screamer If your shul is going to recite Kel Adon responsively, you will need a least one guy to say the word "Shevach" really loudly right before the congregation recites the last stitch. 
  • Shushers (1 for every 35 members): Whenever the talking gets a little robust these guys play the important role of adding to the noise and the general sense of no-decorum by hissing - sshhhhhhhhh - really loudly. At least one shusher should also be a glarer.
  • Eye-rollers (1 for every 50 members) Because its near-impossible for a speaker to sparkle week after week, your Rabbi will occasionally say something ludicrous or barbaric. Once upon a time it was correct to ignore the offending statement or to nod in agreement. Not anymore. Your shul will need a guy or two who can, via their animated responses, let the rest of the congregation know when the Rabbi has stepped over the line. 
  • Kiddush shlepper and Shtriemel fetcher. In general, the holier a shul is, the more its congregation disrespects musaf. Generally, this disrespect is achieved in two ways: (1) The kiddush is unpacked the moment kedusha ends; (2) The men participate in a mass exodus to the alcove to fetch hats and shtreimals, a mass exodus that starts as soon as kedusha is finished. If you wish to disrespect musaf in the proper Toirah true fashion your new shul will need a few burly fellows to interrupt chazeres hashas by carrying in the boxes of cake and soda and by folding up the chairs and tables. You'll also need a lithe, little man to slip through the hordes to bring the Rabbi his shtreimal. (Heaven forbid your rabbi should be forced sit through the chazan's repetition with a talis on his head like some kind of lowlife.)
  • Rabbi hogger A truly excellent shul needs a guy who buttonholes the Rabbi at the end of every service. Ideally, you want someone innocent and sincere who naively believes that regularly subjecting the Rabbi to nonsense questions, inane anecdotes, or recycled divrei torah is appropriate and welcome. If you can't find such a simple soul, get a cynical creep who thinks his status is enhanced whenever he's seen chatting up the Rabbi. 
What else do we need?

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To spare you the embarrassment of having your name mentioned on this blog, I've used initials only. If you'd like a proper hat-tip let me know
  • The chazen sheni who never takes the amud himself, but always gets in the chazan's ear, davening as loudly as possible, usually off key. (D.S)
  • Candy man (by RJY) 
  • Sleeper. Every shul needs a guy who drifts off the second a speech starts (D.S) 
  • The learner: Studies instead of davening, always conspicuous (D.J)
  • The three alcoholics who step out as soon as they do pesicha and start doing shots in the kitchen, pausing only to answer BRRRICHI and UMEIN to everyone's aliyah. (LF)
  • The gangs of kids stampeding through the shul every so often. (LF)
  • The guy who ignores the whole service until the Tefillah for the Medinah is said. Then he stands up and declares his allegiance to Israel by casting mean looks at people who haven't stood.
  • The "What is this? A Young Israel!" person. Utters his motto as a quick and easy way to discredit any new idea. Example: We really shouldn't set up the kiddush during musaf.... What is this? A Young Israel!
  • The little kid with the HUGE bag of food. Raised by parents who believe starvation can happen in less than an hour. Also, someone in his family survived the war, and BY GOD MY CHILDREN WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY
  • Yaamod guy. Without him how will chatanim and bar mitzvah boys get aliyahs?
  • Dagger eyes aka Red face. Whenever the shul deviates from its own established nusach or custom or style in any way, however minor the deviation might be, this guy lives up to his name
  • Hatzola guys- in shul with their radios squawking just loud enough for others to hear and know that he's "on Hatzolah" (SM)

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