Mishegas, Religion

Now That’s Trans-Denominational

Check out the Beth El Synagogue in Durham, North Carolina.

Beth El is a pluralistic community and welcomes members who have diverse backgrounds, ideas, levels of knowledge, and observance. We are an egalitarian Conservative congregation and a member of the Seaboard Region of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, which hosts this website.
We offer an Orthodox Kehillah affiliated with the Orthodox Union for those who wish to worship in accordance with that tradition.
Our Rabbi, Steven G. Sager, is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Beat that, indie-minyans!

50 thoughts on “Now That’s Trans-Denominational

  1. that shul sounds pretty cool.
    as for the challenge to indy minyanim… some JITWs gatherings have featured orthodox, reform, recon, conservative, renewal, neo-hasidic, hasidic, and even humanist jews all praying toghether. quite a scene.

  2. If you want Jews of different background to come and worship together maybe it would be a better idea to stop atomizing the Jewish nation into a gazillion different streams. At the moment it’s not even certain most Jews attending the shul mentioned in this post have the same conception of G-d.

  3. Fabulous! The more people are willing to learn from each other, the better. Given that each of us has our own concept of Judaism and our own practices, it’s wonderful that there is an increasing number of places where that diversity of practice can be comfortably expressed.

  4. FINALLY! Pluralism that includes the Orthodox — and non-Orthodox Jewish communities accommodating the needs of frum ppl! L’chatchila, even!
    Baruch Hashem, it’s things like this that cause unity.

  5. Hate to double post, but #2 , from what I can see the last part of your post was totally out of line. You’re not going to change — at least not by building a shul — people’s G-d-views easily, or in a short amt. of time. Once you start trying to “standardize” G-d-views, people begin getting hurt and it leads to further disunity, ch”v.
    Rather, giving people separate spaces to do what they have to do separately gives them more space to do together what they can do together.

  6. i used to attend this synagogue when I lived in Durham and it is one of the finest places around. FWIW it has also been gay and lesbian friendly since at least the late 90s, when i lived there.

  7. sounds like a cook place. have they tried working out way in which they can all daven in the same room from time to time?

  8. sarah– stir up trouble? never 🙂
    it’s a good question though, and not even a troublemaking one. davenning together all the time is probably not a good idea. but could they find ways to daven together once in a while?

  9. In what, the egalitarian minyan in which ladies are not counted or called up to the Torah; in the Orthodox minyan with the female cantor? If it ain’t broke there ain’t no WAY to fix it.

  10. But communities *do* gather together for non-Shabbat related not-quite-prayer-like activities. Presumably they can all come together for any of the Yom ha-_____ mid-Omer days or other community celebrations (children recieving their first siddur, community aquiring a new sefer torah, etc)

  11. Yaakov– I’m still laughing- that line just made my morning 🙂
    and yes! it has been done at unity shabat at UMD. see, kabbalat shabat isn’t halachic, so there’s lots more flexibility there in terms of who leads what, what gets said in english. if you start early enough, even flexibility in terms of instruments.
    bonus points for using a space not usually used for prayer, and sidestepping people’s mechitza issues.
    also, jews in the woods is always working on these issues, beyond the kabbalat shabat solution, and recent conversations have been very productive. Such an interdenomination prayer service would be workable assuming:
    1) people are willing to explore beyond their comfort zones
    2) people respects others identity (e.g. not counting a woman in a minyan if she asks not to be counted)
    3)people accept that they might have to consider a service “personal prayer” while the rest of the community sees it as “communal prayer”; e.g. a person who doesn’t hold by an egal minyan doesn’t respond to barchu if there aren’t 10 men present, and other people respect his decision to do so. This is based on seeing communal prayer as a positive thing, but not an obligation (forget the source).
    Of course, if anyone has “kol isha”(won’t listen to a woman singing) issues, there really isn’t much we can do about that. at least not that we’ve found so far.
    time to get back in the UMDmobile and go to class….

  12. y-love, good point on the benefits of folks who need to daven separately being part of the same shul. davening separately needn’t prevent folks from identifying as part of the same community.
    when i was in college, on friday nights, we’d sync the minyanim so they all ended at about the same time. the havurah i helped run started at 5:45, the ortho minyan at 6:00, the Conservative service at 6:15 and the Reform at 6:30. A few people would start davening with the havurah and jump middway to another minyan. it was a great system. the point of the example is to underscore the idea that we were one community which davened separately. if you got there just in time for kiddush you couldn’t figure who had davened where. Who ate shabbat dinner with whom gave no indication of where they had davened. The more you pray under the same roof the more possibility there is for collaboration, and embrace of yiddishkite, justice, and joy toghether. You just have to be conscious of breaking down unnecessesary boundaries and commit to community.

    And “kabbalat Shabbat isn’t halachic” touches on what I was alluding to above about realizing differences to their fullest extent. I wouldn’t want to hear Kabbalat Shabbat read in English. Davening is in Hebrew (lashon ha’kodesh). It’s this assumption “oh, hey, there’s only like one like in the Shulchan Aruch about this and it’s not even talked about in the Gemara, the Orthodox can at least be a little flexible with this one and let Shaindy say it in English” that is quite irritating. And you have other issues (who’s keeping Shabbos? — which dictates — who runs the kitchen’s kashrus?).
    All of these things notwithstanding you can still find room for inclusion, even symbiosis. Just realize everyone’s differences, don’t make anyone compromise, and work from there — if you’re unity-minded and you realize that a unified group of Jews is the sui generis ideal, how can you go wrong?

  14. Y love–true, it’s not a perfect solution. that’s why it’s not for every week, nor everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t think this shul should daven together all the time, just wondering if there were somthing to be gained by trying it one shabbat per year. I’ve personally gained a lot from this kind of thing.
    and yes, davenning is in Hebew….except for when it’s in aramaic, or when it’s been in Yiddish, judeo-arabic, etc. of course, the whole thing in English might be overly jarring for lots of folks, myself included. so maybe only do one or two t’hillim in english, with people being welcome to say that one quietly in hebrew simultaneously. it’s not all or nothing.
    that’s why I said it’s dependent on the people involved ( that includes reform, conservative, etc. as much as orthodox) wanting to stretch a little and learn from each others approaches. . otherwise, there’s not much point in it.
    as for sabbat and kashrut issues, BZ of mahrabu could give you a better rundown of ways to deal than I could, but I’m bad with links. so I’ll wait for someone else to post that

  15. Yes, but there is a fundamental difference in the approach to”flexibility”. The Orthodox person is not doing things of her or his own, the rabbi’s own, or the congregation’s own volition — rather everything is circumscribed by an immutable law. Even modern Orthodox innovations (e.g. the Mi Shebeirach for the IDF and the Mi Shebeirach for the US Government, only slightly less effective at inducing vomiting than ipecac) are — ideally — based on legal precedents (e.g. the Rem”a’s referring to the fact that on Shabbat there are all sorts of Mi Shebeirach’s going on).
    In absence of a precedent or proscribed leeway, there is no “stretching a little.” But why should this even come on to the table?
    e.g. No we can’t daven together. But we can eat together. And if we can’t eat, then we can drink together. And if we can’t drink then we can go travel together. And if we can’t travel we can do chesed or charity projects together. i.e., the opportunities for common activity are already so there that to try and “press the issue” to “find a way” that people can do more together is borderline abrasive.

  16. Y love– you’re generalizing your beliefs onto the entire orthodox community (I speak with over 21 years experience in various ortho communities) I know many ortho jews who have attended and appreciated such unity shabat experiences, my younger self included.
    you clearly wouldn’t, no problem. as you said, you’ll find other ways to connect. but why stop those who would appreciate this way?
    oh, and there is halachic precedent for davenning in the vernacular, esp if you don’t fully understand the hebrew. plenty of ortho people make that cut, esp on trickier poetry. there is also precedent for not having a mechitza in a space not normally used for davenning.

  17. Mobius#4- Good point. And I shouldn’t have said that. but there are certain denominations that do not believe in G-d ( recon, humanist) and still go trough the motions just because they like the ‘culture’ of Judaism. What’s your take on that? Certainly there must be limits where even you decide that innovations have gone far enough.

  18. That’s an inaccurate statement about Reconstructionist Judaism. See the SCJ FAQ. To be sure, Recon understandings of God differ from Orthodox understandings of God, but that’s very different from saying they “don’t believe in God”. Humanistic Judaism is another story.

  19. Rebecca — you see, right there. At this point you’re inventing halachic dispute where it really doesn’t have to exist.
    Again, why press the issue? We’re talking about that which brings in Shabbat, that which brings with it the prohibition of labor and its flipside, spiritual gifts. The Shulchan Aruch deals with it numerous times and later poskim codify precisely which is the “operative” part of Kabbalat Shabbat (MB from the Derech Chachmah says L’cha dodi, Beit Yosef says “Mizmor shir l’yom ha’Shabbat”, Magen Avraham says “Borchu”).
    What you are saying is something that I’m sure you realize is heavily disputed. While, yes, it’s in the Shulchan Aruch that one can pray in one’s vernacular (assuming one’s vernacular is not Aramaic), it was not said as a preferred way of doing things. What you are saying sounds more like an attempt to cause a mishmosh.
    Why not strengthen the Orthodox person’s adherence to the Shulchan Aruch, something which would serve to minimize disunity rather than shift it? Why not strengthen every person in the path that they are on, rather than trying to invent a path that “all can walk on”? It’s attempts like that that often cause nothing more than a bitter re-fragmentation based on different things than the original division.
    I mean, why can’t everyone come and pray with the Orthodox on the Orthodox terms of doing things? Is it any more right to ask the converse?

  20. formermuslim,
    i find your characterization of theology personally hurtful. perhaps it comes from a place of partial knowledge on your part, but implying that because many reconstructionist folks with different ways of discussing divinity and god are out, and you are in…well, i am not quite sure were to start. i want to avoid being petty and/or nasty. i imagine you are a good person, and well meaning. perhaps you haven’t studied any of the various texts on recon theologies, or spent much time with serious reconstructionist jews. i can assure you that there are deeply believing recons just as sure as there are deeply believing bratslavers. the exact nature of the expression of that belief is certainly different but it’s intensity, jewishness, and underlying validity is not.
    please, be more careful before making those sorts of intentionally marginalizing comments. we don’t need more sinat chinam. in the spirit of achdut, i’ll offer the hope that through more strings like this one, we will build a holier jewish people which arises like a lion to do god’s work and realize a more just world. so let’s get to that.
    re: secular humanism, my expereince with secular humanist leaders is that they are in fact athiest and the thought system is athiest. there may be individual nuance but insofar as these sorts of generalities are asserted, it seems reasonable to accept the secular humanists’ atheist self-identity.

  21. Y love– I give up. you haven’t listed to me, and you continue to put words in my mouth. I’m not asking any more of ortho people than of anyone else. reform people at the unity shabat I attended missed their guitar, etc. and I’m advocating this as an occasional learning experience, not as a “path we all walk on” all the time. that would indeed result in a pale “mishmosh”, unsatisfying to all. and if hearing a~1/4 of kabbalat shabat in english once, motivated me to understand the hebrew better, I’m not getting why you see that as negative, or unnecessary, or divisive.
    invented a halachic dispute? or just prefer a different side in some than you do?
    I also fail to see the value of unity in ortho practice, when there are multipe halachic options. too many people are forced into molds that don’t fit.

  22. My apologies for diverting this away from the discussion on pluralistic / unity Shabbat observance, but I wanted to recount some memories of Beth El in Durham. I had been working on staff of the Hillel at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, just a town away. Since Chapel Hill did not have a synagogue (aside from whatever Shabbat and occassional weekday services met at Hillel), a good deal of the UNC faculty and staff community affiliated with Beth El — even though it was right across the street from UNC’s basketball arch-rival.
    I was always impressed by the way the community worked in Durham / Chapel Hill. There was a lot of positive communication between the Reform and Conservative synagogues. I had discovered that Rabbi Sager was instrumental in forming the Orthodox Kehilla in Beth El and making it work. Apparently at the beginning of his tenure he noticed a family or two that was paying membership dues and had been for decades but was never at shul. He found out that they were holdovers from a time when the congregation was not yet egalitarian. There appeared to be call for a mechitza minyan, and Rabbi Sager welcomed them in.
    I remember specifically attending the Orthodox Kehilla on the morning of Simchat Torah 5758. One or two of the Hakafot were shared with the main congregation upstairs. Rabbi Sager came down to deliver a drash and also was honored with the Chatan Torah aliyah. It was really wonderful — especially from the vantage point of a Hilel professional who had to deal with experiences of pluralism, multi-denominationalism and post-denominationalism — to see a community embrace and respect its members who daven in a different manner. I wish I could see this in many more environments.
    After working at UNC Hillel, I moved to UMD Hillel where there had been attempts at the “Unity Shabbat” that apparently lives on. It’s nice to see this occurring on occassion as well.
    The biggest clash I’ve had with pluralism within these experiences at Hillel — whether to root for the Heels or the Terps.

  23. Shiny,
    Thank you for sharing your experience at this synagogue. This story has definitely caught my eye, and I wonder whether it can be a model for other shuls. Don’t get me wrong, I love the indie minyanim, but I have problems with them. Number one, the strength of community is in diversity. I love the fact that at my synagogue at home there are people from many parts of the religious and political spectrum that still get together. The synagogue becomes a place to encounter other peole who you might normally never want to speak to, but still share some common spiritual goal. Ina ddition ther eare the practical values of a large synagogue and community, and while theh synagogue was clearly mor eimportant in previous generations, I don’t think its entire value has been spent. In addition, I am bothered that in indie-minyans, under the guise of pluralism, we in fact return to some sort of monism. At the end of the day, do es each indidviduals thoughts/practices sort of blend into one homogoneous pareve mush?
    I was curious a about hte synagogue. Is it simply one building that houses many communities, or rather like your sotry suggests it is is just one large community. That sounds promising. And, how big is it? Again, your story suggests that should they have so desired the community could have fielded a recon as well as conservative shul. Not to mention the ortho thing could have broken off. And of coruse we all knwo the joke two jews three shuls. SO, all that makes me want to think that this is something that could be seen in other places.
    Another observation from your story. It sounds like a large part of the credit for this unique mixture is having a recon rabbi. Could this have worked if the head rabbi was conservative/reform/ortho?

  24. rebecca – I did totally listen to you and I’m not even saying whether or not I personally would have a problem with even one line said in English (the whole thing, though, see above). What I’m saying is, and you know what I’m talking about — put yourself in the Orthodox minyan for a second. Now the tragic dispute starts: “Can you say Tehillim X in English?” “Yes.” “Says who?” “Says the Rem”a.” “But doesn’t the…” Ad infinitum, and leading to disunity.
    However, I always say, that in the 5th cheilek of Shulchan Aruch, the volume dealing with Common Sense, there is a chapter called Hilchos Smooth. So in the above example — let’s say no one wants to import English into the service.
    Now this could lead to fury and “I can’t believe how much of a stick in the mud these ppl are.” Or it could lead to “we’ll be having a 5-minute lecture before davening where we discuss the meanings of the Psalms before we break up into our minyanim.” I’m not suggesting a 4-ghettoed building, far from it, but, as religious differences are what cause the disunity, often religious issues have to be approached like a minefield.
    To minimize conflict is to maximize unity. If you know that by doing solution X people would pray separately with zero conflict, why would you even suggest solution Y which involves conflict, in the spirit of togetherness lishmah?
    I’m totally down with learning experiences. I just eschew the idea of compromising one’s status or observance level.

  25. Josh writes:
    In addition, I am bothered that in indie-minyans, under the guise of pluralism, we in fact return to some sort of monism. At the end of the day, do es each indidviduals thoughts/practices sort of blend into one homogoneous pareve mush?
    I don’t think so. Individual differences in thought and practice are embraced much more at the average independent minyan than at the average synagogue (though this synagogue in Durham seems to be exceptional).

  26. yes, these things sure can be a minefield. I guess I just see it as somewhat more negotiable.
    one thing that helped at UMD back at the above mentioned shabbat, was that ortho and conservative (the reform services went on as usual simultaneously, putting no pressure on people who had objections (both in terms of comfort, and core beliefs) with the unity shabbat service.
    a brief discussion of various parts of kabbalat shabat can be a great idea, and it’s one I might want to incorporate into something some time. If anything, it would be my personal preference over an english reading; I simply wouldn’t rule out the latter. You would, and that’s why parallel regular services (dependent on #s, etc) could be a necessary element of a community attempting such a unity shabbat davening.

  27. BZ-” To be sure, Recon understandings of God differ from Orthodox understandings of God,”
    Okay now I am confused.

  28. After reading the website BZ gave me I want to retract my comment #22. It seems I was right all along. (not being smug, just sayin’)

  29. I hate to stick my head in the middle of this lovely argument that Y-Love and Rebbeca, and maybe it is off subject to mention it. But, anyway, let’s think back to those wild days in Safed a few hundred years ago, when one day out of nowhere, somebody (maybe it was the Sulkhan Aruch) said, “chevra, Shlomo just wrote this kick a** poem about the Sabbath, how about we all read it together before we do maariv.” If one of us did that, it would seem a bunch of people would give us flack, call us unorthodox, and accuse us of creating disunity.

  30. great image. for me it’s bringing to mind jews-in-the-woods folk
    didn’t they also go out into the fields to say that kick*** shabbos poem?

  31. frankel says “At the end of the day, do es each indidviduals thoughts/practices sort of blend into one homogoneous pareve mush?”
    Josh, I haven’t figured out what that means. Are you saying that minyanim, moreso than large congregations, create mush?
    While we are on trans-denominationalism, it is useful to point to another example, the germantown jewish center, in philadelphia, which has a pair of minyanim, one recon, one “masorati”, that differ from the main shul.
    part of what seems neat about this shul in NC is that the rabbi has warm relationships with the folks who are in the minyan. that is the basis of a great model.

  32. Y-Love, I fail to see why unity is so important to you. unity is not a solution to anything, it is a problem. Becuase when people have the same sense of purpose and the same core beliefs then their lofty arguments turn into nitpicking and bickering. Unity leads to stagnation, so why bother? I think rebbeca m’s ideas about the “unity” service are amazing, but not because they promote “unity” (whatever the hell that means), but because they help people define themselves, and promote discussion, and argument, and debate, and, in general – DIS-unity. That’s a good thing, a jewish thing, and I think that’s what Jewschool is doing too.

  33. amit– to give proper credit, most of the above ideas came from my amazing friends alan, anna, and bev, who spearheaded the davenning in question.
    and I totally agree about dis-unity– as long as it’s respectful of real differences, yet willing to learn, diversity is far more productive.

  34. Rebecca M wrote:
    one thing that helped at UMD back at the above mentioned shabbat, was that ortho and conservative (the reform services went on as usual simultaneously,
    Is there a missing clause here?

  35. But, anyway, let’s think back to those wild days in Safed a few hundred years ago, when one day out of nowhere, somebody (maybe it was the Sulkhan Aruch) said, “chevra, Shlomo just wrote this kick a** poem about the Sabbath, how about we all read it together before we do maariv.”
    That never happened. The siddur we use today is the same siddur that Avraham Avinu used. Halacha does not change,

  36. BZ– yeah, typo. what I meant to finish writing, but got distracted, was:
    reform didn’t have parallel services because all their leaders were either involved in the alternative service, or very very excited about it, so reform just joined en masse. Most seemed ok with that decision, but I think there were some people who would have liked there regular service, though.

  37. Amit – Why is unity so important to me? Oh I don’t know — perhaps the millions of sources throughout Scripture and Chaza”l which decry the lack of Jewish unity. Now, granted, this does not apply in all areas of Jewish life, obviously — even in the Wilderness the 12 Tribes had their different ways of doing things (most famously, tzitzit and tefillah). That type of dis-unity is Divinely sanctioned and is a good thing, by definition, however, dis-unity lishmah?
    Same sense of purpose? As opposed to what? When you talk about “lofty arguments” it sounds as if you are returning to talking about the religious sphere, which again, is a minefield and is not going to be unified without creating some type of “alloy Judaism” in which everyone’s core identities are melted down, thus robbing them of their individuality and value. But if you are talking about the nebulous “Jewish identity” which is held by many Jewish Americans, or some other parve concept, on the contrary, unity is not only beneficial but also strengthens the Jewish community for years to come.
    And Josh F., your Tzfat he’arah was not quite a parallel and is actually a specious argument. Of the poskim generally connected with the Shulchan Aruch, only one mentions Lcha Dodi. “Let’s go out in the field to welcome the Shabbat Queen” also was predated by saying some sort of something to bring in Shabbat. Saying Psalm 92 must have predated L’cha Dodi for example.

  38. FWIW, this situation–an Orthodox or non-egal kehillah inside a Conservative shul–is not unique. (I suspect the same might also true re: Reconstructionist or Reform kehillot that meet within a Conservative shul, somewhere–but others would have to tell me.) The ones I know of, past or present:
    –in its inception [30 years ago], the Traditional Minyan (now Traditional Egalitarian Minyan) at Adas Israel: the minyan I daven most. Some people tell me it was Orthodox, other people tell me it was very traditional Conservative: it was definitely not egalitarian, had separate seating (which the main service did not, though it too was not egalitarian at that time), may have had a mechitza (I don’t know for certain). It changed over time and is now still liturgically & ritually traditional/maximal (full Psukei d’Zimra, full silent + repetition of Amidah for both Shacharit & Musaf, full kriah, does Anim Zmirot; no microphone, davening and Torah reading facing the ark) as compared to the main sanctuary (various abbreviations, hechi kedushah, triennial reading, microphones, davening & Torah reading facing congregation with back to ark) but is fully egalitarian.
    –the chapel minyan [I think is what it’s called] at Beth Yeshurun in Houston: the 2 other services are fully egalitarian (main + “museum minyan,” which is like our Traditional Egalitarian Minyan) but this one was Orthodox and now might be seen as non-egal Conservative [that is, I believe it has separate seating, no mechitzah; attendees must dress modestly, no women in pants…]
    And then there are plenty of places that are themselves pluralistic centers, where a variety of services go on & then people come together for kiddush or a meal–
    The ones I know most intimately are the Oxford Jewish Congregation (’95-’98) and the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale (’98-’05).

  39. And oh–I’ve been to Beth El Durham several times. (My husband was an undergrad at Duke, so when we’ve gone back for visits we daven there.) On the most recent one, for a hot summer shabbes on which I was protecting myself with a long Indian sundress over a short-sleeved shirt + a big white sun-hat, & my husband was doubtless doing the same with a long-sleeved light-colored shirt & a panama hat, the following exchange took place when we walked in:
    Woman In Lobby: Are you here for kehillah?
    Me: (???) Excuse me?
    Woman In Lobby:: Are you here for kehillah?
    Me: We’re here to daven…what do you mean?
    Woman In Lobby:: Are you here to go to the Orthodox Kehillah?
    Me: Oh! No. We’re here for egalitarian Conservative davening. Thanks!
    I think our dress, despite my Display of Elbow, must have been read be her as Frummy rather than Summery!
    Beth El is also the congregation that brings us all the fantabulous Klutz-proof sukkah kits of Sukkot.com — no, not succah.com, run by the guy in Baltimore who won’t give his wife a get: Steve Henry Woodcrafts is run by congregant at Beth El who is an upstanding gent & former psych professor at Duke who’s been able to make this his full-time employ…see cool WSJ article on Sukkot:
    “At this rate, I can imagine Sukkot soon becoming as widely observed as Passover,” says Steve Henry Herman, a co-owner of a company in Chapel Hill, N.C., that makes sukkah kits and golf-tee targets. Dr. Herman’s business is doing so well he quit his day job as a professor in the psychiatry department at Duke University Medical Center.

  40. (I suspect the same might also true re: Reconstructionist or Reform kehillot that meet within a Conservative shul, somewhere–but others would have to tell me.)
    Yep. As ZT mentioned, Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia is a Conservative shul with a Reconstructionist minyan. Also, Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown NY is a Reform shul with a Conservative minyan.

  41. Becca – I figured there must be other shuls like this, but what is unique here is the affiliation. Beth El is a USCJ Conservative shul. The ‘Kehilla’ is an OU Orthodox one. The one Rabbi that the synagogue has got his semichah from RRC. You find me another OU shul with an RRC rabbi and I’ll be less impressed by Beth EL. But, meanwhile, thanks for the anecdote.
    Y-Love – You have lost me. If you want to do scholarly work to determine the exact, year-by-year development of what has now seemingly been canonized as Kaballat Shabbat, be my guest.
    (Aside – the service has not been fully canonized, many communities recite different chapters of psalms from the ones we are used to in Ashkenazi communities, and even within ashkenazi communities there is debate regarding which psalms, and which stanzas, if any, of L’cha Dodi, are recited on certain unique Shabattot.)
    But, meanwhile, there are some things that we are certain of. The modern practice of Kaballat Shabbat emerged in the late fifteenth/sixteenth centuries in Tzfat, amongst contemporaries of Rav Yosef Karo, the Shulkhan Aruch. To this day, the most well known, and most unique part of that service is not the series of plsams that are recited but rather a very moving poem written by Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, one of those contemporaries. That means, that at some point, somebody had to have improvised one day, and brought into the service this poem. Whether they originally said it before or afer the psalms, or whether they had already begun saying those psalms for a few years before they improvised is irrelevant. Both the reading of the contemporary poem, and the recitation of psalms were improvisations to what was regarded as a canonized service.
    My entire point, is that today, when people similarly improvise, we reject their new-fangled changes, and we accuse them of splintering the community and undermining the tradition.
    With that, I will go finish my preparations to greet the Sabbath Queen
    Shabbat Shalom

  42. has anyone actually gone to the website? the orthos take great care to make sure everybody knows they aren’t part of the shul. They say they affiliated administratively with Beth El, i.e. they share the building. That’s the kind of compromise orthos make when they’re pressed for money or people. lets not make more of this story than it actually is.

  43. Josh — You understood the point I was trying to make. Kabbalat Shabbat as a practice predated the Beit Yosef. And you do understand why Lecha Dodi was allowed to be entered into the service as an integral part of it: the Ar”i z”l wanted it to be so. But I concede that the Orthodox world of today is much more anti-innovation b’derech klal/in general than the frum world of yore.
    Amit – And isn’t that a goal in itself? Sharing the building means sharing a meal possibly, etc., etc. Or even an event. Separate religiously, but together in other ways.

  44. Wow; I WISH Miami had a synagogue like that! I think it is great. I am (pretty much) towards the end of an Orthodox conversion that I’ve been working towards for 2 years. While the hashkafah I identify is along the lines of Carlebachian/Breslov Chasidut/Yeshivish; my practice falls along Modern Orthodox. Prior, I was involved with the Reform movement for over 8 years. I do not see Reform Judaism as a valid form of Yiddishkeit; however I do appreciate what it did for me — and what it continues to do for others — as far as connecting them with Klal Yisrael.
    A little over a month ago, despite my full expectations of gearing up for shidduch dating after gerut, I met a “nice Jewish boy” who just knocked my socks off. From the beginning, he knew I was Orthodox; but still continued to be interested and share his own experiences with Judaism and the path that he’s taken (which is Reconstructionism by the way). While his actions and daily living differ very much from anything the Shulchan Aruch calls for; he’s is definitely not “running away” from his Jewishness. Quite contrary, he understands the value in connecting with the Creator and is actively pursuing that means. At the end of the day, he is still a Jew.
    This year, when I went to Israel, I was confronted for the first time with this ease of just saying, “Hey I’m Jewish too” without having to throw some label on it. I met “Orthodox Jews” who wore streimelach and others [females] who wore slacks. However, no matter what the clothing or even the actions, you are all connected. Again, I find that in this new relationship, I am confronting this again. Deep down, I know that it is wrong to shun any other human being; even more so a fellow Jew — simply on the basis that they took on a different label than you did.
    Yes, for me, the only path is Orthodox Judaism; and I also believe that it is the way that Judaism is suppossed to be. But also, we need to remember that the mitzvot mean nothing without unity. Often, people talk about the intolerance of the Orthodox Jewish community, but it goes both ways many times. It is much easier to accomodate a person who keeps kosher than it is to accomadate a person who is a vegan (believe me, I know!); however, the eyes start rolling and the comments don’t STOP coming when you mention you keep kosher; however vegetarians/vegans are respected and lauded; etc., etc.
    It pains me that although this wonderful young man and I seem to be benefitting each other immensely, there is no Jewish community for us to go into (without catching a lot of slack at least). My neighborhood is pretty insular. I do not participate in services which do not conducted in accordance to halacha. Therefore, we do Shabbat seperately from each other. Both of us appreciate the good points our respective “Judaisms” possess. Remember, Chassidut reminds us that each and every Jewish neshamot is special. We should welcome and accomodate each one. I mean that is really just the LEAST that we could do!

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