14 comments on “What Type of Shul Do You Prefer?

  1. I agree with Mark Frankel’s comment at the beginning of this thread. Halevai that would be the case in many other shuls as well.

  2. Not all NYC Shulls are cold and unwelcoming. Some “out of town” Shuls are also unfriendly and clique-ish. I am a relatively “green” BT and my experience in NYC was wonderful, warm etc, but less so in the smaller non-nyc community that I am a part of now. There seemed to be a lot of superficial friendliness at the beginning, but now I am finding it very hard to find a real sense of community. IM’H that will change soon.

  3. Bob; sorry, maybe i was unclear. I didn’t mean that it’s a gimmick. i simply meant that people out-of-town naturally act that way, based on common experiences, without anyone needing to tell them that it’s a good way to act. hope that helps to explain my comment a bit more clearly. thanks for your note on that.

  4. Steve,

    I sense a genuine friendliness “out-of-town”, where we’ve lived in different places for many years. It’s not just a recruitment gimmick.

    This quality can sometimes be found in-town, too.
    Jews have been hospitable for thousands of years; we need to shed any unJewish big city manners we might have picked up along the way.

  5. I like people who are ready to have a conversation. obviously this should occur after davening. but I like people who also will greet someone if he sits down next to them in shul, whether it’s a new face, or someone they have met recently for the first time.

    Shuls who do not do this are not taking care of business. it’s that simple. the Jewish people depend on shuls being able to “get” how things need to work.

    out-of-town (meaning outside nyc) shuls know this instinctively know this. not because they’re overly diealistic; rather, simply because that new face might potentially be a future dues-paying member, tuition-paying parent, or even a future shul officer. so they just naturally get people roped in. not always, and not perfectly, but at least they have the basic idea.

    many entrenched shuls say the unaffiliated simply do not show up in their shuls. I guarantee that every one of them has had 1 or two people show up within the past year who were unaffiliated. they just didn’t stick around.

    if you think it’s hard to attract the unaffiliated, just have one shul event with free food, and see how fast they show up. by extension, any valid shul efforts can usually get traction if done enough.

    of course not every one of them will be a 20-something ready to have a transcendental experience and ready to become a yeshiva bochur the next year. sometimes these things don’t get only the target audience whom you want. you have to be ready for all members and all segments of the community to show up in need of a place. :-) (sorry for the long post.)

  6. Along the lines of what Neil and Bob said, it’s hard to generalize even by category. Some shtieblech are more quiet than other formal-looking shuls, etc.

    Looked at another way, just as David pointed out that “my Rav” can mean “my Rav for X as opposed to my Rav for Y,” you can have different shuls for different roles. The everyday shul may have different qualities from those that make you choose a different shul on Shabbos. Some people, on the other hand, get satisfaction from “one-stop shopping” and making a complete commitment to having all their shul or Rav (or both) roles fulfilled in one place or person.

  7. I like mid-size shuls. Not so big that you get lost in the crowd, but not so small that there is trouble making a minyan etc.
    I also like middle ground hashkafically or a mix of people; ie both “black hats and blue shirts”
    Honestly, the Rav doesn’t impact me much, as I have often had a Rav that I go to for shailos that is not the rabbi of the shul I go to.

  8. Above, I should have included something about the Rav.

    Ideally, he should be a Torah scholar with sterling personal middos and people skills. He should communicate and relate well to the mix of people in his congregation, regardless of anyone’s social class or community-political status.

    In fielding a halachic or personal question, he should be good at determining both the hard and soft facts of the situation. If he can’t answer on the spot, he should investigate as thoroughly as needed and follow up promptly.

  9. This is great question, since the “perfect shul” is hard to come by (like the perfect school).

    Of importance to me would be (in no order):
    Serious about tefillah
    Members who are open to growing
    A Rav who is personally knows his members

    Currently my Shabbos minyan (at 7:30 am) meets a,b, and is housed in c,d.

  10. To me, the size of the group is secondary. More important are:

    During services:

    No conversational buzz, a group of serious daveners, and people at the amud who really know the correct traditional nusach. Visitors welcomed warmly.

    Adult classes:

    High quality, with insight. Instructors willing and able to field questions and answer to the point.


    Good community spirit, free from arrogant cliques and in-groups

  11. To my husband Ira and myself, it’s all about the Rav. When our Rav left his original big shul to found his own Bais Medrash, Ira and I loyally followed him.

  12. One where “everybody knows your name”. (“And…”) It’s hard to have this in a big shul.
    Also, I personally really prefer a shul in which the Rav doesn’t talk about news or politics, unless there’s an earth-shattering event and we need guidance on how to view at it.

  13. I like the warmth of the Shtiebel, the seriousness in learning and davening of the Beis Medrash and the governance and opportunities of involvement of the membership driven Shul.

  14. there are a few options which are not on this list (no biggie though :-) ). my preference is Young Israel-style shuls, with that type of governance, etc.

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