Service Times: The Summer Solution

I was on Long Island most of last week. On Friday night, I attended services at the Community Synagogue in Port Washington. On Firday nights in the summer, they manage to lead services in a way that does not contradict the position of the sun. I’ll explain.

In most congregation, if Firday night services begin at 7:30, they always begin at 7:30, even during the summer when the sun doesn’t set until 8:15 or 8:30. At the Community Synagogue, however, they begin services at 7:30 on Firday nights. But it’s not an erev Shabat service. It’s weekday minchah, the afternoon service! They follow minchah with Kabalat Shabat, candles, and kidush. Then everyone goes home. Genius.

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5 responses to “Service Times: The Summer Solution

  1. I suppose the great question regarding service times is whether it is more important to have shabbat ma’ariv at sundown, or to have shabbat together as a community. Unfortunately, I would assume that the vast majority of Reform congregants would not feel comfortable with changing service times that range from 5pm to 9pm. Knowing that more people will come together at 7:30 each week, is it perhaps better to celebrate Shabbat at that point?

    As you know, I’m a huge fan of challenging people to move forwards and try new things, but is it perhaps equally valuable to meet people where they are?

  2. There are three things that I love about this:
    1. Things are done at the proper time.
    2. People are, Jesse, met where they are. A communal insistence on doing things together every week is totally satisfied this way and people do get to make Shabat together. Notice that they do Kab Shab together and follow it up with candles and kidush.
    3. This is my favorite part: Reform Jews, a group of people rarely exposed to an afternoon service or to weekday services at all, get to experience both without having to go out of their way to do it because it’s all nicely wrapped up in a Friday night service.

  3. Except what about Ma’ariv!?

    (Not to mention that 7:30, that time of year, is late enough for Ma’ariv anyways… but I digress)

  4. Well, actually, at 7:30 in the NY area the sun is nowhere near set.

    And anyway, your question about Ma’ariv is sort of irrelevant given the fact that no Reform shul would do Minchah before Ma’ariv during the rest of the year.

  5. There’s nothing new under the sun — what you describe as minhag Port Washington was essentially the practice at Temple Sholom in Chicago in the days when the main services were Saturday and Sunday mornings. That 5:45 service (probably the daily evening service from UPB) was held daily, with kiddush added on Friday. When the 8:15 service came in with the new rabbi, it dealt a heavy blow to the 5:45 Shabbos lite. Flash forward another twenty-five years, and the next new rabbi introduced a double header of kab shab at 6 (Shabbat evening service, no Torah reading, no sermon) with “the real thing” at 7:45. Now these two have been fused into a 6:30, regardless of the time of sunset.

    Unless you’re really going to follow the sun, and do so all year, you might as well commit to the clock and the convenience of the community. I don’t see Port Washington as genius, only as a compromise solution that works for them.

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