Overall, my impression was good. However, let us not forget that this is me we’re talking about and I can’t daven with any community without a few nits to pick.
First the good stuff: I counted about 80 daveners on this particular week with Kol Zimrah. We sat in a multi-layered circle, the innermost ring of which contained the leader and couple of the most spirited daveners as well as the holder of KZ’s innovative flipchart. The flipchart is a bound booklet, which says on each page, “The leader is on page 18,” or whatever page the leader is on. At each turn of the page, the flipchart operator hold it up and shows it around so that those who are lost can find their spot in the sidur.
The sidur is Chaveirim Kol Yisrael, an Friday night-only sidur created by the National Havurah Committee. CKY is also the sidur that inspired my personal favorite sidur, Siddur Eit Ratzon, the first edition of which was a Shabat morning companion to CKY. The group also actively encourages people to bring their own sidurim. I counted about ten or so people who had done so. Their choices ranged from the venerable Conservative Birnbaum sidur to the despicable ArtScroll sidur to the Israeli Reform sidur Ha’avodah Shebalev. I was giddy at the sight of a community the cares enough about liturgy that a full eighth of those present saw fit to bring their own sidur with them. I was content to use CKY.
The leader was Ben Dreyfus, otherwise known in the blogosphere as BZ and the proprieter of Mah Rabu, one of the jblogosphere’s best offerings. I was told by several regulars that I spoke with that Ben is the best of KZ’s many layleaders. He lead from the center of the room with a good voice and a guitar. The focus of the group, as the name indicates, is music. And it shows. The music is quote good, without lapsing into B’nai Jeshurun-like, performance-style concert-worship.
The prayers are in a typical progressive style. The imahot make all of their usual appearances along with Miryam in Mi Chamocha (my jury is still out on whether or not Miryam’s appearances are good or not). Meitim is the order of the day for G’vurot and L’cha Dodi is sung in its entirety to three different tunes, messianic verses intact. Structurally, I have no complaints about the service and I don’t feel that the music ever became distracting as I always feel it becomes at BJ.
And now for the bad: There was dancing. I’ve figured out why dancing during services irks me so much. I should say, first of all, that dancing with the Torah is something I don’t mind. The Torah service is not a prayer service and revels in the joys of having Torah in our lives. Dancing is appropriate. During Kabalat Shabat, however, some of us are trying to pray. And I get that some people pray through movement, but for the rest of us it’s just distracting and awkward.
And that was really the only thing I disliked about it. Good job, KZ. You won me over.