The Five Ballpoint Pen Rating System explained and expanded

I’m refining the Five Ballpoint Pen Rating System and I’m also creating this as a post I can link back to whenever I give a rating out so that folks can have something to look at and know what I’m on about.

The Five Ballpoint Pen Rating System is my system for rating the services that I attend and write reviews of.

Why ballpoint pens? Because there’s usually one behind my ear during services so I can take notes–unless I get told to cut it out.

There are four categories in which I give ratings:

Music and Ruach: One Ballpoint Pen in this category means awful, incompetently led music and a limp, disinterested congregation. Five Ballpoint Pens indicates first-rate music, nusach, chazanut, whatever, etc. and an involved kahal singing along loudly.

The Chaos Quotient: One Ballpoint Pen in this category can mean one of two things: Either the service is a carefully orchestrated performance with no sense of personality, or it’s so chaotic that no one can follow what’s going on. Five Ballpoint Pens in this category indicates that the service and the community have some personality and that there is a comfortable, charming layer of chaos and eccentricity buzzing along just beneath the surface of the service.

Liturgical Health: One Ballpoint Pen in this category indicates a total disregard for the structure of the service such as cutting prayers here and there for no reason. It also means that the kahal is visibly ignorant of the order and proceedings of the service and that none of them brought their own siddurim. Five Ballpoint Pens in this category indicates a community with a conscientious approach to the liturgy, from the leaders on down. It may also indicate that the community is full of people who care enough about their liturgy to bring their own siddurim.

Welcoming Community: One Ballpoint Pen in this category indicates that I was not greeted when I arrived or at any point before, during or after the service. Five Ballpoint Pens in this category indicates a very visibly welcoming community. This one may be hard to judge in some cases when I already know many people at the service, but I try to take a look at how newcomers are treated.

There is also an Overall Quality rating that is mathematically totally unrelated to the other five–it’s not an average or anything. It’s just my general feeling about and judgement of the service. One Ballpoint Pen in this category means that I hated the service and Five Ballpoint Pens means I loved it.

These ratings are not meant as pats on the back, nor as mean-spirited critique, but as a guide to like-minded readers of this blog. In an ancillary capacity, it may also serve as a helpful outside critique of the service for the community in the review.

Shabbat Shalom.

Advertisements

9 responses to “The Five Ballpoint Pen Rating System explained and expanded

  1. The Chaos qotient and the individual siddurim may light your fire and be minhag in the group-guided minyanim in which you choose to daven. But your rating system has a built-in prejudice towards communities that have resolved their issues, agreed on a siddur for their service, and learned to daven together with ruach and kavanah within a given keva. My Kahal would fail many of your tests, yet for some fifty to sixty of us, it earns its ball point pens week after week.

    • Well, if you had such a system, my usual places of worship probably wouldn’t light your fire either. I don’t buy that the system is flawed because it’s biased toward things I like. I don’t pretend to do objective reporting on services. They’re called reviews because they’re about my opinion of them.

      And, keep in mind that the overall rating isn’t dependent on the other categories. Those just enable me to keep track of things that I like.

      And chaos has nothing to do with indie minyanim or chavurot or anything. I find large synagogues just as likely to have chaos.

  2. I’m with David in liking a bit of chaos in the service. It suggests that the folks there are comfortable with some individual expression during communal prayer, or at least that the service is not just rote.

    The only thing I would add to David’s criteria is a “Flow” category: how seamlessly can the Shatz move everyone along without interrupting the natural movement of the liturgy with announced page numbers, explanations, etc. This includes slowing the tempo and appropriate pauses as well.

  3. Pingback: Shabbat morning @ Romemu… a month late | The Reform Shuckle

  4. Pingback: Shabbat morning @ Romemu… a month late | Jewschool

  5. Pingback: LimmudPhilly: Shabbat morning at BZBI with a weird-ass Musaf thing | The Reform Shuckle

  6. Pingback: Turning the welcoming up to 11–A review of two services at Beth El in South Orange, NJ | The Reform Shuckle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s