Saturday, November 2, 2013

A modern reading of our High Holidays in Jerusalem

It gives the NF great honour to present you with a recap of the High Holidays (in particular Yom Kippur) as observed at  our South Jerusalem synagogue. The recap has been written by Marc Rosenberg of


The World Series just ended (congrats Boston fans) and thus ends the hype and glory of the MLB baseball season.  With all of the hoopla, it gives me the appropriate context to share my reflections on the burgeoning davning rivalry in the pews of a certain South Jerusalem Synagogue.  We have the classic titans, the Yankees who traditionally have their run of the amud, but in the past year, there is a bunch of youngsters (read, under the age of 50) – for lack of a better comparison the Florida Marlins - who are challenging the tefilla hegemony for davening domination.

My first and only disclaimer is that I am not a hazan. I only learned the techniques because my Dad died suddenly and had to daven a LOT from amud than I ever had before. I was the kid at summer camp more concerned about which girl person I sat next to than what page we were on (but that is another story).  Basically, I am the guy who couldn’t really make the ball team but somehow got stuck watching so much that I am sharing my play-by-play.

Our certain South Jerusalem Synagogue is an interesting place and offers a showcase of combative competitive davening skills, week in and week out.  The gabbaim run a tight ship; a core (read OLDer) group of men make sure that the leining and davening are appropriate for their tastes.  (I know of a good guy, principal at US day school, smeicha and even a kohen to boot, who told me of the time that he was at Our certain South Jerusalem Synagogue many years ago and they didn’t have someone to lein and he could, and did so, but was corrected on his accent and heavy askenazi style).  But I keep coming back because the davneing is a good and good things seem to happen when I daven there. Another important note is that in the past 8 years, a wave of younger families have joined the shul and while much of the control of the shul is with these elders, the younger people are starting to flex their religious muscles.

Each Shabbat, one can witness the ongoing battle between the Yankees and Marlins, as there is sometime a desire to split shacharit and musaf between the two groups.  It was once said that the Yamim Noraim are the playoffs of davening  - so too it was at Our certain South Jerusalem Synagogue.

I personally hadn’t been at Our certain South Jerusalem Synagogue for YK for four years, and returned this year to competing minyanim within the same building.  There was the vatikin vs. main minyan showdown which showcased the selection of hazanim of the different teams.  I did align my davening selection with the Marlins schedule and followed the NF’s schedule which did earn me points with my wife (for going early).  I did choose to go to Kol Nidre in the downstairs slot which was a reply of Kol Nidre from the 1950’s. The davening was led by a Yankee davening horse (NF Editor's note: Dr. CT) which trudged along the same intonation and tunes as in the days of yore.  The morning brought a lighter, faster, and meaningful cruise through shacharit, thank you NF – followed by an incredible musaf by Dr. D – was quite pleasing and I didn’t even go to the Gush. 

Mincha was led by a younger guy who clearly wanted to play for the Yankees and consequently sent me to the upstairs minyan for ne’ilah out of fear of what would happen to my soul.  Interestingly, Our certain South Jerusalem Synagogue's internationally known Rav davened and started off with a thirsty voice causing fear amongst the crowd about his vocal stamina and ability to elevate for the davening finale.  It actually was brilliant and punctual, and something even beautiful happened. Not only did the Rav’s voice get stronger as ne’ilah progressed, he brought in the hazanim from the Yankees and the Marlins to run backup.  They helped select tunes and pitch, and I may have even heard harmony.  Yes, some may say that the Marlins really carried the choir that night – with a special nod to Dr. D, but it was quite nice to see the gathering of hazanim from both sides standing together. 

But now that the season has passed, and I, sitting in my back row seat in the corner, watch the davening duel continue, rooting for the Marlins and hoping that davening ends by 10:45.


thank you Marc 

---- the NF

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