Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Shul Search

When I made Aliyah, finding a shul ended up being a fairly easy process. We were easily able to identify the Anglo shuls. We decided to try out one of the shuls that one of our new sets of friends davened at. I went there Friday night. I davened somewhere else Shabbat morning returning for Mincha. At Mincha the Rabbi asked if my family was OK. He had seen me at shul the night before and didn't see me in the morning. At that moment I was sold. He has been my Rabbi for 8 years and the shul had been a very important part of my life.

With the move to Kiryat Shmuel, we had no illusions of a repeat performance. There are not any Anglo shuls. I hadn't realized that there weren't any nusach Ashkenaz shuls in the area.

After eliminating the Old Age Home, Temani Shul, Moroccan Shul and a whole bunch of other sephardi shuls and possible shuls we don't know about we narrowed our search down to 6. There was the large Central Shul, the Romanian Shul (which is attached to a Sephardi shul), a small shul that only operates on Shabbat and Chaggim, a Yekki minyan and 2 shuls on the other side of the train tracks in Kiryat Motzkin.

The goal was to find a shul that was family friendly where all of us could be comfortable.  We tried to not let first impressions be the deciding factor although there were cases it made a difference. Level of friendliness was more or less the same. Some shuls had names on every seat making it very intimidating worrying about not taking someones seat. One shul I tried out a few times, the first time I got there someone did tell me to get out of their seat. The seats had keys for people to store their stuff. There were almost no seats without locks on them. Some places were just not big enough for the amount of people who davened there.  I found myself using the comfiness of the seats and number of air conditioner units as important factors in deciding shuls. There was one minyan where I couldn't figure out what time they started Shabbat morning. At the end of davening they made only one very short announcement: (מנחה ןמעריב כרגיל) Mincha and Maariv are at the regular times. That lead to a very quick thumbs down.

There were two shuls left accross the Kiryat Motzkin side of the train station. One was described as a shtiebel so we haven't tried it yet.  The other was a completely different experience. The first time I went there was on Friday night. The davening wasn't anything special but it had comfortable seats (the kind they use in simcha halls) and 6 air conditioning units. It pulled into the lead based on the merits that another shul we were considering did not have room for Yom Tov seats.

I decided to give it one more try just to make sure that it was the right decision. On Friday night they were giving out calendars to all the members plus a piece of paper with the davening times for the upcoming year. One of the people giving out the pieces of paper asked me if I lived in the area and thereby earning the opportunity to take one. I was happy because it had a phone number on it. I was also happy to learn that daveing starts at 8:30 on Shabbat instead of 7:45 which is what the plaque on the front of the building says.

On Shabbat morning somebody said hello to me in shul. We had a conversation about my background. I came home really excited feeling warm and welcomed. It was the first time anyone had really noticed me in shul since the move.

We tried to call the number on schedule to arrange Yom Tov tickets. The number was out of service. We found another phone number listed for the shul. It kept ringing to a fax machine. I was starting to get a little bit nervous.

This past Shabbat, Peri came with me to shul. We wanted to make sure Peri liked the shul and figure out how to get Yom Tov tickets. We received the warmest welcome. Although apparently a bunch of regular had gone to the other shul because of an Of Ruf and they wanted to make sure there was enough room for the people attending the simcha. It is very kids friendly and also one of the shuls where you will see strollers in the men's section.

I asked someone how to arrange to daven there on Yom Tov. He told me 'You come in and sit down, right here.'  He also introduced me to the shul President. Peri received a similar answer. Apparently the shul doesn't charge for seats or have any reserved seats. Their fear is that someone might not come to shul because they can't afford it and would be too embarrassed to ask. She asked about becoming a member and was told that we shouldn't do that when we are new to the area. Nobody would tell us how membership works. They also told us that if we don't bring Channah and Shlomo to shul this Shabbat they will come to our apartment and drag everyone to shul. It is nice to feel wanted.

The shul is a 450 m walk from our house or 1 km drive assuming you can find parking. We are all very excited that we found a place where we can be comfortable.