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Guide to shul jobs


To me Hagba is the shul pimp job. Hagba is by far the coolest job, but could also be potentially dangerous so you have to strategize when you actually get it. Luckily for me I have never done Hagba, and whenever I have been offered it, it was during a double header parsha weekend and that is not the time to be busting out a Hagba. I just dont want to sit with the scroll on my lap for an extra parsha, I also find that whenever I hold the torah, except during simchas torah- the worst thoughts enter my head. It reminds me of musaf during Yom Kippur- arguably the holiest prayer of the year and I am shuckeling and suddenly the worst stuff one could think about is pooping in streams into my brain.

But Hagba could also show how cool you are. You have those guys that bust out the shaky Steve Urquel hagba, but then you have the smooth flowing guys who even exhibit finesse when slickly donning the tallis before lifting the scroll. Then suddenly the scroll is up there and everyone is pointing with their pinkies like a bunch of Tokyo residents at Godzilla and the scroll is high aloft, stretched beyond the 5 column norm and the man doing it is The Hagba Pimp. Of course all is lost upon sitting down and a nervous older single guy in corduroy suit jacket with stretch waist khakis nervously tries to figure out the bra-gartel clasp during gelila, but for a moment the shul was elavted to pimpdom.


Its a dirty job, but someones got to do it. I have heard that its a lofty position so many times I feel like I am an older single getting pissed every time they say Im Yirtza Hashem by you. Every time the Rabbi/Gabbi- guy who makes you feel good about donning the torah with those noisy silver crowns thing says this- I want to say back at him- that I have never seen anyone of loft shul status, such as the guy with the loud Hatzolah walkie talkie getting gelila. When is the last time you saw a Ruv get gelila. I guess the lofty position of confusing which side the gartel clasp is on must be reserved for those with lack of motor skills who will give those souls who feel bad about not being invited to the Kiddush club a little better.

Of course its even worse when the Hagba guy is excepting congratulations and yasher koachs from all the Bimah residents that he forgets to roll up his part of the scroll and you have this weird looking scroll that is half rolled and he seems to be spaced out to listen to this nerdy gelila guy. Have you ever realized how disconnected hagba and gelila guys are? Its a different society, gelila guys get these limp fish- nice job reject yasher koachs, while mister cool guy with a blue tooth in his ear and a loud hatzolah walkie talkie is getting real handshakes and yasher koachs- for his extreme pimping abilities.

C;ick for my video on gelila


In my mind Pesicha can be a great job and a crappy job and this all depends on how big the shul is and where the womens section is. If you get the pesicha at the taking out of the torah and its the type of shul that seeks donations- you may not have to do it at the bringing the torah back time- that works for me. I just hate having to make sure I am in shul when they put the torah back, since this is usually the time of escape to the bulliten board for the Rabbis speech.

Of course if you like people watching, standing up there waiting for all the singing to come to a halt and for you to pick the red or the blue pill ahem torah, you can gaze out onto the mass sea of penguins and hopefully women. It kind of puts you on a pesicha so when you see someone at the Kiddush who strikes your fancy you can walk up to her and say hey baby did you see I got pesicha? It works every time, women just love a man who can open curtains for them.

Yizkor Reader:

The Yizkor names reader is a very lucrative job, not only can they skim off the yizkor proceedings they can obstruct the whole flow of davening by doing it extra fast and not allowing for those who love the brief respite from shul to really get a good rest in. Unfortunately these guys usually dont take advantage of their job and take forever, and make me do the Yizkor Walk of Shame- which is when I- always the youngest Yizkor reader- leave the shul for a break outside.

Duchaners (birchas kohanim)

I can only imagine a new Yeshiva World News article similar to the one about the Christian guy infiltrating the Lakewood community. Man posing as Kohen infiltrates birchas kohanim ceremony and discovered after someone peeked (your not supposed to look- but I always do In fact not only do I look- I also get up early during all the Yom Kippur bowings and look at everyones butts poking in the air with a chuckle- because its damned funny) and saw that there was a Kohen just standing up there and laughing his ass off because he pulled off this stunt. They should take IDs, I dont want a Kohen imposter pulling a fast one on me.

Kohanim have a few minutes of supreme control over the congregants. I have noticed that no one ever says yasher koach to them- but I am sure they are appreciative, after all everyone likes blessings, except for those times times when you keep sneezing in class and people keep saying Bless You- its enough already ok.

I personally would love to pull off some Capitan Spock moves barefoot in shul. First of all they get to look at everyone while- those people cant look at them- its almost like those Zack Morris time outs (who remembers those) Then you get to have your hands washed- how cool is that, and then you get to take 10% of our food- shoot its almost as good as eating rice on pesach.

Aliyah Caller Upper:

I must admit whenever I get one of those thick plastic aliyah cards that must be made from recycled Plexiglas from banks- I feel like the man. I feel cool for just a few minutes- hopefully more because I prefer shishi to shleeshi- just because it allows me to some prime Kiddush scouting time.

The aliyah caller upper guy- sometimes the gabbi, but usually someone cool who doesnt come to the minyanim on the weekdays for some reason. He has the ultimate in power, he can get you euphoric or make you feel like a loser. Although in fancy shuls that give you the card for menial jobs like grabbing the besumin case from under the shtender in the Rabbis study or chaining the torah to the bimah- even give some sort of status to those jobs.

The aliyah guy has supreme power and probably the best job in shul, because he gets to use leverage to get invited to the Kiddush club and he is usually the first guy sneezing when a box of snuff is passed around.

Torah Holders:
Torah holding can be great, if your tipsy and dancing around to favorites like Aneinu, but during hoshanos with a bunch of sweaty, smelly morning breath men by accidentally poking you with their lulavs (insert sexual joke here) it just sucks. It also sucks if the bimah is too high to rest your tired arms and you have to just hang around, kind of feeling left out in the see of lulavs0 with your bulky scroll.

During pesicha its great if they happen to be using your torah, but if you got stuck with the second torah God help you.

Hand Signal Guy:

I always felt that the hand signal guys reminded me of those dudes on the runway with glow sticks. I also always wondered if there was universal system of signals for torah readers or a thumb dip could mean one thing to one torah reader and to an Australian Torah reader it meant something way different. The hand signal guys are just super cool, enough said.

Anim Zemiros Doers:

When the folks doing anim zemiros are in their teens you can tell the shul is dying. When the guy doing anim zemiros is 80, you got to wonder what happened to the shul. I never even knew what anim zemiros was until I was in college. As a youth I never lasted in shul longer then the taking out of the torah and in yeshiva no one sang anim zemiros, actually nothing was sang at all- so I never knew until I got out into the real world. I find that many modern orthodox shul utilize anim zemiros as a way to end after 12, because in order to stay within modern orthodoxy a shul must after 12, its a rule, at least where I am from.

Kiddush Bouncers:

Usually hired by the caterer or by some unruly parents that feel it is their job to discipline all other kids like they discipline their own- the kids of these usually cranky middle aged parents usually grow up to be shmucks. Anyway you have these irate parents screaming at you for merely looking at the ice cream scoop shaped mounds of 3 week old tuna. Of course you have the official Kiddush bouncers of the shul. In most shuls its the folks who are setting up the Kiddush, they will leave the door open and then boom they say Ok I have had enough and suddenly the door is locked by a large wielding a spatula dripping with pieces of kugel and oil. You are either locked in or out, in is good- because once locked in- its almost as if permission has been granted for you to help yourself to some orange soda and sugar kichel.

{ 111 comments… add one }
  • utubefan March 31, 2008, 10:06 PM

    Please translate the hand signaling. Husband is traveling.
    Also, it seems that Pesicha is supposed to go to a guy whose wife is pregnant as a segula for an easy birth. I remember once that my husband came home embarrassed from a new Shul he was trying out because some guy he knew there bought him Pesicha. He had seen me somewhere and saw that I was pregnant and about to pop. M y husband and I both felt weird about it. And it didn’t help that–in the end–the Gabbai guy was someone I used to hang out with in Woodburne. It was all too familiar and too personal. The birth went pretty much the same way that most do–not so much fun.

  • heshman March 31, 2008, 10:35 PM

    So who’s your babies daddy? The Gabbi!!! I remember you two used to chill in PJ’s game room. Thats it I am writing a post about Woodbourne- oh I have done that already, maybe I’ll rewrite one.

    The hand signal guy is the dude that signals for the Bal Koreh during laining. This is to provide the lainee with a way to gauge the Trup or the stopping points. The hand signals are glorified thumb dips.

  • Xvi March 31, 2008, 11:07 PM

    I feel like you left out a biggie. Bima klopper guy. Whether its a Rabbi’s speech about to begin or a yaaleh v’yavo this guy just needs that extra attention that klopping from your seat wont allow. Give it up for Bima klopper guy.

    And complete agreement on the Yom Kippur musaf thing. The very fact that you KNOW that this is the ultimate prayer is what drives those thoughts into your head. So long as I live, I have a sneaking suspicion that ‘2 girls 1 cup’ will be making a mental appearance during that tefilah.

  • Ari April 1, 2008, 7:25 AM

    Nice one, Xvi. Is the klopper always the same guy who mutters Yaaleh V’yovo out loud during Shemona Esrei as a public service.

    How about the guy who announces the molid, the New Moon for Rosh Chodesh? That’s a pressure situation. This job ususally falls to the token Yekki.

    And the candy man? Talk about a pimp. Who’s your (sugar) daddy now?

  • Hesh April 1, 2008, 9:04 AM

    Hey I am not super man- OK Xvi we need to talk- well actually I don’t know if I want to talk to someone who has good memories of 2 girls 1 cup- I mean- I have blocked it out of my memory forever- beside for the fact that I wanted to make a 2 Jews 1 cholent film- I really haven’t thought about the horrors of that film. 2 girls 1 finger was even worse.

  • Headbanger April 1, 2008, 12:04 PM

    I’ve taken part in many of these shul acts except Gabbi work and Hagba. It seems every shul on earth has the same mini government going on with nobody knowing who elected each person to his position. There’s always the bitter old man who complains about everything under the sun. Everyone waits patiently for him to stop showing up to shul but it never happens.

    I personally love being the kiddush bouncer. I’m not fat in any sense but the power of being able to send children out of the room because you feel like making them leave is great satisfaction. I’ve squirted countless children with seltzer and cholent oil for not listening. Then when the parents come to rebuke me I just say he was playing in the kitchen and he did it to himself ignoring my warning. I’ve even been able to have perverted conversations with bearded men about Hot Channi’s and Atlantic city trips after they’ve had a few shots during the Rabbi’s speech. Many children have also picked up my juvenile dick jokes while invading my kitchen. Parnassah is fun.

  • frumcollegegirl April 1, 2008, 12:55 PM

    guys can look cultured and refined until you mention chulent or kiddush. then any semblance of civilization is lost as they prattle off on long rants….

  • Headbanger April 1, 2008, 1:00 PM

    Girls can also look cultured and refined until you mention Chase Crawford or senior yearbook photos. Trying to condescend men doesn’t usually get a girl too far.

  • Hesh April 1, 2008, 1:01 PM

    Obviously you don’t have any knowledge of kiddush culture my dear friend- Kiddush itself is one of the most loved events of being orthodox- that is why the conservative movement is losing so many people- because kiddush just aint the same without the anarchist aspect to it.

  • frumcollegegirl April 1, 2008, 1:45 PM

    ha if i wanted to make fun of men i would do it on my own blog, not on this one, this one is written by a guy.

    i guess it was a very lame attempt at humor? i always feel so unfunny when i post on this blog…

  • heimish in bp April 1, 2008, 3:34 PM

    for those who never realy got the hang of Hagba, let me put forth a guide of accomplishing hagba, and have everyone thinking,”oh, this guy knows what he is doing.”

    Ok, so you come up to the Bima, you bend down and give thecover a light kiss, and slip it to the side ever so casually, about 8-10 inches away from the torah.

    Then grab the handles, and spread it to expose at least three columns and make sure that a seam where two pieces of parchment are connected is somewhere in the middle.

    Then, with the top of the torah still remaining on bima, lift just the handles enough that the torah is high enough to clear the lip of the bima, and pull it towards you so it is about 2/3 or 3/4 off the bima.

    Then just allow the natural weight of the torah cause your hands to be lowered, and bend your knees sumultaneously, untill it flips the top off the bima, which at that point add pressure towards the bima to straighten the torah out and stand up straight.

    Hold the handles tight so the pressure of pulling it apart helps you balance it.
    Then turn to YOUR right, a 180, untill your back is facing the bima, then turn to YOUR left a full 360, untill your back is again to the bima, and then turn back to your right, a 180, so you are facing the bima. and hopefully some buddy of yours didnt pull away the flimsy chair you aer about to sit down on.

    Note: when yousit down and the guy starts doing g’lila, dont release the handles, just loosen them enough so that the guy doing g’lila, can turn and bring the scrolls together.


  • heimish in bp April 1, 2008, 3:40 PM

    Hesh, can you please explain the ‘Steve Urquel” reference. No idea who that is.

    Oh and when i finally got the courage once to daven in Beth El on 15th Ave in BP, the gabbai cam ofer to me and gave me this cpper/metal plate the size of about a business card, with the aliya enscribed in it, i had no clue what he wanted from me. Man i thought it was really a reform shul or something. Oh they have the best balcany to check out hotties, but usually its only old ladies with doilys on their heads.

  • stacy April 1, 2008, 9:07 PM

    steve urkel was a character on “family matters” he was known for his high pants, suspenders
    dorky laugh/snort and extreme clumsiness. at least thats how i remember him.
    oh and he invented a machine that could turn him into a hot version of himself named stephano

  • no clue April 1, 2008, 9:47 PM

    i have no clue what any of those jobs are— maybe you could explain for us who never learned…u need to put all those terms in the frum slang dictionary

  • Anonymous April 1, 2008, 10:19 PM

    Stacy I love you- Stefano- hahaha-

    “oh Laura my love”

  • Headbanger April 1, 2008, 11:47 PM

    Did I do that? chhh chhhh chhhhh snort.

  • Shira Salamone April 1, 2008, 11:56 PM

    “Hand Signal Guy”??! For real??! I don’t remember ever having seen this done, but it’s been a while since I’ve gone to an Orthodox synagogue on a Torah-reading day. Is there any obvious representational relationship between the hand signals and the trop marks? I’ve always thought that the trop marks could very easily be converted into hand signals. I even have a totally-unresearched theory that trop marks may have originated as hand signals, and that someone devised a way of writing them later. Am I completely off base?

  • Hesh April 2, 2008, 8:29 AM

    The hand signal guy is there to make sure the trop goes smoothly, I personally have never lained- but on the few occasions I have been called up to the torah- only when I go to Chabad – I have found it distracting- its in your peripheral vision- but I guess it works- because in most shuls they have them

  • Shira Salamone April 2, 2008, 10:05 AM

    Then please excuse me for posing the same question to those of your readers who *have* leined and have had the assistance of a “hand-signal guy”: Is there any obvious representational relationship between the hand signals and the trop marks?

  • heimish in bp April 2, 2008, 11:44 AM

    have you ever watched a conducter of a concert? If you you know how to lein and the basics of trops, you would know its just about different keys you should apply to the words and if the words should be said in a continous manner or stop. So if you, the liener, knows how to apply troppen well, by the hand signal you can figure it out what sing/;song to apply.
    So no its not specific signals, rather jsut when to go high, low, stop, and so on

  • JerseyGirl April 2, 2008, 9:16 PM

    2 Jews 1 Chulent!!
    Thats hilariousss

  • Hesh April 2, 2008, 10:37 PM

    Well I did two guys one latke- still have the video- but I took it down- I felt it was a bit too much- send me an email and I can snd it to ya

  • Headbanger April 2, 2008, 11:36 PM

    I was thinking more 2 Jewish girls one Kiddush cup…

  • Anonymous April 3, 2008, 10:34 AM


  • suitepotato April 3, 2008, 6:51 PM

    “Girls can also look cultured and refined until you mention Chase Crawford or senior yearbook photos. Trying to condescend men doesnt usually get a girl too far.”

    It does with the egomaniacal guys with a weak connection to reality. See Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. So if you’re looking to land a David Addison type who loves the thrill of the chase for a husband, condescension is an excellent lure.

    For all other men, reserve it until after the fifth year of marriage when your guy enters the “desperately wants to be a handyman” phase and can’t hang shelves without breaking his fingers.

  • Yochanan April 6, 2008, 9:39 PM

    Some observations of the shul jobs in my short BT lifespan:

    1) There should be a Gelila support group. Better yet…Gelila pride. It’d be like Revenge of the Nerds for Jews.

    2) Anim Zmirot tends to be what I call “The Tallit Folding Song”.

    3) a-During kiddushim, my brain turns into a surveylance center. In particular I’m scanning the kugel, pastries, and other finger-foods to see which ones the kids have put their mangy paws on and which ones are still clean.

    b-Yeah Hesh, I know you said Orthodox Judaism isn’t for germies. I can be a slob myself, but this brings out some pet peeves. It’s very unappetizing to bite into a piece of cake and realize it’s been bitten into by some runny-nosed, finger-sucking 7 yr old wearing a giant bucharian kiddie kippa. Am I the only one who’s noticed a plethora of half-bitten-into things within five minutes of a kiddush?

    4) What about the guy who corrects the Baal Koreh on the pronuciation? I know there’s usually a bunch of them, but there’s always the leader at the bima.

    “Ive squirted countless children with seltzer and cholent oil for not listening. ”

    Squirting hot oil on people, especially kids, is f’d up.

  • heshman April 7, 2008, 6:28 AM

    Dude like always- your comments rock da hizzle

  • s(b.) April 7, 2008, 10:58 AM

    suitepotato, have you hung out in ortholand just before sukkos yet? After Yom Kippur, I love how guys who don’t pick up a hammer all year decide they’re all Bob Vila and want to build their own sukkahs. I’m exaggerating. My dad’s sukkah is canvas that goes on a metal frame that is joined with hex nuts and some creative hammering. It’s always a fun Sunday, going to help put up the sukkah. ((abba))

  • heshman April 7, 2008, 11:12 AM

    Hey SB somewhere in the depths of this site I have written all about the sukkah building thing and how Jewish men are terrible with tools.

  • s(b.) April 7, 2008, 12:24 PM

    I’m going to add that to the list I don’t have — must be able to or be willing to learn how to use basic household tools (hammer, pliers, assorted drivers, wrenches and anything else used with sporting goods or furniture) so we can make stuff together, if we want. (I’m kidding about lists and that being very important to me, but skills are good to have, as is a willingness to learn new things). If I didn’t care about having health insurance, I’d probably contract for IKEA, assembling people’s furniture for them, as a job.

  • Yochanan April 7, 2008, 5:48 PM

    “Dude like always- your comments rock da hizzle”

    Thanks for Snoop-like props.

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