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Judging shuls based on their reading material

Most shuls have something to read besides for tattered shas sets and stone chumashim. They have devar torahs, emails, shul bulletins, random pamphlets from Israel and a slew of magazines or news papers that rarely have anything interesting to read. I think its pretty safe to say that one can judge a shul based on what they have to read.

Modern orthodox machmir:
Why do all modern orthodox shuls have an obsession with showing Rabbi Frand live feeds on Saturday nights, is this just an out of town thing? Whatever the obsession may be, you are likely to have fliers for this event all over your shul. Weekly divrei torah from Paysach Krohn, I only enjoy his live performances because his yarmulke adjustments are hilarious. Viewpoint magazine has got to be the most boring magazine in the world; I think it was created for modern orthodox machmir shuls to place something on the table shull attention deficit disorder sufferers like myself. Has anyone ever bought an Israel Bond? Those modern orthodox shuls love to get you to buy them. What about NCSY summer kollel, you can read all about it, in nice color pamphlets scattered about your local shul. If you arent into pamphlets you can always try to get to shul on time so you can get a stone chumash the poorer shuls always have 20 stone chumashim and then you are screwed with an old hertz chumash or God forbid an all Hebrew one. Oh and I always sem to find the kasharus magazine pesach guide from 3 years ago in these types of shuls.

Modern orthodox liberal:
I have noticed that the liberal shuls love YU but also have a ton of YCT stuff, they have these Avi Weiss emails, and email divrei torah from one of the women at Bat Ayin girls yeshiva. Some pamphlet about something green could always be found. When you arent looking over the non-existent mechitza you will be happy to know that modern orthodox liberal shuls always have stone chumashim available so you will know whats going on. Unfortunately the seforim lying around shul usually consist of artscroll gemaras. Whats the deal with 6 month old copies of the Jewish Week and those local free Jewish papers which never have anything interesting? Why do modern orthodox liberal shuls bulletins always feel the need to pronounce halacha with a kh halakha what on earth is that? (I will do a shul bulletin post another time)

Chabad Shuls:
It doesnt even need to be a chabad house, you can instantly recognize this fact based on the holiday guides, these large newspaper magazine type of publications always appear to be local based on the little greeting by your local chabad rabbi, but dont be fooled they are national and customized for each chabad area. Fabrengin magazine, tzivos Hashem updates, all sorts of little pamphlets on lighting candles and hiring a chabadnick to come in with a blow torch and kasher your kitchen. If reading the volumes of chabad sichos and maimers arent your thing they always have the local Jewish nesws paper, but rarely do they have any sort of weekly emailed divrei torah.

Yeshivish Shuls:
If you suffer from shull ADD yeshivish shuls are the worst place, they rarely have English seforim let alone emails, because the internet is assur. I tend to find divrei torah from random shuls in Monsey that charge you for weekly emails and say that they should not be read during chazaras hashatz or laining when on earth would you read them then? There is always a random printout in both English and Yiddish or Hebrew, and random seforim that you pick up and try to figure out the Hebrew by reading slowly and then put it back after pretending to glance at it without knowing what it says.

Hippie Shuls:
Divrei torah from rebetzins in Israel. Pamphlets for programs at Drisha, Pardes and the Eco Beit Medrash. Maybe you want to do the annual Hazon ride? Hippie shuls sometimes have the best reading material, mostly because a lot of it is just a random assortment of interesting events. I have noticed a proliferation of havdalah events as if this were the most important event of the week these always start with join us for a most inspiring havdalah followed by something that screams crunchy granola at you.

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{ 89 comments… add one }
  • former baltimorean February 18, 2009, 8:19 AM

    Both Chabad houses and MO shuls are awesome if youv’e got shul ADD, or if you are just plain not in the mood of davening, or both, as both of them usually have a large selection of kids books, and seriously, there are many a Shabbos where I would much rather read even a kids book, than listen to the rabbi’s farfeling, the chazan’s kvetching, some tween whose voice is in that akward transitory stage leining, or some kid squeling anim zemiros, adon olam, or yigdal!!!

  • former baltimorean February 18, 2009, 8:22 AM

    oh, and btw, some BT shuls, i.e. Ohr Sameach in Monsey, even have some stimulating adult books, now thats what I call full service, good literature, and a weekly kiddush!!!

  • Phil February 18, 2009, 9:07 AM

    Chabad houses have great libraries with lots in English. Mainstream Lubavitch shuls are more of the sicha maamer type, the one I go to actualy has yechi books too, which I more like jokebooks. You also forgot the various pamphlets like Lchaim, geulah, living with Moshiach, and pay per views like kfar Chabad and dvar malchus.

    I think the hippie shuls are attracted to havdalah because of the beSAMIM and “light show”. Ever wonder what they sniff or light up?

  • Tuvia February 18, 2009, 9:25 AM

    I was rather impressed recently with a shul based on their website. Thought they seemed like they were going to be great, but was definitely disappointed when I saw it.

    But their website was definitely what got me excited about going there, its weird. There was absolutely no reading materials there either, what a disappointment haha

  • Info February 18, 2009, 10:21 AM

    Rabbi Frand is the man. The only speaker who can quote Shakespeare, Rambam, NY Times, and R’ Moshe in one sentence.

    His shiur is Thursday night at 9. However Rabbi Reisman’s shiur is Motzei Shabbos.

  • Honestlyfrum February 18, 2009, 10:22 AM

    The “KH” in Halacha is the academic spelling. They need you to know how “enlightened” and well educated they are. I always make sure to bring my own reading material with me. Sometimes I’ll keep 2 books in my talis bag incase I can’t decide what to read or the guy next to me needs something. In the worst case scenario I can read my kid’s book. Many MO shuls have really good kids book sections.

  • Talmudist February 18, 2009, 12:07 PM

    You know you’re in an Agudah if all there is are the Torah L’daas handouts.

  • Michal bas Avraham February 18, 2009, 7:36 PM

    The NJOP bulletins, where do those fit in?

  • Jewish Teacher February 20, 2009, 3:47 PM

    As a teacher I always judge a new shul on how well they keep their siddurs – I like them to all look like they are well kept in good shape. Of course they get worn with age but I don’t like seeing random scribbling or other forms of abuse on them.

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