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10 Things I hate most about Modern Orthodox shuls

There’s really so much to hate about davening in Modern Orthodox shuls, once you get past the joys of the super low mechitza and interesting reading materials in the library, the sad truths hit you all at once. The low mechitza doesn’t allow for open ball scratching and it doesn’t make checking out the ladies interesting. It also makes for those annoying couples that need to constantly be passing their children over the mechitza in the middle of laining. The interesting reading materials in the barely used library become a bore after a couple 3 hour shabbos morning services. Don’t even get me started on the extended anim zemiros service brought to you by children who obviously didn’t have a siddur party at their schools.

Flags: I understand that in order to be a modern orthodox shul, you have to give your full allegiance to the flags of Israel and America, so much so, that we place them right up in front of the shul next to the Torah. We are basically davening to the flag, the rabbi (and all the other folks sitting up there) and the flags.

Children singing Anim Zemiros: In yeshiva they didn’t even say anim zemiros, in my shul now they don’t say it either and in most non-MO shuls they say it but without a whole production. I just realized that I absolutely hate it when they have kids do the last part of davening. I’m sure it’s all about chinuch (I’ve noticed that the kids with the least amount of chinuch are the ones who do it) but it’s kind of whack to sit through such a long service, only to extend it even longer. The worst situation is when you don’t have any kids who are that young and they have some 15 year old who doesn’t even know how to daven.

Saying the prayer for Israel in English: I’ll be honest, I’m so frum that I don’t even support the state of Israel and I tend to walk out and spit with disgust every time anyone says the prayer for Israel, but what irks me the utmost is when they have to do it in English. What’s even worse, is when some shuls decide to do it in English and everyone reads along (kind of like in Church)

Two shabbos morning Drasha’s: In many shuls, the rabbi feels like he needs to give a summary of the parsha right before laining. I find that in most cases, the rabbi decides (maybe the board decided) that it’s his time to shine and throw in a second drasha for free. One lame ass drash where we forget it the second musaf starts is enough.

The Torah walk around: If you feel like you need to kiss the Torah, go to the front of the shul and do it. Do you realize how much time is wasted when they walk that darned Torah around and bend down so every kid and his grandma can kiss it. At least they could pick a different tune for the song they sing and have some spirit.

Healthy Kiddush: I’m not blaming all of the MO for this travesty upon the nation, but the idea of a healthy soda-less, herring-less, cholent-less kiddush is so appalling it ranks right up there with separate seating at weddings and slow lecha dodi tunes. Kiddush is not about carrot sticks and water, it’s about cholent, soda and crappy rugalech.

3 hour davening: The only time davening should be 3 hours long is during the yomim noraim, unfortunately the 3 hour davening disease has extended itself beyond modern orthodoxy and some frum shuls have adopted this terrible thing. Shabbos morning davening should be no longer than 2 hours, but somehow (by adding extra prayers, having children singing and all those extra speeches) Modern Orthodoxy has adopted the 3 hour shachris and it’s terrible. I always felt that one of the reasons the davening was longer as you went down in religious observance, was because religious folks came to shul every day so they didn’t need that added time to get them through another week of no shul attendance.

Low Mechitza: I was never a fan of the low “modernishe mechitza” besides for the halachic questions of davening in front of so much ervah (most of it not even good ervah that you want to look at) the low mechitza is like leggings, it doesn’t leave anything for the imagination. It also doesn’t allow for good scratching of your balls and ass and when you have a wife she can watch you checking out all the women (my wife says that I’m not stealthy enough when checking out other women)

Rabbis that switch their suf’s for tuf’s: It seems that most MO shuls have rabbis who are way frummer than the congregation. Like this one shul I used to go to NY that the rabbis kids were in kollel, while almost half the shul was not shomer shabbos. I have noticed through my travels that many rabbis will daven in the modern orthodox nusach (American Hebrew that sounds terrible) even though they themselves use a regular litvish nusach. I think the worst is when they say things like Ma’ariv and Seudat Shlishit with everything sounded out.

Ushers: Not every shul is fancy enough to have ushers, but my worst nightmare is to be shown to a seat by an usher. What is this a movie theater? Sure, I hate getting into a makom kavuah clash with some crotchety old man, but I’d rather fight over places than have to be shown to the front of the shul with no escape.

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{ 54 comments… add one }
  • ? January 20, 2013, 9:23 PM

    Dont support Israel in what way? Financially or Morally?

    • chutzpa July 30, 2013, 6:36 PM

      We don’t support it is a country, believe any fighting is not to protect ‘the land’ but the Jewish people living there. We support our fellow Jews in Israel, but recognize that the land of Israel itself has not yet been returned to us, as we are still living in Exile.

  • AztecQueen2000 January 20, 2013, 9:54 PM

    I like the low mechitza. I can actually see what’s going on and follow the service. And I prefer a slower davening and leining. That way I can actually figure out which page of the Chumash everyone else is on when I finish my own tefillos (I come late and catch up during leining.)

  • Ex bochur January 20, 2013, 11:09 PM

    My pet peeve is drashot that are mostly about current events.

    Sorry to keep repeating myself, but Aliyah solves most of these issues.

    • Matthew January 21, 2013, 6:08 PM

      Yet it causes so many more…

  • Me January 21, 2013, 12:18 AM

    Don’t support Israel? Please tell me you’re being totally sarcastic.

    • Jon January 21, 2013, 3:08 AM

      Don’t you know that he is never sarcastic?

      • Heshy Fried January 21, 2013, 10:01 AM

        I support the Niturei Karta

      • Jeffrey Daniel Rollin-Jones January 23, 2013, 12:56 PM


  • In Israel January 21, 2013, 2:30 AM

    What’s wrong with pronouncing Hebrew the real way and not the silly, Yiddish way? Shabbat, not Shabbos. Bachurim, not bochorim. Chalav, not cholov.

    • Anon January 21, 2013, 4:38 AM

      While I agree that the “silly, Yiddish way” to pronounce Hebrew is historically inaccurate, so is the Modern Israeli, Sefardese pronunciation. For instance, there is a difference in pronunciation between Tav with dagesh (t) and without (th). On the other hand, pronouncing a Holam as oy, or ey, is ridiculous as well (although many ashkenazim do pronounce it as o). The point is, both pronunciations are right (meaning, closer to older pronunciations, like Tiberian Hebrew) in some ways, and wrong in others. Personally, when I speak hebrew carefully, I speak in a way similar to Yemenite hebrew (seems to be pretty authentic), but in casual contexts I generally speak in my ancestral Chassidish Ashkenazi way.

      See the wikipedia articles on Tiberian and Yemenite Hebrew

      • Anon January 21, 2013, 5:55 AM

        Actually, I pretty much only pronounce it in the Yemenitish fashion when reading aramaic, especially that of the Targum. However, I do generally try to pronounce Qof (as distinct from Kaf) and Heth (as distinct from Khaf) in the Yemenitish way during davening or reading Humash.

      • Devin April 16, 2013, 10:17 AM

        That’s why I never get upset if I mess up while dovening shomone esray or shema. What’s the point of being exact when all of our styles are prob historically wrong? The whole set dovening is retarded.

  • groinem January 21, 2013, 2:39 AM

    Why must it be sarcastic? Does Judaism mandate a State or support of it? I think we would be better off without a state, yet I am fully Jewish (beard, bris milah, metzitzah bepeh etc.)

    • Heshy Fried January 21, 2013, 10:47 AM

      It’s definitely sarcastic.

      • Jeff January 23, 2013, 12:58 PM


        • Jeffrey Daniel Rollin-Jones January 23, 2013, 12:59 PM

          Your blog won’t let me edit posts again.

          Sarcasm is SO much better when you explain it.

  • Dazed & Confused January 21, 2013, 4:57 AM

    OTOH, MO shuls do have a better class of scotch & whiskey at Kiddush Club (if you’re lucky enough to get an invitation); the only problem is that too many are now going dry at davening. Since when did we become Baptists? #goyischekop

  • jo January 21, 2013, 5:57 AM

    We must thank g-d for giving us jewish sovereighnty in our land.

  • ronnie G January 21, 2013, 7:13 AM

    Modern Orthodoxy has several different elements .One are the frum YU types who take their Religion seriously,they are the core of that movement ,however within MO you have a segment of people that could not care about the religious aspect including some rabbis ,as well as those that just turn it into a fashion show .Otherwise the Heshy article is on target.

    • Yochanan January 22, 2013, 9:48 AM

      “however within MO you have a segment of people that could not care about the religious aspect including some rabbis”

      Ditto for other kinds of Orthodox Jews. Sure, they’ll do the religious things. But, they don’t really put any thought into it.

  • Puzzled January 21, 2013, 7:18 AM

    It seems reasonable to me that, if you don’t support the state of Israel, you’re likely to not like Israeli pronunciation.

    What I dislike about MO is the attempt to rationalize and render scientific complete superstition. I can’t stand being subjected to lengthy diatribes attempting to square the circle through halacha. I can’t stand the tendency to create difficulties and resolve them and to explain historical accidents in terms of Jewish law. Just go ahead and call “the invisible man in the sky who gives us gifts,” don’t bother me with a Kantian description of “The Godhead, from whom all existence flows.”

  • SJ January 21, 2013, 8:45 AM
  • Ari January 21, 2013, 10:25 AM

    In our MO shul in Denver only Anim Zemiros issue applies. I’d say none of the other issues you wrote about are present (the Torah walk around is very limited, takes 2 mins). And there’s often good Scotch, that is true. Usual Davening is on average 2hrs, 10mins.

  • eff you January 21, 2013, 10:36 AM

    low mechitza is like you are so close yet you are so far.
    but good enough for eye contact.

  • Alter Cocker January 21, 2013, 1:02 PM

    “…it doesn’t make checking out the ladies interesting.”

    How would you suggest making it interesting?

  • Paskuniak January 21, 2013, 6:03 PM

    I was once at a Mo-dox shul where the rabbi would repeat birkas hachodesh in English. I found this rather offensive since anyone who didn’t understand the Hebrew could easily read it in English on their own in their Artscroll RCA-edition siddur. I know the rabbi thought the congregation was dumb – but that dumb?
    And that was after he added a bunch of those post-intifada mishebeirachs: You know, one for the American armed forces, one for missing IDF soldiers, one for battered women, you name it, he made a mishebeirach for it.
    And here are some other things I can’t stand in Modern Orthodox shuls:
    -The rabbi saying “Abraham” and “Isaac” instead of avraham and Yitzchak.
    -The lack of song repertoire for lecha-dodi, kel adon, kedusha, etc. Modern orthodox folk tend not to be as connected to the jewish music scene as the yeshivishe velt, and as a result, stick with the few boring niggunim that they do know.
    -That standard mo-dox shul nusach for kaddish shalem after the chazaras hashatz. I dnt know why. I just don’t like it.
    -The grade-school sing-song version of shema yisroel when taking out the torah on Shabbos.
    -Over-done, under-spirited Carlebach davening (if it was ever cool, they ruined it).
    -That one guy in every Mo-dox shul who angrily shushes everyone around him during the prayer for the medinah, yet he shamlessly talks to his friend during the entire kedusha.
    -You may also notice that during the week, in mo-dox shuls, they are wayyy less tolerant of chassidish collectors who come in, probably just because they are not used to it. It may also be because they dislike chassidim for their non-zionism, but there’s no way of knowing for sure because Ive never seen a modern-orthodox collector to compare against.
    -And finally, the winter-scarf tallis look. Makes me uncomfortable just seeing it.

    But there is one thing that makes it all worth it: That smooth, fragrant, delicious Macallan 18 making its way over my tongue, down my throat, into my belly… Mmm mmm. Nothing like a good kiddush club.

  • yitz January 21, 2013, 11:23 PM

    Come to a chabad shul it will solve all your problem (and create some new ones) btw Hope you support Israel and is only that prayer thata making you pms

    • Yochanan January 22, 2013, 9:51 AM

      But, since Shacharit starts at 10, you’ll get out at the same time the Modern shul does.

  • calander January 22, 2013, 9:17 AM

    If you don`t support Israel, you`ll end up a satmer pervert.

  • Anonymous January 22, 2013, 10:05 AM

    “The Torah walk around”

    I call this the Rabbi-and-important-people hand shaking festival. I kind of like the formality of Modern Orthodox shuls and have heard that this has some correlation to the Bet HaMikdash. But, seriously. Do we really need 7 people walking around the shul everytime the Torah is taken out? By the time a Modern shul puts the Torah down on the Bima, a Charedi shul would be at Shlishi.

    • Yochanan January 22, 2013, 10:06 AM

      That’s me above.

  • Anonymous January 22, 2013, 10:09 AM

    “Seudat Shlishit”

    It’s Seuda Shlishit. Shlishit (third) modifies sueda (meal)=3rd meal.

    Seudat Mitzva. Seudat (meal of) modifies mitzva=meal of a mitzva/ a mitzva’s meal.

    • Yochanan January 22, 2013, 10:09 AM

      Me again.

    • Sergey Kadinsky January 23, 2013, 5:35 AM

      The shul where I grew up comfortably switched between Yiddishisms like Shaleshudes and Hebraisms like Seudat Shelishit.

      I’m surprised Heshy isn’t peeves when all the people in need of a refuah are read out loud, people contribute more names and it takes up time. For each yartzeit, a separate k’El Male Rahamim is recited.

      I volunteer at a senior home on Shabbat, so we get very long lists of cholim and yartzeits from the mispallelim.

      • Yochanan January 24, 2013, 12:45 PM

        It’s Seuda (no tav) Shlishit.

    • Tuna Beard April 16, 2013, 10:19 AM

      I always hated that word. Reminds me of egg farts and old men and fat women who need to shower

  • Reb Noach January 22, 2013, 10:31 AM

    If you are interested in going to a shul where women cannot see or be seen, where everybody acts like they already spend way too much time in shul and can’t wait to get out of there because they need to get back there in a few hours, where you can’t hear the torah reading, let alone the haftarah, because the people who are saying it are just checking the box so they can get on to the next thing, where it is impossible to leave shul with a new thought or insight into Judaism or the world around you because nobody talks about anything other than what’s at the kiddush, then you should go to one of these shteibles or whatever it is that you all call non-MO. If you don’t spend your week surrounded by yeshivish guys or kollel guys and you still want to feel a part of, and get something out of, shul on shabbat morning, then a MO shul is for you. A big pet peeve— speaking ashkinozeis on a regular basis makes the speaker seem like some guy whose never ventured from the kollel. Why would I want to go to a shul surrounded by people like that? And BTW, I’ve been to a lot of MO shuls and they usually take no more than 2-1/2 hours, almost never more.

    • Paskuniak January 23, 2013, 10:06 AM

      Leaving shul with a new insight?? Getting something out of shul on shabbos? In the MO shul that i regularly frequent, the only thing i see people getting out of their shul experience is the latest current events in israel, and a hangover. If the rabbi’s drashos are ever on a topic other than israel, the level is so elementary that only someone completely new to Judaism could possibly find it insightful. The majority of the people there would not show up to shul if not for kiddush club. In other words, the experience is the opposite of inspiring.
      On the other hand, in the yeshivish shul that i attend, people actually daven with kavanah, people sing along, there is hardly any talking, and the drashos, which are actually divrei torah rather than political rants, are sophisticated and novel.

  • BZ January 22, 2013, 12:12 PM

    I split my time evenly between an MO shul and a Chabad, but MO wannabe (officially they call themselves “community”) shul, so this is an interesting topic.

    Flags: Our modern shul has them, but on the sides , not near the ark. No flags at the community shul.

    Children singing Anim Zemiros: Yes in the MO shul. The community shul does this now (with the Rabbi’s son, no less), but it used to be said by an adult (This is a nod to tradition, back when the shul was actually MO. Chabad doesn’t say Anim Zmiros on Shabbos)

    Saying the prayer for Israel in English: The old rabbi at MO used to do this; the new one does not. He just says it in Hebrew. Not said at all at the community shul.

    Two shabbos morning Drasha’s: Again, the old MO Rabbi did this. The new one just says one before Mussaf. At the community, there is no Drasha during davening. The Drasha is at kiddush.

    The Torah walk around: Both shuls do this, but the community one is so tiny it takes about 30 seconds.

    Healthy Kiddush: this is somewhat true, but the MO shul does have soda, and the community shul only rarely serves cholunt.

    3 hour davening: Hit the nail on the head

    Low Mechitza: ditto

    Rabbis that switch their suf’s for tuf’s: The MO rabbi sometimes does this, but not consistently.

    Ushers: The ushers at the MO shul only close and open the doors

  • Malka Rivka January 22, 2013, 12:16 PM

    It’s funny, because save for the mechitzah, this is basically a description of a Conservative shul. Perish the thought.

  • Joshua January 23, 2013, 5:44 AM

    I daven with the Yekkes. There is no comparison! Devout Orthodoxy with involment in the modern world. Attention to detail and tradition but without snobbery. Ashkenazic pronunciation but no yeshivish shtick like going oy yoy yoy. Excessive shokeling and face contorting is just not needed. Tunes mostly in MAJOR key with no boring and depressing or retarded and repetative comtempory tunes that make me wan’t to slit my wrists!

    Melodies always fit the words and theme thereof perfectly. Unlike the rest of Ashkanzy shuls where all the tunes sound unsofisticated or plain dull. Absolutlely no carlibach EVER! When you hear our tunes you will see there is no need for carlibach. Decorum and pomp but with sincerity and proper context.

    O.k. Shabbos Shacharis takes three hours (Yom Tov even longer) but it doesn’t feel like it because every day of the year has a different tune for each season that carry you through the davening like an eleborate symphony orchestra.

    For someone with an open mind who wants to experience real spirituality and a wellcome break from your typical shul scene I highly recommend davening at a Yekkish Shul!

    • Should be working January 23, 2013, 9:08 PM

      Is there a yekkish shul in the Bay Area? How does one know a shul is yekkish?

      • Joshua January 24, 2013, 7:40 AM

        You know if a Shul is Yekkish if they have minhogim you’ve probably not heard of or just aren’t done elsewhere. (Even though it follows Halacha more than the common minhag). They best way is to ask anyone who davens there!

        For more info see the website MACHON MORESHES ASHKENAZ and the blog TREASURES OF ASHKENAZ.

        I live in Jerusalem, I’m originally from England and I’ve never been to the U.S.A. but I can tell you where the Yekkish Shuls are;

        New York area: Breuer’s shul in Manhattan, Washington Heights Neighborhood and Adath Yeshurun in Monsey.

        Baltimore: Don’t know where it is but if you GOOGLE “yekkish shul in Baltimore” you should find it fairly quickly.

        If you’re ever in Israel, keep in touch and I’ll direct you to the handful of Yekkish shuls that have sprung up here recenty.


        • Anonymous January 24, 2013, 9:02 AM

          Thanks. SF Bay area seems to be out of luck on this.

  • Eugene January 23, 2013, 7:46 AM

    The prayer for Israel in english.. gets me every time. I’m there with you Heshy.

  • Nechama January 24, 2013, 3:30 PM

    If avoiding an overly health-conscious kiddush is your concern, then there are some MO shuls that would exceed even your expectations of cholent and crappy rugelach! Last week mine had a cupcake cake. A food so unhealthy, it has the word “cake” in it twice.

    On a more serious note, though, I’m in complete agreement about the 3-hour davening. Maybe I just have a short attention span from too many years of internetting, but I just can’t maintain a reasonable level of kavanah for that long.

  • MS January 28, 2013, 12:28 AM

    Pure class. Just like the the frum satire of old. Love it!

  • susan January 31, 2013, 11:09 AM

    you must be joking why go to schul children should be the main focus of the service. and if you don’t believe in the state of israel don’t go to schul we dont want you there. kiddish or kiddush as it should be pronounced properly since you should speak proper hebrew like shabbat not shabbos should not be the main reason to go to beit knesset.

    • Anonymous April 16, 2013, 12:18 PM

      I guess most of frumkeit shouldn’t go to shul then. How many how many gedolei Yisroel believe in medinas Yisroel?

  • klalyisrael March 4, 2015, 5:13 PM

    You know what’s amazing about posts like this is that in the world we live in today where anti-Semitism is once again on the rise, Iran wants to exterminate ALL Jews (and not just the ones in Israel), and even Jewish students can’t get a fair shake at UCLA to serve on the student Judicial council (google it), we have silly ass articles like this criticizing things that (in the grand scheme of the Universe) DO NOT MATTER!
    When anti-Semites come to torch your home, shove you into a cattle car, or murder your family, they don’t care about flags in shul, the height of the mechitzah, or the health factor of the Kiddush. They care about one thing…Jewish blood running through your veins. Let’s all grow up and work together for klal Yisrael!
    It’s Purim tonight…that’s the message we should be heeding, not how we pronounce our Hebrew in shul, temple, synagogue, beit Knesset.

  • Yanbad November 15, 2015, 4:12 PM

    Here here. I was reading through the comments thinking, these people would love a yekkish shul, and finally I found your comment. I daven at GGBH in London, which is very yekkish but unfortunately, the standards are dropping and the Modzitz Ein Kitzvoh has started being used.

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