Upon entering the main sanctuary I had no idea that they were davening, the chatter was so loud that I was reminded of eating out on Sunday nights at kosher Chinese restaurants and not being able to hear what anyone was saying over the insanity of a million conversations at once. But indeed not only were they, or shall I say, a few people davening amidst this loud “haven’t seen you all week” chatter, but they were in the middle of kabalas shabbos. I initially felt that due to the decibel level of conversation going on in the shull, the baal tefilah must have been doing chazaras hashas, a suitable time for folks to chat about mundane weekly matters and stare at the balcony full of makeup laden single women who were staring right back down. In the rear of the shull behind all the pews I did my mincha, and noticed that many people were standing around in back talking up a storm. I usually try to eavesdrop but due to the multiple conversations this was impossible and I actually had to daven.
I looked up at the beautiful dome of stained glass on the ceiling, I hadn’t remembered this shull as so ornate, the entire shull is a master work of art, such a shame to be wasted on folks who merely come to flirt and talk, I could almost imagine the beautiful davenings that took place here prior to the invasions of the singles. Throaty chazanas filling the huge chamber, praying to Hashem thanking him for such a large and massive shull with great acoustics. But now the singles were here to stay, pretty much forcing out any older members and reclaiming this beautiful building as their own. Disregarding the artwork for the ever present scene that takes place every Friday night after shull. Its known far and wide as the “place to be”, one shouldn’t miss it for the world. The well groomed professional Modern Orthodox Liberal flirting festival.
I had forced my unwilling brother into coming with me here foregoing the more spiritual davening of Carlebach, in order that I can reaffirm my belief that moving to the city in persuit of a wife is the most asinine thing a tree-hugger like myself can do. I also wanted to write about my Oheb Tzedek experience. I hadn’t davened at OZ in probably 10 years or so. It has changed a lot, it used to be all families, now its all singles.
It was interesting to see that the only time anyone actually asked for people to be quiet was at the very end when the Rabbi made the announcements. Even while the president spoke, I could see his lips, but all I heard was some conversation about multiple J-dates that one guy had that weekend. It amazing I could even hear that conversation.
I must say the leg room was commendable as was the angle of the pew, providing one with a comfortable davening position. I guess it may be a good thing that the mechitza is a balcony, preventing the Jewish Center syndrome in which everyone just stares like wild dogs at each other and the folks sitting next to the women have conversations with each other as if the seating were not separate. The presence of the balcony, does allow one to focus more on talking to God frather then staring at pritzus, but it also causes the scene at the end of davening to be extra climactic. Due to the fact that you couldn’t see the girls at all during the davening, it causes an extra raucous single mania out in front of the shull.
If you actually keep negia, this shull may not be the best place for you. Trying to maneuver through the crowd to the coat rack without the occasional tight squeeze through some lovely ladies is almost impossible. Kind of feel like a mosh pit if you ask me. I did notice that most of the congregants disregard the whole negia thing completely, hugging, kissing, and rubbing each others backs casually as if no halachos were being breached. Ah the bastion of Modern Orthodox Liberalism, it may be that all these folks touching each other were married and just not wearing shetiles- we should be dan lcav zchus.
It is a rather unfriendly shull as are most large ones in NYC. If you didn’t know anyone in shull and came there all the time I doubt you would meet anyone. In other shulls folks try and welcome people they see sitting alone or folks that are obviously new. Whatever, cant really expect anything with regards to this, though the YCQ basement shull rocks in this department as does the Bridge and Mt Sinai Shulls in Washington Heights.