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 it’s 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 aren’t 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 aren’t 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 what’s going on. Unfortunately the seforim lying around shul usually consist of artscroll gemaras. What’s 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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 aren’t 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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