Best of Shul Awards

I was sitting in Adath Israel in San Francisco this past shabbos afternoon in their weekday shul and it came to me that they had the best benches I have ever sat on, it then came to me that I have visited many shuls, and that I could come up with a best of list. Maybe I could figure out which shul has the best kiddush, worst mechitza and most unfriendly vibes, so based on my visitations here is my Shul Awards.

Best benches: Adath Israel, San Francisco (weekday shul)

Most welcoming kiruv shul: Ohr Torah, Dallas Texas (walk into this shul and they come running to welcome you, invite you to lunch and it’s not just the rabbis it’s everyone)

Most welcoming yeshivish shul: Tie between Zerah Avraham, Denver Colorado and Agudah in St Louis (boths huls are black hat and both shuls are incredibly friendly towards any guest that walks in their day, people will be fighting over you for lunch and so on)

Worst mechitza for looking at the girls: 770, Crown Heights NY (imagine a balcony with a tall mechitza it’s just awkward, but fear not my friends, there is a viewing platform where the women model their hooker boots and $3,000 sheitles right outside)

Most boring shul: Tie between Young Israel of Monsey and Young Israel of Forest Hills, Queens NY (I think we could probably lump all Young Israelís into this category)

Strangest Kabalas Shabbos: Aish Kodesh, Boulder Colorado (they daven earlier so they could do kabalas shabbos with instruments, up until lecha dodi, everyone get’s an instrument and it’s mad cool)

Best singing: Mission Minyan, San Francisco (Wrote about this here Ė but they have the best singing period)

Most uncomfortable seats: The main shul in Tannersville NY (Imagine inverted benches with very tall backs that allow for no bend whatsoever Ė they are yekkes so maybe that explains it)

Strangest mechitza: Tie between Lincoln Square Synagogue and Mt. Sinai both in NY

Most litvishe chabad shul: Chabad in Boynton Beach Florida (read my post here)

Oldest most smelliest bathrooms: Mishkan Tefilah, Providence Rhode Island (I am telling you it smells like someone died in the middle of a post cholent toilet sitting)

Frummest shul: Rudinsky shul in Monsey (no one would even think of talking in this shul, it actually is frum, I guess having a big Talmud chacham and good speaker helps)

Least amount of leg room: I have a shul in mind and I canít remember it

Strangest mix of people in a shul that the Rabbi wears a streimel: Goldbergers, Baltimore Maryland (if you want to see some strange people, and even stranger BTís go there)

Best after shul singles scene: Friday night at Oheb Tzedek, Upper West Side NY (everyone spills onto the sidewalk and the mingling begins Ė actually it began in shul)

Most comfortable chabad house: Chabad of Ann Arbor, Michigan (they have couches in shul)

Worst shul to go with a blue shirt on: Kokos shul on Park Ave in Monsey (I would like to add all of the basement shuls in Monsey to this list)

Best mosh pit in shul: Main Skvere beis medrish, New Square NY (naturally 5000 people crammed into a room is going to create a melee)

Hottest married women: Bais Shmuel, Crown Heights NY (I have been informed that the women were so hot that they donít let them come to shul anymore, it was really the only place you could see women wearing sheitles, mini skirts and cleavage shirts with husbands in kapoteís and black hats)

Best herring: Shul on the Beach, Venice California (they had this homemade jalapeno herring and cream herring that was by far the best herring Iíve ever tasted)

Most unwelcoming out of town shul: St. Regis in Rochester NY (lived there for years and half the shul never said a word to me, but besides this point Ė I would watch guests shuffle in and watch in horror as people just kind of stared at them without going up and saying hello)

Best place to see violence at a hot Kiddush: The White Shul in Far Rockaway, NY (take a bunch of transplanted Brooklyn folks and put them in front of one table of food after a long ass davening)

Most likely shul to hear fire and brimstone mussar from the pulpit: Am Echad in San Jose, CA (the only shul I have ever been to in which the rabbi rebukes his congregants and flings fire and brimstone mussar during his speeches.)

Most awkward shul entrance: Tie between DAT in Denver Colorado and Lincoln Square Synagogue in NY (At DAT Denver Academy of Torah you walk in and everyone is facing the entrance, in Lincoln Square the glass mechitzas combined with the bimah in the middle of the layered ros of seating really make for an awkward time)

Only chabad house that davens nusach ashkenaz: Chabad on Campus, Albany NY (not only do they daven out of artscrolls, they daven ashkenaz, because the Rabbi says thatís what most people know and will do after they finish school so why change their minhag)

Most openly yechi middle of nowhere chabad: Calgary, Alberta Canada (yechi was yelled at the end of davening multiple times and I do believe it was the first time I heard it live)

Most unwelcoming chabad house: Anchorage, Alaska (we slept on their floor and all three of us felt very unwelcome Ė I have since learned that we were not alone in our thoughts)

Most complex mechitza:† Rabbi Taubs, Baltimore (it seems like they have an engineer design the thing so you donít see the ladies come in or out)

Best dancing: Carlebach shul, NY (this is no kiruv circle dance where you hold some clammy kiruv rabbis dead fish for a couple of post lecha dodi ring around the bimahs)

Frummest shul with most modern congregants: Vorhand Shteeble, Upper West Side, NY (chassidish shteeble with regular upper west side attendees)

Best Shul Library: Beth Shalom, Rochester NY

Shul that is alive but shouldnít be: Charles Street Shul, East Village NY (the language is Yiddish and everyone is over 80)

Most unfriendly shul that I heard was friendly: Heritage Center, Kew Garden Hills Queens (I stayed for the entire davening and kiddush and not one person said a thing to me, pretty hard considering it was tiny and I was obviously the only guest)

Non-chabad shul with the most chabad siddurim and books: Beth Abraham Jacob, Albany NY (regular modern orthodox shul filled with tanyas, likutei sichos and tehilas hashems)

Most liberal orthodox shul I have seen: Beth Israel in Berkeley, CA (the women do pesicha and they give devar torahs)

Best weekly Kiddush: Kehillah Center, Toronto Canada (back in the day they had beer and wings every week) do they still do this?

Most interactive rabbi speeches: Am Echad, Sam Jose (these people seriously debate with the rabbi in the middle of the speeches)

Strangest Shul location: Chabad of Center City in Philadelphia (the shul is in a converted night club/ recording studio

Best beds in a shul: Chabad of Birmingham Alabama (they have these four post beds with down comforters itís really something)

Loudest shul talker: Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills in Queens NY (there are several very loud talkers Ė the whole shul isnít talking but by far the loudest shul talkers)

Most welcoming modern orthodox shul: Shaare Tefilah, Dallas Texas (Texas hospitality with a low mechitza and a very cool Rabbi who is into Wii)

Coolest Looking American shul: Bialystoker shul, lower east side, NY (has that grand old European, the picture at the top is of this shul)