Anyone with a kindergarten level of Jewish education can tell they’re in a modern orthodox shul, the mechitza, the seating style, the siddurim, the flags, there are literally dozens of ways to tell. However, being able to tell you’re in a modern orthodox shul without actually stepping foot into the sanctuary can make things a little harder. I thought of this post this past shabbos as after going to the bathroom and realizing that there were no washing cups to be found. I searched around a little bit and finally gave up, leaving the impurities on my hand and using soapy water instead.
Talesim: Modern Orthodox shuls tend to have a vast collection of mismatched talesim, you can pretty much find anything you want and that includes the ever present scarf. Go to a black hat shul and you’d be hard pressed to find anything but a bunch of really large talesim.
Soap: I’ve noticed that many frum shuls lack soap, not so with the modern orthodox, they value cleanliness. Unfortunately they tend to lack washing cups, which means they don’t value ritual cleanliness.
Basketball Court: Maybe it’s a Young Israel thing (I know YI isn’t considered MO anymore) but many Modern Orthodox shuls I’ve been in have basketball courts. I’d personally rather have a basketball court than a kiddush club.
Ushers: Try finding an usher at a black hat shul, I’ve never seen one, but many MO shuls have a full time or self appointed usher that gives you details on seats, siddurim, and where they’re currently holding.
Brochures: I know very well that chabad also does the brochure thing, but in regular shuls MO are kings of the brochure. They have all these summer programs, internships, and every OU brochure you can find.
Magazines: While we’re on the subject of reading material, the best thing about MO shuls when they have magazines near the entrance of the shul. Jewish Action, YU Torah to Go, NCSY catalogs full of cute girls leading trips to Israel, and the fairly extensive shabbos guide that tends to get longer as you go down the levels of observance.
Yarmulke Bin: You can instantly tell you’re in a MO shul by the yarmulke bin, it’s the best of bar mitzvah and wedding yarmulkes that make it. Or shall we say the worst, you can always be sure to find some satin reform style, old knitted, stiff suede, and the random black velvet that wandered its way in.
No asher yatzar sign: MO shuls tend to not have ahser yatzar signs by the bathrooms.
No washing sinks: More frum shuls tend to have a pretty extensive washing sink situation. Many frum shuls don’t even have sinks in the mens bathroom. I’ve noticed in some MO shuls that there tends to be a washing cup by the water fountain.
Kli Shlishi: Step foot into most MO tea/coffee areas and you will notice that there aren’t a bunch of kli shlishi’s around, maybe we can be dan l’kav z’chus and assume that MO folk are cleaner than frummies and they actually discard their kli shlishi’s.
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