There’s an article in the USA Today about Atheist Megachurches that basically take all the fun things that large Churches offer and leave God out of the equation. Sounds like fun, except I’m not sure how it works when they start shaking like madmen on stage only to claim they were saved by Jesus, who replaces Jesus? Maybe they could be saved by Hitchens or Darwin? I wonder if this would work in a Jewish setting? Could there be a real Off The Derech shul, that had all the good stuff about shul without any of the bad?
If anyone was to be the creator of such a shul, I may have to move to that community real quick, as I’m not such a shul kind of guy. It just so happens to be that I’m an expert on what people love and hate about shul. Here is what I would do if I were to create an Off The Derech shul.
I’m not sure if we can take God out of the actual davening, but everyone will be talking so loudly it will be hard to hear the actual davening. For shits and giggles, the Rabbi will try to quiet everyone down by having the chazzan stop in the middle and saying things like “if you don’t shut the fuck up we’ll never make it to kiddush”. Obviously all shemona esrei’s will be of the heicha kedusha variety, even the mythical heicha kedusha for Yom Kippur musaf will be a feature of the shul. Kiddush will always be hot and heimishe, there will be separate milchigs and felishigs tables to maintain some air of cultural frumkeit. I myself have always wondered what it would be like to have a good cholent with good milchig pastries for mezonos. Nothing like eating some good fleish kishke and having a cheese danish as well.
The shul will employ people to make sure the experience is more accurate and heart warming. There will be the cranky old man who kicks you out of his seat, former molesters will be employed as candy man and older single weirdo who everyone avoids. Ex Rabonom will teach shiurim in kefirah, bible criticism, and sexuaql agadata. There has to be a few crazy baalei teshuva to make fun of and start arguments with.
The parking lot will have to remain open and there has to be some sort of prank pulled on the hired BT, in which the bathroom lights are turned off on him, or maybe there can be electronic toilets so that shul doesn’t ever get too frum. The shul will have a tall mechitza with lots of chance to look over, yet there will be no assigned seating, so guys and gals could sit together. Of course, if you choose to sit together, the hired Charedi Niturei Karta Gay basher guy will burn a garbage can and throw rocks at you in the middle of shul.
I think it will provide a chance for ex-frummies to show off their old clothing and sheitles. Nothing like seeing a former chassidic couple getting out of a car on shabbos morning on their way to shul is there?
The biggest problem I foresee with such a shul, is that it will probably become overrun with actual frum people who hate their current shul, those who want to talk in shul, eat treife, and have a heicha kedusha. Those who want thought provoking kefirah filled divrei Torah will also overrun the shul, until the rationalists and the closet OTDers will surpass the actual OTD membership and create cliques, politics, and eventual breakaway minyanim.
Could there ever be a frum shul that isn’t actually a frum? An OTD shteeble…
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