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Finding a synagogue

Help! There are five congregations in my neighborhood, what do I do?

OK, so you chose a community…and it not only has one synagogue but two or more.

In checking out the community, you spoke to the rabbi at one of the congregations. His description of the congregation was enticing. Your neighbor belongs to another synagogue and has invited you to join. How do you make a decision.?

First, where are you on the spectrum of Jewish observance? Did you grow up in an Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform or secular home? What is the denomination of the congregations that you are considering?

If you have always gone to a Conservative synagogue but your neighbor tells you that the Reform synagogue is where all the cool people belong, what do you do?

Pay a visit to both congregations for Shabbat services.

How are you treated when you enter the sanctuary? Are you greeted with a hearty Shabbat Shalom by a friendly usher who gives you a prayer book before seating you. Are you comfortable with the service? Is it a spiritual experience? Are you invited up to the Torah for an aliyah (the honor of saying the blessing before a portion of the Torah is read) ?

Are you children welcomed? Do you get dirty looks when they act up during the sermon?

How are you treated after services? Do you stand in a corner by yourself feeling uncomfortably invisible or do people come up to speak to you and make you feel welcome. Are you invited to someone's home for Shabbat lunch?

Are you called after Shabbat and invited to other activities in the congregation?

Before you sign on the dotted line, visit the synagogue during the week. Are you able to find the office? If not, are the maintenance people you have asked friendly and helpful?

Once in the office, are the administrative staff pleasant, helpful? Is there a membership packet? Is there someone who can walk you through it? Can you afford the dues? If not, are there special arrangements that can be made?

Does the synagogue have a Program Director, or someone else, who can explain the various activities and programs of the synagogue? Can he or she recommend groups that you may want to join, activities you may want to get involved with and programs that you may want to attend?

If you are planning to send your child/ren to Hebrew school at the synagogue, find out if there are other families in your neighborhood whose children attend the school.

Carpooling is essential if you work, and important if you have more than one child. For many people a carpool is the make-or-break issue in choosing a synagogue.


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