Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Honor of the JFKs

Just For Kiddush:  Come Shabbos morning, it is just plain hard to get to shul at the beginning of services.  Here in Albuquerque, this is made somewhat easier by the fact that Congregation Albert's Shabbat morning services start at 10:30; Nahalat Shalom's begin at 10:00; and Chabad's begin at 9:30.

Late to Shul, On Time for Kiddush

Abq Jew regularly davens at Congregation B'nai Israel, where (Abq Jew is told) Shabbat morning services begin at 9:00 am.  He is there - if he's coming, which he usually is - by 9:45, enough before the Torah service so nobody gets sick worrying that Torah Reader #1 (often Abq Jew) isn't there.  But almost always after Pesukay D'Zimra, the opening "Verses of Song" that the Rabbis stuffed into the morning service to make sure that those who prefer to sleep late don't miss anything really important.

Abq Jew has written before about Rabbi Marc D Angel of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, which he founded in October 2007.  Previously - since 1969 - Rabbi Angel had served Congregation Shearith Israel, the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, founded in 1654.

Rabbi Angel has discovered Jews who arrive at Shabbat morning services even later than Abq Jew  (and a code used by Jewish singles - who knew?), as he writes in The “JFK” Syndrome vs. the Real JFK: Thoughts on Parashat Hayyei Sarah:
I recently learned of a shorthand symbol used in online communications among Jewish singles. It is “JFK”.  For example: “Don’t go out with him, he’s ‘JFK’.”  “He’s not reliable, he’s ‘JFK’.”

“JFK” stands for “Just for Kiddush”.  A person described as a “JFK” is one who skips synagogue services and shows up in time for Kiddush to enjoy free refreshments. Such a person lacks spiritual/religious values (skips prayer services); looks for free food (Kiddush); doesn’t make commitments (shows up for food, but likely isn’t a member of or contributor to the synagogue). A “JFK” mingles with the Kiddush crowd and tries to pass himself off as a respectable member of the community. In pre-computerese language, a “JFK” would be described as a sponge or a moocher, someone looking for a free ride at someone else’s expense.

A “JFK” can’t be relied upon. Such a person lacks a basic sense of personal responsibility, commitment, self-respect. A “JFK” looks out for self, not for others.
Rabbi Angel asks that we remember the real JFK's message as we observe his civil yahrzeit. “Ask not [Abq Jew is paraphrasing here] what your synagogue can do for you; ask what you can do for your synagogue.”

Meanwhile, the Jewish Daily Forward's Lenore Skenazy has an entirely different take on the situation, as she writes in Late to Shul, On Time for Kiddush:
My friend and I go to the same synagogue but almost never run into each other. “How come?” I was musing the other day. 
“Well,” she said. “I only go there to pray.”

Aha! That explains it! When she’s walking out, I’m walking in.
Alright - so what, Abq Jew wants to know, is so bad about sleeping late on Shabbos, moving slowly, and showing up at shul Just For Kiddush?  Ms Skenazy proclaims:
Yes, I’m one of those synagogue goers who arrive pretty much just in time for the “Amen!” as we raise our mini plastic cups of wine before elbowing our way — er, gently sauntering over — to the food. My timing is never quite exact, of course, so there are days when I get there and my fellow congregants are still singing “Adon Olam,” the last song of the service. I’m happy to sing along — in fact, I like it if I’m in time for Kaddish and the announcements; makes me feel very much a part of things. But for shallow, antsy and kind-of-cheap me, going to synagogue means going to lunch with friends, there, in the social hall. 
After all, says says Elliott Katz, author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants:
“Kiddush is not just a snack. The word ‘kiddush’ is from ‘kodesh,’ meaning ‘holy’” . . .  “Going just for kiddush is a lot better than not going at all.”
And, adds Gigi Cohen, a Chicagoland mom of three, quoting her cousin the rabbi:
“If you want a one-hour service, come at 11.”
Vermont rabbi (and stand-up comic) Bob Alper reminds us of the quote from writer / publisher / convict / satirist Harry Golden, whose atheist father attended synagogue religiously:
One day he asked his dad why, if he didn’t believe in God, he went to shul. The reply: "Everyone goes to synagogue for a different reason. Garfinkle goes to talk to God. I go to talk to Garfinkle."
As Woody Allen used to say (see Round Round Get Around for more), "Ninety percent of life is just showing up."   Even, Abq Jew claims, if it's Just For Kiddush.

1 comment:

Yohanon Glenn said...

As a person who unlicks the door on Shabat (and yomai hol) I _hope_ that the "shuls" in your town have plenty of people to "make minyan" so those who need to say kadish (vs. kedusah) can do so. People who come late-to-very late are missing out on the "environment" and maybe depriving others of pereforming the mitzvah of kadish.
'Course I'm like Lenore Skenazy's friend; I go to pray. I make kiddish at home (before sitting down to hamin) and save my socializing until Seudat Shlishet.
I don't care how late someone arrives, as long as they are there for all the kidushim .
BTW - good blog entry. Kol haKavod.