Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Declining shul etiquette

Following on from my colleague Simon Rocker's complaint about his congregation clapping after the barmitzvah boy finished leining, blogger 'Daddy Day' has added an entire list of complaints about the decline in etiquette in his own shul, Borehamwood and Elstree (by coincidence, my shul as well):

Perhaps the worst is the appearance of mobile phones in synagogue. Not content to merely be without their precious mobiles / blackberries / iphones for 2-3 hours of shul, people - 99.9% of time guests to simchas - keep them on, so that they ring during the service. On one occasion in our own shul, the grandfather of the Bar Mitzvah boy even took his phone out to capture his grandson's special moment on camera!

The problem is so horrendous in Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue that guests are now asked to deposit their phones into plastic pouches, and then given a raffle ticket to be able collect their phone once they leave the shul's premises! We've been known to collect more than 50 phones on particularly bad weeks!!

Equally appalling was the response of another shul-goer on Yom Kippur, who felt there was absolutely nothing wrong with his child playing on his games console in shul, during the service, and who responded by saying "well, at least he's not making any noise"! Not making any noise?!?!?! Hello!! This is a synagogue...we are here to pray, thank G-d, celebrate being Jewish (and have a bit of a natter with our friends)!

This, of course, reminds me of a true story told to me by the former president of a congregation that shall remain unnamed. He was standing at the entrance to his shul, asking guests as they came in whether they had a mobile phone in order to prevent precisely the kind of scenario described above. "No," answered one worried lady. "I didn't know I needed one."

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