Thursday, July 16, 2015

No More Friday Nights

 Image result for kabbalat shabbat

When I was observing Kaddish for my father about five years ago I started attending the local reform service on Friday nights with some regularity.  Much like my childhood USCJ congregation, they held services at 8PM, which conflicted with That Was the Week That Was z"l and later Wall Street Week z"l in an era where if you missed it there was not a second chance from rerun or VCR.  Even so, people came each week.  There was a traditional service and a little bit of pageant with a choir and an organ some of the evenings, a sermon and pleasant Oneg, often with a semi-formal discussion.  People of that era in that neighborhood at the fringes of suburban New York would commute by car all week, get home finally, have supper and unwind, either with their favorite shows or by welcoming shabbat in a well meaning frame of mind, if not exactly halachic.   Even so, shabbat morning was still  the centerpiece of the JCC of Spring Valley and most other USCJ affiliates where a very traditional experience would occur the following morning.

It seems over time, the Conservative Rabbi's acknowledged the secondary status of Friday evening and its competition with other respites from the long work week.  Many, including mine, did away with the late Friday night gathering, conducting a brief Kabbalat Shabbat at the seasonal time, sometimes with less than a minyan, with people ostensibly heading home to observe shabbat's entrance as family time though I suspect Washington Week and CNN really won out.  In my town, the Reform congregation was the last bastion of the 8PM shabbat welcome, ideal for Kaddish since it was the only place in town that could guarantee ten Jewish men for that service.

It turned out to be a pleasant place to be at the conclusion of my work week.  They had a liturgy that varies somewhat from week to week, musically excellent Hazzan and organist and the most insightful sermons in town which I still read when posted on the Web.  My year of Kaddish ended but a few times a year I would reserve an evening to be at the Reform congregation, even sometimes affording myself fish for shabbos dinner to enable more comprehensive sampling of the mostly milchig Oneg.

But this summer, the time moved from 8PM to 6:45PM.  While they can now have candle lighting from the Bimah prior to sundown instead of after shabbos has already commenced, the new time creates more of a burden for attendance.  A concluding time of about 8PM seems late for supper and those in attendance are less likely to schmooze at an Oneg if they have not yet had supper.  People who work nearby can probably eat and get there by the starting time.  From the appearance of those who come regularly, a large percentage are probably retired so may adapt to the earlier time easily, even prefer it, or maybe even lobby for it.  Yet that one uniqueness of that congregation, its later starting time for the people who benefit from it, may have disappeared from the community.