Within our shul services our members are looking for inspiration and meaning, for connection to the Divine, for Jewish spirituality, for a better understanding of our traditions, for a moment to uplift the soul.

And they are looking for rituals that are personal and understandable, that help us connect to and support one another, and that promote a feeling of belonging.

With that in mind, and as an output of Reimagining Shul, here are a set of guidelines that have been agreed by our Rabbis and gabbais for all prayer services in BES to use.

  1. Welcome people to the service
    The Rabbi should take a moment to welcome everyone to the service at an appropriate point in the service e.g. just before reading the Torah on Shabbat morning. A must for simcha services, and important for everyone to feel engaged rather than thinking of the service as a performance to watch.
  2. Tell the story of the Torah reading
    On Shabbat morning, ensure that people have some insight into the story that is read from the Torah, rather than simply listening to Hebrew and not understanding it.
  3. Prayer commentary and insight
    Occasionally include short commentary or insight into the prayers that we are saying. Provide some spiritual nuggets about the meaning or history of the prayer that enable people to better connect to the prayer.
  4. Use names for Friday evening mourners
    When a mourner enters shul on a Friday evening, before we turn and recite words of comfort, the Rabbi should say something like ‘This week David lost his father Arnie, and so together we wish David comfort and strength and a long life as we say …’, so that the congregants now know who David is, what he is going through and can wish him long life and find out more about his father.
  5. Use English names and relationships for yahrzeit prayers
    When we read out a list of yahrzeits for the coming week, we should read the English as well as Hebrew names and the relationship of the departed to community members. For instance, ‘Shlomo Ben Avram, father of Miriam Bernstein’, enabling the community to more easily comfort Miriam. Similarly, when someone is called up to the Torah for a yahrzeit, we should let the congregation know: ‘Joel has yahrzeit for his father’.
  6. Say a MiSheberach for women with yahrzeit
    If a woman has yahrzeit, we should make sure that a MiSheberach prayer is said during the reading of the Torah even if she does not have a man called up in her place.
  7. Include mental health in the Refuah Shleimah prayer for health
    Ensure that before saying the prayer for health, it is announced that people should have in mind those with physical or mental health issues.
  8. Tell people that they can carry on their Amidah during the repetition
    Let people know that they can continue with their personal Amidah prayers during the repetition of the Amidah. 20 October 2022 BES guidelines for prayer and services v3.1.docx
  9. Girl’s baby namings should take place at the mechitzah
    For a baby blessing for a newborn girl, and where both parents are present in shul with the baby girl, we should bless and name the girl next to the mechitzah so that both parents can be present.
  10. Use lots of page numbers
    Make sure that page numbers are announced for all of the main sections of the service, including for Shabbat morning the Torah reading, the haftarah, and the Musaph Amidah.
  11. Bat Mitzvah blessings should take place at the mechitzah
    For a Bat Mitzvah MiSheberach blessing (the blessing often given to the Bat Mitzvah father when they are called up to the Torah), where practicable we should bless the Bat Mitzvah girl next to the mechitzah so that she feels like she is the recipient of the blessing.
  12. Make it easier for women (and men) to say Kaddish
    When someone is bereaved, Rabbis should ensure that they have the support they need to read Kaddish, should they wish to do so. This applies to men as much as women. In the service, gabbais and Rabbis should check that everyone has finished their Kaddish before the service proceeds, in particular checking that women over the mechitzah have finished.
  13. Wish people well when they are called up to the Torah
    If someone is called up to the Torah and they have a special occasion (simcha, birthday, anniversary, etc.) the Rabbi should announce this and wish them well for the occasion. Even if they do not have a particular celebration, the Rabbi should wish them well and let them know that it is good to see them.
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