Congregation Har HaShem welcomes students and other visitors, and we invite you to participate with us in our religious services. We hope this introduction will provide you with the information you need to understand, feel comfortable, and get the most from your visit.
PRAYER SERVICES AND BOOKS:
As Jews, we pray directly to God, without an intermediary such as a minister or priest. The Rabbi, meaning "teacher," and Cantorial Soloist lead the services, announce which prayers are being said, provide explanations, and tell the congregants which prayers should be said while standing. The prayer books are written in Hebrew and have English translations for each prayer. Some books also have transliteration, i.e., Hebrew written in Roman letters. Since Hebrew reads from right to left, the books will appear to open from the wrong direction, but the pages are numbered so you will be able to follow the services.
TYPES OF SERVICES:
There are two types of services at Congregation Har HaShem, and you may attend either of them. While all services contain the same principle elements, there are some differences in the form and specific prayers. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset each Friday and concludes at sunset each Saturday. Therefore, the Sabbath services occur on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the services, including the refreshments and/or meals following them.
Friday evening services begin at 6:00 PM on most Fridays - except for on the 1st Friday when they begin at 7:00 PM - last 60 to 75 minutes, and are followed by an "Oneg Shabbat," a reception starting with blessings over wine and bread, and continuing with refreshments.
Saturday morning services begin at 10:15 AM and can last 2 hours. The service is followed by the blessings over wine and bread, and refreshments or a buffet lunch in the Social Hall. There is often a bar or bat mitzvah during this service.
CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES TO BE AWARE OF:
As in religious services of all faiths, there are certain customs and practices we follow. Most of them are required by Jewish law, and we appreciate your also observing them while at the Temple. (While you may be visiting in order to observe and learn, the synagogue is not a museum, and congregants are there to worship. Therefore, it may be offensive or disruptive if you do not respect the following.)
When attending services, please dress modestly (e.g., no mini skirts, short shorts, or tops with spaghetti straps). Boys and men are asked to cover their heads as a sign of respect in the Sanctuary by wearing kippot (also known as yarmulkes or skullcaps). They are available in the foyer. Women may also wish to cover their heads, but it is not required. You'll notice that Jewish men and some women wear a Tallit (prayer shawl) during services where the Torah is being read, but since that serves a religious purpose, non-Jews do not do so.
Observant Jews do not work, conduct business, or create anything during the Sabbath, observing it as a complete day of rest. Therefore, while in the Temple on the Sabbath, please do not write or take notes, use cell phones or other electronic devices, use a camera or take pictures, or smoke (actually, the entire synagogue is tobacco-free at all times).
SPECIAL NOTE FOR STUDENTS:
We understand that you may have an assignment to write a paper on what you observe and experience. Please wait until after you leave the Temple before you write down your observations. While you are at the Temple, feel free to ask the Rabbi, greeters, or congregants any questions about the services or Judaism. (Please remember that there is a wide range of knowledge and understanding about Judaism, and varying degrees of religious observance among Jews. Therefore, you may wish to clarify whether their answers reflect the personal beliefs and practices of the individuals you talk with, or whether they are universally accepted within Judaism.) The web site myjewishlearning.com is especially useful in getting explanations and obtaining information about Judaism.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR CLASSES OR GROUPS:
When you call the office, please let them know you'd like to attend as a group. If possible, we'll arrange for someone to talk with the group after the services, to provide additional information about the Sanctuary and Judaism, and to answer questions.
What to expect at a Reform Jewish Service, an article by Rabbi Wendi Geffen.