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First Time Visitors

Congregation Har HaShem welcomes students and other visitors. We invite you to participate with us in our religious services and to ask questions of our clergy, staff and greeters. The following information may help you to understand, feel comfortable, and be open to inspiration when you visit.

PRAYER SERVICES AND BOOKS:

Our services are typically led by clergy, a rabbi (teacher) and cantorial soloist. They will announce the page we are on, explain or introduce some prayers, deliver a sermon or teaching, and invite congregants to stand or sit. Traditional liturgy is written in Hebrew, and our prayer books have English transliterations and translations for each prayer. Since Hebrew reads from right to left, the books will appear to open from the back, but the pages are numbered to help you follow along.

PARTICIPATION:

Please participate to the extent you are comfortable. We welcome your voice with ours in readings or song. After services, introduce yourself, ask questions, share your observations and reactions. Our clergy, staff, leaders and members are delighted to talk with you. Please do:  turn off your cell phone and, if you are able, stand when the congregation is standing. Both are a sign of respect to our community and our worship.

TIMES OF SERVICES:

Hebrew days begin at sundown, and Shabbat services occur on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. All services contain the same elements, but specific prayers vary. 

Friday evening services begin at 6:00 PM, last 75 minutes or so, 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:

All faiths have customs and practices, and Judaism is no exception. Some are required by Jewish law. Thank you for observing them while at the Temple. While you may be visiting in order to observe and learn, our synagogue is an active community, and we have come to worship or connect with one another. 

  • Dress respectfully. Our community is casual, but we ask you to dress as you would for your own worship community or as if you were the guest of an important person you respect. (We think of God that way.)
  • Consider wearing a kippah (yarmulke or skullcap). Jewish men traditionally cover their heads. Reform Jews -- both men and women -- may choose to do so. In our community, some do and some don't. If you are comfortable take a kippah from the basket outside the sanctuary and wear it. There may be clips to help keep it on your head.
  • On Saturday mornings, you'll notice that some congregants wear a prayer shawl or tallit. This ritual garment is not worn by non-Jews.
  • Avoid using your cell phone. Don't take pictures or make recordings. 
  • Please do not bring food or drink into the sanctuary.
  • Please avoid wearing fragrances or scented lotions, cologne, perfumes or sprays. Members of our community (and some of our visitors) are sensitive.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR STUDENTS:

We understand that you may want to take notes to capture your reactions and observations. Please do not take notes during services. After you leave the building or outside the oneg, there will be time to make notes. Do ask the clergy, greeters or leaders (they're wearin permanent name tags), or congregants any questions about the services or Judaism.

Please remember that our members have a wide range of knowledge and understanding about Judaism, and practice Judaism differently. You'll get different answers from different people and, while there are multiple true answers, not all are acurate. You may wish to clarify whether answers reflect the personal beliefs and practices of the speaker or whether they are universally accepted within Judaism. (Lots of things aren't universally acceptable in Judaism. Even our greatest sages disagreed on how to practice and what practices meant.)

The web sites myjewishlearning.com and reformjudaism.org are especially useful in getting explanations and obtaining information about Judaism.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR CLASSES OR GROUPS:

Please contact the office to let us know you would like to visit as a group. If possible, we'll arrange for someone to talk with you after services, to provide additional information and answer questions.

What to expect at a Reform Jewish Service, an article by Rabbi Wendi Geffen.

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780