When I was a kid, my parents would take me to synagogue every Saturday morning. Rain, shine, sleet, or snow, we'd be there. It wasn't until I was a little older that I even realized that there were services on Friday night, let alone other days of the week (an example of my stellar Hebrew school education).
In college I went through a phase (we'll call it my "frum" phase) where I davened* (usually with a minyan*) three times a day. Now I am somewhere between those two. I don't pray during the week unless it is a holiday, a fast day, or some other exceptional occurance, but I am pretty good about going Friday nights and Saturday mornings. If I am feeling ambitious I'll even go to mincha* on Saturday.
Here's the problem though. I don't belong to a synagogue in New York. There are about 30 million on the Upper West Side, many of which I attend with some regularity. My "favorites" are probably KOE, Darkhei Noam, and Young Israel for their hot kiddush*. From this list you can probably tell a lot about my hashkafa*, or at least that I'm sort of confused.
Into this breech steps Dan Sieradski (aka Mobius) and his Shul Shopper. In case you've been living under a rock for the past little while, it is, in his own words a "Zagat guide" to synagogues. Let me say that I am a really big fan of this idea. If you're new in town, or new to the community, or to Judaism, or observance, or just want to know what's out there, it is amazing.
But here is my concern. I know that Dan has said that he'll keep a close watch for lashon hara*, and other forms of negative speech, but I think that it'll be hard to patrol, and hard to seperate legitimate criticism from people who are just being unkind. For example, the line between "I didn't like this style of service" and "this type of service is not correct/unacceptable/worthless" may seem pretty thick, but I can think of a few examples where it might not be. This doesn't mean that the project shouldn't be attempted, or isn't worthwhile, just something to be addressed.
Good luck Dan, and we're rooting for you.
- Daven: to pray
- Minyan: a prayer quorum of 10. Different movements define this differently, with all but the Orthodox including women in the count.
- Mincha: The afternoon prayer service, takes about 15 minutes.
- Kiddush: from the word kadesh or holy, the word means "sanctification." In this context, however, it refers to the light refreshments served after a blessing is made over wine/grape juice to sanctify the day. Hot kiddush includes cholent (a meat stew) and kugel (a sort of pudding a la bread pudding, but often with noodles or potato) and could take the place of lunch.
- Hashkafa: personal or individual religious observances/beliefs
- Lashon Hara: lit. the evil tongue, refers to gossip (malicious or otherwise)