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View Full Version : Jewish NYC Dopers- a couple of Temple Emanu-El questions


Moirai
01-14-2006, 09:29 PM
I want to visit the temple the next time I'm in NYC, and not being Jewish, I have some questions! Hopefully zev steinhart or another of our helpful Dopers will come by...

1. As a gentile, should I only take a public tour of the temple, or is there a service I can attend?

2. Will I need to cover my hair, shoulders and/or legs when I visit? Can I wear pants or do I need to wear a dress?

Anything else I should know?

friedo
01-14-2006, 10:03 PM
If I had a nickel for every time a Doper asked a Judaism question on the sabbath, why, I'd have at least a buck or two.

;)

(Try bumping this on sunday or monday.)

Moirai
01-14-2006, 10:14 PM
Oh, DUH! Watta friggin' Methodist...

;)

tomndebb
01-14-2006, 10:41 PM
Actually, it is almost certainly a Reform congregation (as indicated by the word "temple" in the name), so it is quite possible that:
there could be a Reform Jew browsing the SDMB on Saturday
and
our Orthodox and Conservative members may not have exact information on the protocols and courtesies concerning the Temple Emanu-El.

Margeuerite
01-14-2006, 11:12 PM
You're in for a treat. I try to visit Temple Emanu-El every time I visit NYC. The services can be quite beautiful.

I'm a gentile, too, studying for an Orthodox conversion to Judaism. Since Emanu-El is a Reform temple, most of the service is conducted in English, so it's easy to follow along. Thereís plenty of beautiful music, and they even have a choir.

1) You're perfectly welcome to sit in on a service. Temple Emanu-El isn't like most Orthodox shuls, in which everyone immediately knows you are a visitor. The Temple has close to 10,000 members (around 3,000 families), and the sheer size of its congregation serves to insulate newcomers somewhat. It may be a good idea to attend the Friday night service to get an idea of what goes on, because it's much shorter than the Saturday morning service. If you've never attended a Jewish worship service, just watch other people and do what they do. (The one exception to this is when people stand for the Kaddish, a prayer which is recited several times in varying forms throughout the service. If everyone in the congregation stands, stand with them. If only those reciting Kaddish stand up, then stay seated. I can't recall Emanu-El's custom.)

I'm sure you could arrange a tour beforehand if you prefer, but I just showed up and sat down. As long as you behave respectfully, you have nothing to worry about. Many non-Jews visit Emanu-El when visiting NYC because it's famous as the largest Jewish synagogue in North America, if not the world.

2) If you are single, you do not have to cover your hair. (Married women have the option to do so, but it's not required.) Women are permitted to wear slacks and many if not most do, although you should not wear jeans and definitely not shorts. Short sleeves would probably be okay, although Iíd recommend your taking a sweater or shawl just in case. Don't wear anything sleeveless. If you decide to wear a skirt or dress, they should be at least knee-length, and you should also wear nylons.

Enjoy your visit! NYC is a beautiful place. Iím planning to move there in a few months to complete my conversion, Gd willing. I'm sure Dopers with more experience, or those who belong to the Temple, will be along soon to give more in-depth answers.

Moirai
01-15-2006, 02:01 PM
Thanks for the info, I appreciate it!

Quick question- if the word "temple" signifies a Reform congregation, what might tip me off to a Conservative or Orthodox place of worship?

hajario
01-15-2006, 02:43 PM
If I had a nickel for every time a Doper asked a Judaism question on the sabbath, why, I'd have at least a buck or two.

Right. Because only the Orthodox can answer these sorts of questions. :rolleyes: Considering that this was a question about a Reform temple, a good answer to it would be less likely to be answered fully by someone who obseves the Sabbath. Furthermore, the question was asked on Saturday night after or very close to sundown.

tomndebb
01-15-2006, 03:00 PM
Quick question- if the word "temple" signifies a Reform congregation, what might tip me off to a Conservative or Orthodox place of worship?I do not know that there would be any similar quick tip-off.

The issue, here, is the word temple. In historic Judaism, as carried forth by the Orthodox and Conservative groups, there is only the one Temple in Jerusalem, although it has been destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed, there is still only the single location and (when possible) building.

When the Reform movement arose, one of their beliefs included a resignation to the fact that there had not been a temple in over 1,800 years (far longer than there had ever been a temple) and that they should consider the (spiritual?) temple anywhere they chose to worship. At that point they began using the word "temple" in the names of their synagogues.

A Jewish house of worship that includes the word temple, therefore, has a 99.9999% chance of being Reform and a .0001% chance of being some odd variation of Messianic Judaism or something and a 0% chance of being Orthodox or Conservative.

It is a one-way situation, however. Some Reform congregations continue to use the word "synagogue" so a Jewish house of worship that does not include the word "temple" in the name might be used by a congregation of any tradition.

Zahava424
01-15-2006, 06:26 PM
Here (http://www.emanuelnyc.org/) is the temple's website. The "Emanu-El at a Glance" section states very clearly that it's Reform. I believe there are multiple Temple Emanu-El's; I remember hearing of one in San Fransisco, for instance. I believe they're all reform.

There is no comparable term that indicates when a synagogue is Orthodox. For instance, mine is called "Congregation of Israel," but I know of others called "People of Kindness" and "Joyous Song of Israel." (They sound less stilted in Hebrew.)

If you're interested in a user-friendly Orthodox service, you might look into the beginner services at the Lincoln Square Synagogue (http://www.lss.org/). I've never attended, but from what I've heard, they're beautiful. They're held from 9:15 to noon every Saturday, though I'm assuming you don't have to stay for the whole thing. It's targeted more at non-observant Jews than at curious gentiles, but the general atmosphere is supposed to be very open and welcoming.

This is a bit off-topic, but Margeuerite-- you're converting to Judaism? Congratulations and welcome to the tribe. How did you decide? Which sect are you converting to?

Moirai
01-15-2006, 07:44 PM
I'm curious as well Margeuerite, if you'd like to share.

I see that the LSS website has a "restaurant list" but it wouldn't load. Damn.

To continue the slight hijack of my own thread (and feel free to hijack away, it will be very interesting!), how about a question about shared worship spaces?

When I was growing up, we had a Jewish congregation who shared our church building with us (the rabbi and our minister were best friends). On Sundays it was Christ Church by the Sea, and on Fridays it was Shir Ha-Ma'alot temple. Reform, obviously. Eventually they got their own building, but I was a little disappointed because Bernie King is one hell of a rabbi and it was great to be so close to a different religion to learn and share.

Could an Orthodox congregation share space with a gentile faith? Or must each congregation have it's own worship space?

Interestingly, my National Geographic came last night, and there is a story about Lubavich Jews ("A Faith Grows in Brooklyn").

friedo
01-15-2006, 08:01 PM
Right. Because only the Orthodox can answer these sorts of questions. :rolleyes: Considering that this was a question about a Reform temple, a good answer to it would be less likely to be answered fully by someone who obseves the Sabbath. Furthermore, the question was asked on Saturday night after or very close to sundown.

Don't have a cow, man. I was just making an amusing observation.

Moirai
01-15-2006, 08:15 PM
I saw the ;) (and laughed!) and I think maybe hajario just missed it.

No sweat.

Sir Prize
01-15-2006, 08:40 PM
A Jewish house of worship that includes the word temple, therefore, has a 99.9999% chance of being Reform and a .0001% chance of being some odd variation of Messianic Judaism or something and a 0% chance of being Orthodox or Conservative.
It isn't uncommon for a Conservative synagogue's name to include the word "Temple". Try a search on "conservative temple"

Zahava424
01-15-2006, 08:54 PM
I'm curious as well Margeuerite, if you'd like to share.

I see that the LSS website has a "restaurant list" but it wouldn't load. Damn.

To continue the slight hijack of my own thread (and feel free to hijack away, it will be very interesting!), how about a question about shared worship spaces?

When I was growing up, we had a Jewish congregation who shared our church building with us (the rabbi and our minister were best friends). On Sundays it was Christ Church by the Sea, and on Fridays it was Shir Ha-Ma'alot temple. Reform, obviously. Eventually they got their own building, but I was a little disappointed because Bernie King is one hell of a rabbi and it was great to be so close to a different religion to learn and share.

Could an Orthodox congregation share space with a gentile faith? Or must each congregation have its own worship space?


I could access the restaurant list, so I'll link to it here (http://www.lss.org/restlist.pdf) on the off chance that it helps. (Caution: It's a PDF.) I'm not sure why you're interested in it-- It's just a listing of kosher restaurants, and it doesn't seem to be a very good one. It looks to be a lot of take-out places. This (http://nachas.org/BethYehuda/kosher.html) seems to be a better list, if you want one.

As for an Orthodox congregation sharing another faith's worship space (though I am not purporting to know the exact Jewish law on this matter), I will tell you that most Orthodox people I know would find it very dodgy.
First of all, there are specific requirements for a Jewish worship space. It has to be pointed towards Jerusalem. In the front, there is an Aron Kodesh, a holy ark (basically a large, ornate cupboard) that holds the Torah scrolls. In an Orthodox synagogue, there will be a men's section and a women's section. The pews will be filled with Jewish prayerbooks and Copies of the five books of Moses, and it'd be really inconvenient to switch them all every day.
I think that many other faiths (with some obvious exceptions, like Islam) would prefer not to have the men and women separate, and the eastern orientation of the building often makes for a somewhat odd construction. Also, there's a random podium in the middle of the room that's used for reading the Torah.
Those are fairly minor structural issues in and of themselves, but when it comes to the ark in the front of the room, I think many Orthodox people would be uncomfortable with the idea of a Christian service, for instance, being held in the same room where Torah scrolls are stored.

Many Orthodox people (though I'm not among them) consider it against Jewish law, or at least inadvisable, to even enter a house of worship of another faith. I think if the building were shared, that could become sort of inconvenient. Regardless, my sense is that the community, and particularly the Rabbi leading the congregation, would prefer not to confer any implied legitimacy on the other faith by agreeing to facilitate its worship. Jews are not allowed, by Jewish law, to help gentiles worship another god. Though it's unclear whether Christianity qualifies as the worship of another god, and Islam certainly doesn't, Orthodox Jews probably would not be okay with helping people of other faiths worship in a way not sanctioned by Judaism.

Reading over my post, that sounded a little blunt. I don't mean to be rude; it's just that these are the issues likely to come up if you approach an Orthodox congregation asking to share its space.

Zahava424
01-15-2006, 08:57 PM
Also, just another practical concern-- Orthodox synagogues are in use every day, at least three times a day. I'm not sure when the other congregation could even have a time slot.

hajario
01-15-2006, 09:47 PM
Don't have a cow, man. I was just making an amusing observation.

I'm not having a cow. When I have a cow you'll know it. ;)

That said, it's insulting to imply that the Orthodox are "more Jewish" than the rest of us.

Moirai
01-15-2006, 09:59 PM
Hajario, I really didn't get that from his/her post. Maybe it's just a misunderstanding?

hajario
01-15-2006, 10:03 PM
I certainly don't mean to say that it's deliberate but I've seen it here a lot. If a question about Judaism is asked on a Friday night, someone will almost always make a comment like his. The implication is that there won't be anyone qualified to give the correct answer until Shabat is over. Clearly, this is false.

tomndebb
01-16-2006, 01:12 AM
It isn't uncommon for a Conservative synagogue's name to include the word "Temple". Try a search on "conservative temple"hmmmm

You are right and I was wrong. I even found a Conservative Temple Emanu-El (http://www.mbsynagogue.org/) (although they still identify the building as a synagogue despite using the word temple in the name of the congregation).

My experience had been different. So now my questions would be:
Do any Orthodox include the word temple in the name of the congregation?
Do any Conservatives use the word temple when describing the building (as opposed to the congregation)?

Margeuerite
01-16-2006, 05:33 AM
Originally Posted by Zahava424
This is a bit off-topic, but Margeuerite-- you're converting to Judaism? Congratulations and welcome to the tribe. How did you decide? Which sect are you converting to?Thank you! I'm looking forward to joining Am Yisrael; although I'm still working on the halachos of Shabbos, and it will probably be close to a year before I'm officially converted.

EJsGirl, I'm glad I have your permission, because I don't want to hijack your thread. :-) Actually my conversion story started out very innocently. I was browsing the internet one day and saw something about Brooklyn's Satmar Chassidim. I had never heard of them, which in itself piqued my interest. I started learning about them and other Chassidic sects, then Orthodoxy, and finally Judaism as a whole.

I've always had an interest in comparative theology (several of my friends are Muslims, and I bother them regularly with questions about the Qur'an and classical Arabic), so I began learning basics about the Torah. I learned to read Hebrew with the help of a sympathetic Chabad rabbi and numerous internet audio files. I attended services at Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform synagogues. I began learning brochos "just to broaden my mind", as I told myself. As I became more serious, I read more about the faith in general (usually from an Orthodox viewpoint, since that's what I was used to). After a year or so, I realized I was in love and could not live without Judaism, even though I hadn't been "looking" and had been perfectly happy as a religious Catholic. I still can't describe exactly what happened, or why; but I feel like I've been given a great gift, and life would be only a pale shadow of beautiful if I could not live as a Jew.

I count myself lucky because the foundations of my study have been from an Orthodox perspective and the people who originally drew me to Judaism (although they probably didn't intend to) were all either Litvish or Chassidish, leaving me much less to learn when I finally undergo the Orthodox conversion. From the beginning I always just assumed that if I wanted to be Jewish, I had to be Orthodox. I never even knew there was such a thing as a Reform or Conservative conversion until about a year into my studies; since then, I've made it my responsibility to learn about these viewpoints as well.

As for sect membership -- At first I wanted to be Chassidic, but after visiting several chassidishe families in Brooklyn, I have concerns that this way of life might be too strict for me and that, as an outsider, I would be very isolated socially. I really admired the intelligence and warmth of those people I had the privilege to meet, particularly one Breslover family. In any case, it's unlikely that I would be completely accepted by any chassidish community, with the possible exception of the Lubavitchers. For this reason I'm leaning more toward a Litvishe or even Modern Orthodox lifestyle, which will probably depend on which community's rabbi agrees to oversee my conversion.

hajario
01-16-2006, 10:51 AM
Welcome to the family, Margeuerite. As I'm sure you are aware, converts should be considered just as Jewish, if not more so, than those born into the Tribe. It's shameful that you would have been treated otherwise and I am pleased that you have found a community where you feel at home.

I have a question for you. I have always heard that an unusually large number of people who feel drawn to Judaism and convert on their own (i.e. not because they are marrying a Jew) end up finding out that they have Jewish blood about which they were unaware. Is there any chance that you have some Jewish ancestors?

Zahava424
01-16-2006, 11:37 AM
At first I wanted to be Chassidic, but after visiting several chassidishe families in Brooklyn, I have concerns that this way of life might be too strict for me and that, as an outsider, I would be very isolated socially. I really admired the intelligence and warmth of those people I had the privilege to meet, particularly one Breslover family. In any case, it's unlikely that I would be completely accepted by any chassidish community, with the possible exception of the Lubavitchers.
It takes a very specific type of person to feel at home in the Satmar community in Brooklyn, for instance, and though I have no objection to the way of life per se, I know it wouldn't be right for me. I honestly believe that, even having been born into an Orthodox family, I would probably react the same way you did to the idea of living in such a Chassidish community.

Of course, it's possible to be Lubavitch without living in an exclusively Lubavitch community; I know of many people who grew up Jewish but unaffiliated and became religious though the efforts of Lubavitchers. Those people often retain Lubavitch customs even while living in other communities.

Something funny-- After reading your post in this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=215380), I honestly thought you were an Orthodox Jew and was surprised, because I thought I knew of all the Orthodox dopers. Mystery solved, I guess! How long have you been studying to convert? You've obviously become pretty knowledgable.

Margeuerite
01-18-2006, 02:07 AM
Thank you, hajario! I've heard that too, and I hope it's true in my case. My mother's parents came over from Croatia, and I've always planned to begin some serious genealogical research, but I've just not had the time. Interestingly enough, my Chabad rabbi asked me that question when he first met me, because he said I had "Semitic features." However, I will say that it helps to "look Jewish" when visiting Boro Park or checking out Orthodox shuls because it helps me to avoid too much scrutiny.

Zahava, I appreciate your compliment. I've been studying for about four years, but I've had a serious intention to convert for the past two years. There is a great deal more to learn. It's funny because when I first started going to shuls, I would immediately tell everyone I was not Jewish, so that if I made a mistake no one would be offended. The downside to this approach is that people were often reluctant to speak to me about advanced topics because they assumed I was still learning the basics of the faith. Now I'm more comfortable about entering debates, but it's still hard to lose that initial self-consciousness.

elmwood
01-18-2006, 11:27 AM
Here (http://www.emanuelnyc.org/) is the temple's website. The "Emanu-El at a Glance" section states very clearly that it's Reform. I believe there are multiple Temple Emanu-El's; I remember hearing of one in San Fransisco, for instance. I believe they're all reform.

If they're all Reform, it's an amazing coincidence.

You'll find lots of synagogues throughout the United States with the same name. Names like Emanu-El, Beth Zion, Beth El, Beth David, Beth Shalom, and so on are the Jewish equivalent of "Bethany [denomination] Church," "Trinity [denomination] Church" or "Calvary [denomination] Church". The Bethany Lutheran Church in Kansas City and Bethany Lutheran Church in Seattle could belong to the same synod, but otherwise they're unrelated.

Regarding determining the branch of Judaism from a synagogue name: if you see a pattern of "[name of street] ('Street' or 'Road') ('Synagogue' or 'Shul')", for example "Taylor Road Shul" or "Green Road Synagogue", it's probably Orthodox. There's usually a formal Hebrew name, but most congregants will call it by the more informal location-based name. In Cleveland, Fairmount Temple (Anshe Chesed) on Fairmount Boulevard may sound Orthodox, but it's actually very Reform; the street suffix is missing, and the word "Temple" is in the informal name.

If the informal name contains "shul," it's definitely Orthodox, and usually very Orthodox.

All Chabad House and Young Israel congregations are related (I think), and Orthodox. Supposedly Chabad House congregations, unlike many other Orthodox congregations, are very welcoming to non-Orthodox visitors.

This observation is probably wrong, but I noticed that the majority of North American synagogues with "Shaarey" in the name are Conservative.

elmwood
01-18-2006, 12:06 PM
An afterthought: in the Cleveland area the formaliy of dress you see at Reform services is proportional to the size of the congregation. Larger congregations like Tifereth Israel -- which also tend to have the most affluent members -- tend to wear their Friday best, Friday casual is the norm at mid-sized congregations like Emanu El and Suburban Temple, and jeans not that unusual of a sight at the smaller, more working-class congregations.

Congregants at local Conservative synagogues seem to dress a bit less formally than those at simialrly sized Reform congregations. Short sleeve polo shorts are almost never seen at the regular services of large Reform temples, but it's not unusual at the big Conservative synagogues.

I found that Friday casual -- nice khaki pants with a dark colored dress shirt, and maybe a tweed jacket -- is usually a safe bet at any Reform and Conservative congregation. You might look a bit out-of-place among the suits at the big temples, but it's a sure bet that others at the service will be dressed similarly, and you won't be looked down upon.

Moirai
01-18-2006, 03:51 PM
You guys are awesome. Thanks a lot.

Feel free to continue posting, this is a very educational thread!