The congregation in this anecdote will remain anonymous. Suffice it to say that it is URJ-affiliated and around 700 families. I promise it’s a true story that I heard recently from a source in a position to know.
After years of tweaking Friday night service times at least annually, the synagogue settled, seemingly happily, on services at 6:30 p.m. every Shabbat evening.
This went along fine for a while, but a few vociferous folks, 20 or 30 people, complained that they couldn’t make it to services if they were that early.
The Ritual Committee felt that since no time would work for everyone, they wouldn’t go out of their way to accommodate this handful of people.
The President of the congregation felt differently and demanded that the Ritual Committee and the Rabbis create a once a month 8 p.m. service for the people who can’t make it to the 6:30 p.m. service.
Hardly anyone comes, but the service goes on.
Immediately, I thought, why not create an 8 p.m. monthly lay-led service. The people who can only come late would love it and a whole other crop of people who prefer lay-led services and like to lead them would latch onto it also.
So I asked the guy telling me this story if they considered a lay-led service. Yes, he told me, they had. It was the first thing that the Ritual Committee thought of.
They floated this idea around to the people who wanted the 8 p.m. service. No good, these people said. We want a “real” service led by the professionals with a real sermon and real music.
God forbid anyone should take responsibility for their own Jewish needs. Make sure you get the professionals to take care of it.