The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The President

No, DB, this is not about the president. It's about being president of a shul. My shul in particular. On Yom Kippur.

Let me start with a story. Maisah she'hayah.

Since we moved to our new building 5 years ago, our Rav has been giving a shiur on inyanei teshuva on motsai Shabbos Shuva rather than the traditional Shabbos Shuva drasha. (We started doing this because we were no longer welcome at the gym where we had been doing it for many years. And, since we typically drew 600 to 800 people and the main sanctuary could only hold 450, the new building on Shabbos afternoon simply didn't work. Instead, we import AV equipment and pipe the drasha into our beis medrash and basement. In total, we had over 800 people in the building this year).

In any event, before the Rav's drasha, our current president made a few announcements. Apparently the sound quality was not up to expectations of one of our members who remarked, "you should invest in a better sound system." This same member, who drives a fancy car and lives in a fancy house, days earlier had pledged the sum total of $100 to the Kol Nidre appeal after a seven minute conversation with the self same president.

And then there are the members who go directly to the Rav to complain about their seating assignments or the fact that they didn't get maftir Yonah even though they pledged $18 (or nothing) to the KN appeal and don't so much as lift a finger on behalf of the shul.

Last year someone actually got into a heated argument with the president during the break between Musaf and Mincha on Yom Kippur.

The president is ultimately responsible for seating over 750 people in two minyanim. Of handing out scores of kibbudim in two minyanim. Even though there is a seating committee chairman and there are gabbaim, the close calls all go back to the president. Talk about thankless jobs.

Last night as we finished Ne'ilah and the ba'al tefilah and Rav were dancing on the bimah, I saw a look on the face of our president that I have seen before. On myself. I did this gig for six years. It is a combination of exhaustion, relief and resignation. Sort of, "what was this all about?".

On one hand, you know that you played a major role in something very unique and special (even if few people recognize it). On the other, you harbor feelings of bitterness and resentment for all the smallness you've seen and don't like that you feel this way. You are also very glad that it is over, and not because you are hungry.

I am very glad that I served my time. I am even happier that I'm done.



  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger one who was there said…

    Its funny-I was wondering why I didn't get maftir yona :-(
    but...I'm willing to forgo it if they make rules about the post davening dance:

    1) Either after musaf or neilah-not both.
    2) 1 little dinky camera up front ? Bar-mitzva boys get more !
    3) Hard and fast rules about who goes up on the bima to join the dance.
    4) Assurance that a minyan of people actually hear the kaddish to answer amen (ok-cold litvak talk, sorry).

  • At 5:18 PM, Blogger and so it shall be... said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 5:19 PM, Blogger and so it shall be... said…

    As the one-time shul president of a shul 1/20th the size of AK, I know what you mean. How? Because if one were to be the president of a shul with 3 members, they would still get the complaints, see the miserable miserly side of people, and discover how thankless and depressing public service truly is. I know some people do it for the kovod. But only because their threshhold for personal honor is exceptionally low.

  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger uberimma said…

    Sh'asani kirtzono. I am so glad I will never have to deal with any of this.

  • At 9:16 PM, Blogger PsycleSteve said…

    Been there, done that. Was the president of the first shul built in our area - for 2 years. It was during the years of the actual construction, setting up the constitution, etc. As the song goes, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then". After several years of annual resignations, I always seem to be re-elected to the shul board. (kofin oto ad shaomer rotza ani?)

    You seem to have escaped relatively unscathed, what's your secret?

    PS For some bizarre reason they seemed compelled to honor me at this years' dinner. Go figure...

  • At 3:41 AM, Blogger ChassidShoteh said…

    In response to One who was there:
    How could you possibly restrict those that want to take part in dancing on what the gemara calls the happiest day of the year. the same thing with dancing after musaf AND neila. OH MY GOD WHAT A NIGHTMARE, TWO DANCES??? you arn't davening in punavitch . The kotzker said that you should be so completely overtaken by the happiness of yom kippur that you couldn't even think of eating i guess you missed that memo. somebody in the shul felt overjoyed that he wanted to express it, as generations before him had, with a dance, and you want to take it away from him? maybe you should be the one who wasn't there and find yourself another shul

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger The Town Crier said…

    The post davening dance is the biggest tircha detziburah. if people wanna dance they can dance to their hearts content after maariv.

  • At 2:50 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    Not in our shul. It is expected and has become part of the mesorah. Anyone who isn't interested can daven in the downstairs minyan which ends on time and goes straight into maariv.

  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger ChassidShoteh said…

    exactly! thats what i meant by the punavitch line. obviously nothing against punavitch, but they arn't exactly known for their R&R (Regesh and Rikud). you join a shul like AK in order to be in a place that greater expresses as well as fosters and encourages R&R in your avodas hashem, but then decide that they do it toomuch? dosnt make much sence

  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger DovBear said…

    I hear your shul doesn't hold from auctions. Aren't you leaving money onthe table? Or does the KN Appeal make up for it? who gets maftir yona by the way? The guy who gives the most to the appeal?

  • At 5:25 PM, Blogger DovBear said…

    thats what i meant by the punavitch line. obviously nothing against punavitch, but they arn't exactly known for their R&R (Regesh and Rikud

    Must.... resist.... urge... to deliver... long... boring... history.... lesson....

    Ok one point: until the Hasidim took over our religion JUDAISM WASN'T EXACTLY KNOWN FOR REGECH AND RIKUD!

    Ok, I'm fine.

  • At 6:08 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    We leave tons of money on the table by not having auctions and by not having any open appeals.

    The Rebbe made that decision long ago. It makes for a much more b'kavodik davening and a much poorer shul.

  • At 3:23 AM, Blogger and so it shall be... said…

    AK is an open book. You know what you're getting. Anyone who would even mull over whether or not dancing after neeilah is a tircha would know in advance to not daven there.

  • At 11:58 AM, Blogger blueenclave said…

    To TTC: The first couple of times I was at my current shul I was struck by the singing and dancing at the bimah. I told my mom about it and she said it was very nice. "Those Hasidim do sing and dance. That's very different from the shuls I used to go to. They were dark places. Physically dark and spiritually dark." These places were in Brooklyn, BTW. Then she had to deal with the rabbi at my wedding because people wanted to know if the food would be kosher and the female singer she hired would sing, but that's another story altogether.

  • At 12:01 PM, Blogger blueenclave said…

    In praise of the rabbi: He would never let this kind of petty thing go on for five minutes even if the shul is twice the size it is now.

  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger yanmaneee said…

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