Temple Etiquette

We know that synagogues today are too good at putting up boundaries before people who want to come and participate in the spiritual offerings featured within our sacred halls.  At the same time, we ask those who join us to be a part of our attempts to create sacred space.  Certain activities we engage in, gadgets we carry, and clothing that we wear can derail our efforts, as individuals and as a community, to turn aside (as Moses did when he witnessed the bush that was burning) and focus on our spiritual selves, our creator, our inherited tradition, and the faces of those around us.

We are delighted when families celebrating happy occasions invite friends and family to Temple Beth-El. We want everybody who joins us for worship to feel comfortable in our sacred space.  If you have family or friends coming in, you may wish to communicate to your guests our deepest appreciation for their consideration in:

  1. Dressing appropriately for a religious event. That does not necessarily mean fancy or formal clothing, but it does mean we would like our guests to wear clothing which is not so informal as to be immodest.  In general, that means long pants, dresses or skirts that run at least to the knees, covered shoulders, and shirts that cover the midriff.
  2. Both refraining from operating, and being discrete about carrying, technical and electronic gadgets such as cameras, cell phones, iPads, or pagers while anywhere in the building.  In emergency situations individuals can seek out private places (my office is always available upon request) to take a call or address a page.

Some additional points and clarifications when it comes to synagogue etiquette at Temple Beth-El

  • Time in synagogue is best spent “unplugged.”  Cell phones, pagers, iPods and all other electronic devices must be turned OFF or on vibrate while in the Temple building.
  • We are asked to be participants and not observers of sacred moments and so photography and videotaping are NOT permitted at Temple Beth-El on Shabbat.  This includes the entire building and outside of the building.
  • Wearing a head covering (a kippah) is required of male worshippers while in the synagogue, but covering one’s head is a practice that is evolving to the point where everyone will be wearing them at some future time.   While on the bimah (the stage) everyone is asked to cover their heads.  As with all rituals, no practice will be forced on anyone.  A service coordinator may offer you a kippah and explain that we ask worshippers to don it in such a circumstance, but the request will be withdrawn if a person expresses discomfort or animosity towards a practice.
  • It is traditional for Jewish males above the age of bar-mitzvah to wear a Tallit (prayer shawl) in the sanctuary. All Jewish men ascending to the Bimah are required to wear a Tallit.   Perhaps we will reach a time when these expectations become gender-blind, but for now Jewish women are encouraged and permitted to wear a Tallit.  It should be stated that a “not yet” approach, even for Jewish men, will be accepted.  Participation and comfort in doing so is our primary value.
  • Non-Jewish men must wear a Kippah, but wearing a tallit is a practice held for those born into, or for those who have chosen to join, the Jewish faith.
  • As in almost all indoor establishments, smoking is not permitted in the building (including the restrooms).  This policy extends up to the borders of our Temple grounds.
  • Writing is an act of creation, and one that takes us out of the physical and vocal engagement with prayer, and so it is not permitted in the Temple on Shabbat.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or the chairperson of our Ritual Committee.

- Rabbi Daniel Victor

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