Judaism does not think of man abstracted from his relation to mankind. It does appreciate the meaning of the individual in isolation, but holds him, the single one, in unremitting importance, against a background of society and history. For the Jew, man is a social and historical creature. Hence his prayer should properly be a communal, comradely affair. Public worship is a universal human need and, also, a specifically Jewish requirement.
– “The Individual and the Community in Jewish Prayer”, Gates of Understanding (New York, 1977)
Our community worships together every Friday evening at 7:30 PM. We hold egalitarian services, often lay-led, where congregants and visitors alike can come together and join in prayer. Although a Jewish service may at first seem unfamiliar and intimidating, we will always do our best to help you feel welcome and part of our family. Until the time you are able to join us for Shabbat, please utilize the following resources:
Our Prayer Book
At UHC, we utilize the Mishkan T’Filah: A Reform Siddur as our prayerbook. The included liturgy guides you through the service, one two-page spread at a time. There is English and Hebrew, with transliteration (the pronunciation) of the Hebrew provided. Our services are a blend of both languages, and the leader of the service will always give cues so participants can follow along easily.
The most obvious item to be found within a synagogue is the small skull-cap worn by individuals. It is known as a kippah (Hebrew) or yarmulke (Yiddish). Many visitors, as a sign of respect, choose to also cover their head although it is not required. If you choose to wear one, we have provided a basket full of kippot(plural, Hebrew) near the entrance. You may select one to borrow while visiting UHC.
Some other tips include:
- Attire: Because the synagogue is considered a House of God, it is appropriate to dress nicely.
- Standing: There are many occasions during our service where the congregation will be asked to stand. If you are able, we would like for our visitors to join us in standing for our standing prayers.
- Bowing: Some prayers require bowing during certain points. This is not something all congregants adhere to, nor do we expect our visitors to participate unless they desire.
- Tallit: Non-Jewish visitors are not expected to wear the tallit (prayer shawls).
- The Prayer Books: Our prayer books contain the name of God, and are therefore revered items to be treated with respect. Please take care to not place holy items such as the prayer books on the floor. If a holy item, such as a prayer book or kippah falls to the floor, we often kiss the item upon picking it up.
- The Ark: At the front of our sanctuary is what is known as an Aron Kodesh, or the Holy Ark. It contains several Torah scrolls of special reverence to our congregation. When the ark is open, please do not enter or leave the sanctuary. Once the ark has been closed, you may then exit the sanctuary as you need too.
- Please turn off cell phones upon entering the sanctuary.
- Photography, unless given special permission, will not be allowed during our services.
If there is anything you are unsure about or you would like to learn more, please feel free to ask any of our congregants. We would be more than happy to help you in any way we can.
If you are interested in reading further, here are a few great books that can get you started:
- Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals by George Robinson
- Introduction to Judaism: A Sourcebook by Lydia Kukoff
- To Pray As a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service by Hayim H. Donin
- A Guide to Jewish Prayer by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Prayers and Blessing from URJ
The Union for Reform Judaism offers extensive articles, blogs, videos, and other resources to help enhance your own prayers and blessings. Please feel free to visit reformjudaism.org to learn more and see the plethora of information they have for you there.