Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Auditions for Mt. Sinai Announcer

For those of you who know me, you know two things.

1) I'm loud and 2) I wasn't always religious.

Last Friday night, as usual, the shul's former Vice President rose to the bimah to make the Shabbos Announcements. At the end he announced that he is being replaced. Admittingly, he sometimes rambles on about certain things, especially personal Mazel Tovs, but the fella also represents old school Mt. Sinai. He raised his children in this neighborhood and has been a member for many years. For that reason I have never minded him getting up there. Every week, we saw the joy he felt looking into the full pews. As recently as 6 years ago, those same pews sat nearly empty.

He announced to the full sanctuary that it has been decided by the shul board that he should step down from his position as announcer so we could make way for a new, younger member to take his place. In fact, he announced that there would be an "American Idol" like contest to find his successor. I asked some of my shul board member friends and they confirmed that it had been decided at a recent meeting. I even inquired whether or not a female would be eligible and was told that they were not and was given a litany of excuses for this.
1) The announcements take place during davening. Rebuttal: They COULD be made after davening concludes, just as we did when we began Mt. Sinai's Young Leadership minyan following our mass exodus from the Bridge Shul. Why did we leave the Bridge Shul? Because the leadership was not open to making changes to accomodate the influx of the Washington Heights young modern members. Hmmmm.

2) The set up of the sanctuary would require the woman ascending the bima. Rebuttal: The woman could speak at the men's section entrance, opposite the Ark. The section is set up so that the men are facing one another, not the Ark, so to see the announcer they could look to their right instead of their left.

3) Rabbi Schnaidman made up his mind that it cannot be done. Rebuttal: Has anybody, EVER, heard the Rabbi actually say this, and if he has, has it been in the last 20 years? I think we are giving too little credit to our Rabbi. Admittingly, he's been in the rabbinate for many years, but even he has acknowledged that this shul has changed since he ascended its pulpit.

That said when I was browsing our community website Maalot I came across this post:

Mt. Sinai Announcement Auditions

So You Think You Can Announce?

Mt. Sinai will be holding open auditions to find the brightest post-tefillah announcements talent.

Beginning this week (March 2-3), applicants (shul members only) will be given one chance, a single trip to the podium, to prove that they have what it takes to clearly and concisely convey the week's announcements to the kehilla. After every applicant has had a turn, shul members will be directed to the shul website where they will vote for their favorite and decide who will be the new voice of Mt. Sinai.

Auditions will end on March 24 (latest) and the winner, decided by the online polling, will begin his duties after Pesach.

Mt. Sinai will be holding open auditions to find the brightest post-tefillah announcements talent? How can that possibly be the case when women aren't even allowed to "audition"? Brightest MALE talent more like, which hey, doesn't say much in my book. Other than the last line which says he "will begin his duties after Pesach" there is no other way to know its only open to men. I of course replied "Maybe you should clarify this is for males only since talented females are unable to attain the position. Although that in my opinion should be open to debate as well." Hopefully this will spark a conversation in our shul. Plenty of modern Orthodox shuls, including some in Teaneck and Mount Vernon, allow women to address the congregation after services. Why should we be so backwards.

And for all the naysayers, maybe its time to stop hiding behind the Rabbi. When I spoke to people that I'm pretty sure were personally opposed to it, they said, welllll I'm alright with it, but Rabbi Schnaidman is not. If you're not okay with it say so. If you really do support it, encourage a dialougue.

Now, back to where I started. I'm loud and engaging. I could potentially be a wonderful after-davening announcer. I am also a Baal Teshuva so I have definitely stepped foot on bimas in the past, including at my Bat Mitzvah where I stood in my pink talis and read my Torah Portion just like all the other boys and girls in my class. I refuse to accept the fact that being Orthodox means unyielding to change. Our communities have b"H become more welcoming to diversity. In Teaneck, you've got one dude in a black hat with a sheital wearing wife and he sits in shul next to a guy in a srugy who's wife doesn't cover her hair and wears pants. Somehow they've accepted how the other practices his religion. Each of their homes is Kosher and Shomer Shabbos.

The thing that irks me the most is that Mt. Sinai is soooo proud of itself for setting up this exciting, revolutionary contest to replace a guy who actually deserves to be giving the announcements. He is going to be replaced by some hotshot guy who just signed his second one-year lease on his Bennett Ave apartment. I'm not saying I necessarily want this job. But I do think I'd be good at it. I do think I deserve a fair opportunity to "audition". I am a member of this shul, paying dues which have climbed to a rate that frankly, I'm not sure I can afford any longer. And what do I get in return? Two dollars off at any shul event? A monthly newsletter? It shouldn't just be a punchline for the Purim Shpiel. These are real concerns that I have. Its not a joke. I refuse to hide behind the Rabbi. If we do not stay open minded, some of us just might need to find someplace that is.


ZKNY said...

Wow, firey stuff. As far as I know (as a recent board member) it is indeed b/c of reason #3. Why don't you approach the Rabbi and ask him for his reasons?

Also, Henry Rieser is not currently the VP, he resigned his position as of the last board election (July 06) Ben Sandler is the current VP.

To address your comments about membership:
- if it is really too expensive for you, you can discuss some sort of payment plan or discounted fee with Mrs. H. The Shul will never turn someone away b/c they cannot afford membership. Our membership is still way below any Shuls on the UWS, Riverdale, or Jersey. We need to pay the bills, that's just the way it is.

SusQHB said...

I use maaser to pay my shul membership, so 10% of my income just about covers it. ;) My Netflix membership as well, but who checking these things.

Hesh said...

You have been tagged my dear for a brilliantly funny post and for giving me ideas for future writings.

Susanne Ill tell you what the reasons are. First of all because anything involving women and participation is ASSUR- and if it isn't banned yet- it will be in the future.

They also think that putting a woman up on that bima will draw too much untznius attention torward her- they are right- but dude whats up with that f---d up mechitza forcing everyone to stare at each other. I love it- but give me a break.

Other odds and ends why a women cannot go up to the bima.
#1The stairs will cause her skirt to become tightened possibly revealing a panty line.
#2 Her voice will be like kol isha.
#3 Did I mention it was ASSUR
#4 We dont need a reason- because the clergy loves to ban things.
#5 During davening is crap- what about bat mitzvah speaches during davening?
#6 The shull in Albany has a woman as its president- and she is really annoying- so based on that- we have decided that a women president will suck as well- due to our one track minds.

Arona said...

Why do they have to have announcements anyways? If you really want to know that badly what's going on, read the flyer! We don't need to spend 10 minutes after davening (not) listening to someone read off a flyer that we can all read on our own.

SusQHB said...

But then when would we be able to talk and get the latest gossip? Bameh Madlikin is soo rushed nowadays. ;)

Sharon Weiss said...

check out http://jewess.canonist.com/?p=199

Rebecca Honig Friedman said...

Hi Susanne,
Cool blog! You're really funny.
I just saw this post, too bad I didn't see it before I posted about the issue on Jewess. Anyway, I appreciate your voice on the Jewess comment-thread.