Our synagogue is large enough to have two services for Erev Rosh HaShanah. Historically, we have had two identical formal services, one at 7 pm and one at 9 pm. We are thinking of making changes in both the content and the timing of the services. What choices have other congregations made for this service? What times or formats have you tried? How do you make it possible for people to have a family dinner and come to services? Michael 1800 families
We have some of the same problems and are going to try a new solution this year. Our high holiday ticket letter is going to confirm that the fire department is asking us to reduce seating in our auditorium (main service). We will have an alternative service--more meditative and participatory--no big choir, etc. in another room, which frankly we expect some members will prefer.
Members will be instructed that only the first 900 ticket requests for the auditorium will be honored as we only have 900 seats available. We will encourage all ticket requesters to select the alternative service if they think it better suits their needs. After we've given out the 900 tickets, all other requests will be advised that their tickets are for the alternative service.
I am sure that we'll let the usher corps seat people in the auditorium regardless of ticket type, five minutes before the start of services. This is an all-new idea for us, so I wish I could tell you it will work--anyway, we're hoping and praying. Bill 850 families
...[W]e have grown by about 80% in the last fifteen years, and are now considered a "corporate size" congregation. Two years ago, right after September 11, 2001, we made a long-awaited move into a very large old theater. While the change hasn?t been without both, site issues and costs, I think the general consensus has been that it is very much worth the effort.
I would also caution people that it takes at least a year...to make the arrangements and prepare the congregation.
...[T]he issue for us several years ago was that while we needed two services for all the other services, we were not sure about Erev RH; the combined attendance was just barely above what would have fit in the expanded sanctuary. But a single service held at a more reasonable time (this one was too early; this one was too late) would obviously bump attendance back above what we could handle. So we thought that offering two different styles of services might increase overall interest and participation. We implemented a family-style, laid back, much less formal early Erev RH service, and kept the late service exactly the way it was.
The congregation was packed for the early service. The numbers were way higher than they had been, combined, for previous years. It worked well in terms of numbers. As to what kind of worship experience that family style service was, well, that might be a topic for another time. Michael
We do much the same, only at 6:00 and 8:30 pm, and it seems to work. Rosh Hashanah morning is more problematic for us, when we get a turnout averaging 1500 for a 1000 or so seat sanctuary. We have experimented with extra seats in the foyer, where the service can be heard but not seen, a live video of the service in an adjoining hall, and a simultaneous parallel service led by our assistant rabbi in our downstairs hall, which we have been doing the last few years. No solution is especially popular. We have a problem with long time members who show up an hour late and can't understand why there are no seats left in the main sanctuary, and with members we never see except that day who show up in large groups late and don't understand why we can't always seat them all together. Part of that problem is caused by the fact that there is relatively little parking in our area, but there is nothing more we can do about that. Brenda 1200+ Families
Like so many congregations, we are unable to accommodate our worshipers in one HHD Service. Therefore, we hold two identical and traditional services on Erev Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (6:30 and 9:30 P.M.) followed by two identical and traditional services the day of (8:30 and 11:30 A. M.). The afternoon, Memorial and concluding service on Yom Kippur are not part of this discussion.
Our Religious Practices Committee has begun a conversation about changing the times and character of those duplicative early and late services. Who among you have thought outside the box, having considered similar issues and moved forward implementing changes?
For the past several years, our congregation has had two separate services for Erev Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Kol Nidrei). The earlier service is designed specifically for families with children. We created our own machzor for the family service and use the Gates of Repentance for the regular service. Free babysitting is provided for the very young at both services.
For the daytime, we have three separate services run concurrently with the regular morning services: tots, young children, and teens.
Dividing the services to meet specific needs and using age-appropriate liturgy seems to work well.
We had the same situation...early and late services for the HHD that were the same. In addition, we had no adequate facilities for any kind of children's service. Our daytime solution was to hold a family service--very child oriented--from 9 to 10, followed at 10:45 by what we call our congregational service.
In addition to families, the early service attracts others who want to be in the synagogue on RH and YK, but who can get their spiritual (or atavistic) fix in an hour, and don't need the two and a half hours the rest of us get. My guess is that the congregational service tends to be about three times the size of the family service--600 vs. 1800.
Moving to the new schedule provided our congregation with a fringe benefit--it was the stimulus to getting rid of reserved seats.
Along the way, we began counting carefully and recognized that we could get by on Erev RH with one service, although we still need two for Kol Nidrei. Interestingly, in the days when we ran the same program early/late, the late service was the more popular. Today, the early Kol Nidrei draws better.
We also now have services on the 2nd day of Rosh HaShanah, which differ significantly from the first day--volunteer choir instead of professional, piano instead of organ, group study instead of a sermon, and 200 people instead of 1800.
Larry 1400 units
We did this when I was at my previous congregation [two separate services] with great success; it was appreciated, and received with enthusiasm. It originated because we really needed to do the sequential services for all other occasions, but the Erev RH service the attendees would have just barely fit in had we done a single service. But, of course, had we done a single service at a sane time (say, 8 P.M., instead of 6:30 P.M and 9 P.M), then the attendance would have increased again to the point of not fitting. So by offering something different, we raised the interest and the participation level. Michael