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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776
Oneg Shabbat

  1. [Our congregation] has instituted a 6 P.M. Erev Shabbat service year-round. One of the issues which comes up frequently is the lack of an Oneg Shabbat and time for socializing. I am curious to know from congregations where starting time is 6 P.M. (or thereabouts): What do you do about Kiddush/Oneg Shabbat. When do you have it? What do you serve? Is there anything else which is relevant to know about your situation?
    1300 families

  2. Our congregation has been holding 6:00 Friday night services for the last six years. We have challah and wine/grape juice in the lobby and do Kiddush and Motzi after services. That's where folks hang out to decide where to go for dinner, or just shmooze for a few minutes before heading home for dinner. There has been some talk about having cheese and crackers prior as well, since people are generally coming straight from work.

    That service has revolutionized our worship experience and brought in lots of new people. The format is more traditional than our classically Reform congregation was used to, but it has now become a standard for us, and follows closely the style many of us have experienced at Biennials or Regionals. No choir, no organ, just lots of congregational singing and participatory davening with varying degrees of choreography. Saturday morning is a classical Reform service when there is a b'nei mitzvah, which occurs most weeks during the school year, but more like the Friday night service when there is none.

    We also have Family Services (recently renamed L'dor Va-Dor services) once a month. These are also at 6:00 P.M., just of a different format, and are followed by a traditional Shabbat dinner, open to all for a modest fee and by reservation. About quarterly we also have a UPB service at 8:15 P.M. to satisfy those who still can't part with the old Union Prayer Book. This started about three years ago and originally drew 500 to 700 but as the novelty wore off, [this service has] dramatically decreased in attendance. Predictably, [this service is also] accompanied by a traditional oneg of sweets, coffee, tea and punch. [This] service follows our usual 6:00 P.M. service or sometimes a Tot Shabbat service held earlier, but does not replace it.

    (Personal note: while I grew up with UPB and can still quote from it, I do not pine for it, nor do we currently have a choir or organist who remember or can replicate that music, which was a large part of the ambiance. I'd rather remember it with fondness without trying to resurrect it. I can't wait until Mishkan T'filah becomes the standard--then we can have "nostalgia services" with GOP!)

    (1500 units)

  3. Years ago when we started having Erev Shabbat services at 6:00 P.M. regularly, we too lost the sense of community achieved through the oneg. Eventually, we started having just Kiddush and Motzi in the social hall after the service. It takes only five to ten minutes and lets people socialize. Most people stay for the two prayers (and the challah and wine or grape juice). Many stay later and chat before going home or out for dinner. Our sense of community has returned.
    350+ Members

  4. We have 8:00 followed by an oneg (cookies and water/coffee), and most people stay for the oneg--anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour on average. Most people eat dinner first and then come to services, and we get a mix of ages. (We have an additional early service once a month.)

    From the discussion on this list, I'm beginning to wonder if we're being extraordinarily lucky in having people stay to socialize, or if there is some other salient difference. I'm puzzled by this. Do we just have a later crowd? We're in a city, so average travel times are probably lower. Could that be related? What other factors might make a difference, besides time?

    (On a personal note, I much prefer later services, because early services (except in the winter) preclude participation from those who don't work or cook on Shabbat. While 8:00 P.M. services in the winter are a little peculiar to such people, they do not alienate that portion of our congregation as much as 6:00 P.M. services in the summer would. Imagine trying to get home from work, get dinner in the oven, and get to the synagogue in time for a 6:00 P.M. service--most people can't.)

    850 families

  5. Our congregation has just recently begun an experiment. Our services had previously been at 8:15 P.M. with the traditional exceptions--family service at 7:30 P.M. once a month, summer services at 6:00 P.M., etc.--all followed by an Oneg Shabbat. A few months ago we started having all of our services at 6:15 P.M., with virtually no exceptions. We have eliminated the oneg after the service but instituted a "pre-neg" before the service, beginning at 5:45 P.M. in the foyer immediately outside our sanctuary. It's a smaller space than the social hall in which we previously held our onegs, but the result is that there is more intimacy and more opportunity to truly mingle and chat with a lot of people instead of heading into a corner with a small group of friends. We do the candle lighting in the foyer at approximately 6:10 P.M. (usually done by the family of the bar/bat mitzvah of that Shabbat), and immediately proceed into the sanctuary, where our cantor begins singing as soon as people begin walking into the sanctuary, and congregants join in as they are taking their seats. The result is that there is a smooth transition from the "pre-neg" and candle-lighting to the service itself, which begins promptly at 6:15 P.M. The Kiddush is done during the course of the service, with the bar/bat mitzvah participating. Yes, we do miss the oneg after the service, but the fact is that the pre-neg works much better in terms of generating genuine interaction amongst those in attendance. So far this experiment has been quite successful--as evidenced by significantly increased attendance on Friday evenings. Of course, we are still in the early stages, but my sense is that we will sustain the attendance in the months to come. Some of the keys to the success of this experiment to date are (I believe): the pre-neg has a much warmer, friendlier and intimate feeling than did the post-service oneg; those in attendance are more "up" at the pre-neg as opposed to the post-service oneg, which often started at 9:30 P.M. when everyone was beat and just wanted to get out and go home; the food at the pre-neg has been significantly improved over the dry cookies that were served at the oneg; we now have wine, juices, cheese and crackers, hummus, often one warm appetizer-type dish, etc. (although there is no small expense involved, I believe this is really important--the message is that this is important time to be together and we really want you to come for the pre-neg); the service begins with at least three songs sung in succession, thus creating an inviting mood at the beginning of the service (along with the transition from the pre-neg, there is now less of a sense of an abrupt end to schmoozing when the service begins--there is a really smooth, uninterrupted segue into the service). In addition, the rabbi and the cantor have made a concerted effort to make certain that the service runs no longer than one hour, and people appreciate being able to have the rest of Friday night to celebrate Shabbat.
    900 membership units
  6. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-5

                Just wondering, do you serve grape juice in place of wine? If not, why not?

  7. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-4

                [We have challah] at the Oneg. On the other hand, we serve no wine at the Oneg


    180 units (more or less)
  8. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-5

                At Oneg, we have thimble-size glasses of wine, cups of grape juice. We use white grape juice so people can distinguish it from the wine. Also always coffee, tea, cake/cookies/brownies, challah. Sometimes fruit platter, nuts, etc. Sisterhood coordinates volunteers to provide the food unless it's the erev of a b'nei mitzvah (which is held Saturday morning), in which case the family and often their friends generally provide the refreshments for the Friday night Oneg. Does anyone have congregants sponsor the Shabbat Oneg and/or provide pulpit flowers on the occasion of their wedding anniversary, etc.?

  9. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-5

                Each of our Onegs is sponsored by a family. We always have one or two challahs for the Motzi, and we serve only grape juice (Kedem) for the Kiddush. Our Oneg nosherei include cakes, dips, cookies, spreads,…….We also serve punch and coffee. Flowers are donated on occasion; usually at Rosh Hashanah and other special simchahs.


  10. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-5

                We have a regular program of sponsorship for flowers and Ongaim......Flowers are sponsored probably 95% of the time, and Onegs……probably 50% or less of the time.

    Kiddush on the bimah is always wine. Kiddush afterwards is both wine and grape juice.


  11. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                We serve white grape juice and red wine in little tiny cups. This way, everyone who wants wine can take it; everyone who wants to avoid wine knows that the white is still pri ha gafen and is non alcoholic.


    380 family units
  12. Dec 2004 Digest #2004-6

                Our small congregation has the Kiddush on the pulpit on Friday night. Each week another family or two is responsible for the Oneg, which consists of coffee, tea, cake & cookies (always something chocolate) and fruit. On special occasions or on the erev of a bar/bat mitzvah, the family or another member provides a challah or two, and we have Kiddush and Motzi at the Oneg. We also tend to have a very lavish spread on such occasions--all donated by members.  Anyone who does not participate is assessed a $75 fee, which takes care of the Oneg when Temple Service provides it and for incidentals associated with Onegs.
    75 families

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