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October 8, 2015 | 25th Tishrei 5776
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Shabbat Service Times


See also

  • Split Services
  • Summer Shabbat Services

  1. For the past three years we have been experimenting with a 6:15 Shabbat Service time during the months of January and February. The rest of the year (except July/August 6 pm time), we start services at 7:15 the first Friday of each month and 7:45 the other weeks. Members are fairly split with regard to the 6:15 time. What are the service hours at other congregations?
    540 family units

  2. ...[O]ur normal Shabbat evening service starts at 8:15 pm and includes a Torah reading, except during July and August when we start at 6:15 and do not have a Torah reading. We started to experiment with early services in the summer three years ago and gradually expanded over the next two summers. We find that we get a very good turnout with the early service--about the same number of people who come to the later service the rest of the year, but a different mix--more seniors who don't like to drive after dark and more families with children. Of course, any change is going to upset some people. We have one member who comes to our 8:15 pm service almost every week who was so unhappy with the summer change that he withheld one-sixth of his dues and sent them to the synagogue that he moves to for the summer!
    1200 Families

  3. At [our temple], we have services every week at 8:00pm (with Torah reading). Twice a month we also have a 5:30 service (Tot Shabbat or Family Shabbat); I think those do not include a Torah reading.

    Another local Reform congregation, holds services at 5:30 every week (without Torah reading).

    I am curious whether any Reform congregations follow the sun, with service times varying based on candle-lighting time.

    (855 families)

  4. Except for a few special services such as the ones held outside, Friday night services begin at 8:15 pm. After hearing from some people who asked that it be earlier, the rabbi asked for a survey to be compiled offering three options: 6 pm [or so], 7:30 pm, or 8:15 pm. The idea behind the earlier one was people would have dinner, either at home or a restaurant, afterwards. The survey also asked if changing the time to one of the choices would result in the respondent coming more often, less often, or no change. There was very little support for the 6 pm service and about equal interest in 7:30 and 8:15 pm. The plan is to try one a month at 7:30 beginning Yom Kippur. The logistics of coordinating the soloists, organ accompanist, ushers, and other volunteers would be easier at that time.
    approx. 350 families

  5. We experimented this year with services at 6:00 (without Torah reading) during January and February. Members were fairly split but turnout was great even during a snowstorm. We offered two dinners during that period; both were very well attended. We go back tonight to our regular time 8:00. Once a month we offer family service beginning at 7:30 preceded by a potluck supper at 6:15.
    300 family units

  6. Friday night services seem to be all over the place these days. Historically [our temple] had an 8 pm service with a sermon of some import every Friday Night. With the passage of time and the changing of rabbis this service has become a bit of an anachronism.

    For some time we had services at 6 pm from Shavuot to HHD when we could use our courtyard, otherwise we had a schedule of 6, 7 or 8 (later 7:30) depending on the week. It required a calendar even for regulars to keep up. Over the past year we have had a 6 pm service regardless of what other service might be scheduled. We drop the early service only for community wide Shabbatot.

    The result is a wonderful jam up in the parking lot and the lobbies as people arrive and depart from the various services, as many as three on a give Friday night. People seem to thrive on the chaos and the kehila feels very vibrant and alive on those Fridays.

    When we recently had a late service only, for scheduling reasons, most of the congregation were early service regulars and just a few older people. Our congregation is located in an inner ring suburb...with a membership of about 1300 units. Our building is forty years old and the congregation is over 150. It is easy for people to get home before the early service and then come to temple and then go home or out for dinner. Almost no one lives more than fifteen minutes from anyplace. This certainly has an impact.

    We have never (in my fifty plus years memory) had Torah reading on Friday night.


  7. March 2007 Digest 034

                Our Family Shabbat service on Friday night starts at 7:00. We have a Family Shabbat service once a month. We also have a Tot Shabbat once a month which starts at 6:00 pm.Our "adult" service starts at 8:00 p.m.

  8. March 2007 Digest 034

                We have a 6:00 Shabbat Service on the odd numbered Fridays which are billed as an informal service for all ages. When we started this model a couple of years ago, we had to bring in extra chairs! Attendance has leveled off since then, but it is still the best attended service. On the third Friday, there is an opportunity to join others at an offsite dinner--we are still struggling with a potluck concept--after services. The other Fridays (2 and 4) we have a more formal 8:00 service. Since we now have a cantor as part of our clergy team, we omit the Torah Service on Friday night unless there is something particularly special going on (Brotherhood or Sisterhood Shabbat) reserving that for Saturday morning. When there is no Bar or Bat Mitzvah we bill the Saturday morning service as informal, but still do a full service.

                In addition, about four times a year we have a Torah Explorers "service" for the youngest members and there parents/grandparents on Saturday morning at 9:00 before the "regular" service.

                The informal designation is an indication that people can come comfortably attired. Many are coming from work for the 6:00 service.

                The pattern remains the same year round, with no appreciable difference in attendance, although there seems to be a drop in attendance during winter break, winter holidays (Christmas, new year) and when it is bitterly cold.


    400 member units
  9. March 2007 Digest 034

                [Re: congregants coming from work for the 6:00 service]…

                This service model assumes (and, for some, mandates) that you go from work to services and thence home, where you will probably cook Shabbat dinner. (Or you'll go out.) While the vast majority of our membership has no problem with driving, cooking, or doing business on Shabbat, is it appropriate for us to plan our services so that this is almost certain to happen for much of the year, putting those congregants who do keep a traditional Shabbat in a quandary? While we cannot meet all congregants' needs, I think it's important to keep in mind that sometimes the personal autonomy of Reform Judaism leads one to take on mitzvot. When we can accommodate that, shouldn't we do so?


    ~860 households
  10. March 2007 Digest 034

                [Re: congregants coming from work for the 6:00 service]

                It also presents an additional difficulty, in that it assumes that families that wish to go to synagogue together will need to meet there; there is little time to all meet at home and co-ordinate traveling together. This can cause additional difficulties, or encourage splitting families for services.

  11. March 2007 Digest 034

                We used to hold Friday night services at eight. For many reasons we  thought an earlier start would be better, but encountered lots of concerns--What about those who want ample time for Shabbat dinner at home? What about the many congregants who have a lengthy commute home from work? After formally surveying our congregation, considering the  issues in our committee meetings with our rabbi, and now having continued  "tweaking" for the past few years, we have found the following compromise to work for us:

                For most of the year, from March through the next to last Shabbat in December, services start at 7:30pm. Generally the third Shabbat of the month a "family friendly" service is held at 7:30, preceded by a family Shabbat dinner in the Social Hall at 6:15.

                From the last Shabbat in December through the month of February, services start at 6pm. During those months the family Shabbat dinner is held at 7pm, after services. I should mention that we are in the northeast, where it gets dark, cold and icy early on winter eves. And as it gets darker earlier, so Shabbat starts earlier.

                This system has not negatively affected the numbers for average attendance at any time of year, and I don't believe it's alienated anyone from the congregation. However, it may be that we'll "tweak" again if necessary to make the timing even better for our congregants.


    approx 300 "member units"
  12. March 2007 Digest 037 and 038

                Our first, third and (if there is a) fifth Friday of the month, our Erev Shabbat service begins at 6:00 p.m. These services are preceded by a wine and cheese gathering prior to the service. The first Friday of the month is our family service. We do not read from the Torah on these early Shabbat Service dates. The second and fourth Fridays of the month, our Erev Shabbat service begins at 7:30 p.m. and we read from the Torah; these services are followed by an Oneg Shabbat. We usually have 250-300 in the congregation for our early services; the later services draw approximately 150. We have 6:00 p.m. Erev Shabbat Services all summer long.

                …This is Florida; half of our congregants are over age 70--although our most recent growth has come from those in their late 50s and early 60s--those who may have taken early retirement, or those empty nesters who have moved and are still working. We do however have 145 students in our religious school, so we do have young families as well. In many cases, when a family unit moves to Sarasota, they have no other family here, so they turn to the synagogue to provide those initial friendships--those that may take the place of an up north (or out west) family. The early service draws a lot of folks, and many of them tend to go out to dinner afterwards. Our first of the month family service draws a lot of young families, but also draws an across the board demographic. The 7:30 service draws the older, "I grew up classical Reform" person in our congregation. Frankly, I think people like a glass of wine and an hors d'eouvre or two before the service; we always have a lot of ruach.


    595 units
  13. April 2007 Digest 066

                Friday Night:

                Until recently, we never had a split service.

                This spring, we decided to experiment, with an early (6:30) and late (8:00) service. The clergy was willing (in fact, the clergy suggested it). The thought was that some families found the end time of the 8:00 service too late for kids; others found an early service (usually our summer time setting) too early to make from a busy day at work. The results have been wonderful; each service is about as well attended as one old service was.

                Saturday Morning:

                We've always had a "Torah study" and a service; until recently the service would either be smaller if no bar/bat mitzvah, and massive if there was one. This led to regular attendees of the Torah study and smaller service to desire a continuous smaller service, regardless of whether there was a bar/bat mitzvah. Currently the schedule is 9:00am Torah; 10:00am smaller service; 1030am if there is a bar/bat mitzvah, then a larger service. The smaller service is always in the chapel, lasts an hour, and is clergy-led the majority of the time (we have two rabbis, a cantor and a retired but active rabbi emeritus). It is informal in terms of attire--people will wear jeans.

                …we also moved our "Tot Shabbat" (toddlers / preschool) and "Shabbat Yeladim" (k-2) to Saturday morning, at 9:00am. Once a month for each. So, on a morning with a bar/bat mitzvah, you might have:


                9:00am--Torah Study in the Library

                Tot Shabbat in the sanctuary

                10:00 am--Smaller service in the chapel

                10:30am--bar/bat mitzvah service in the sanctuary


                [I thought there might be] fragmentation…when the split-up of Saturday was discussed at the Ritual Committee level. But the experience has been so positive...I have to say fragmentation is not the result; rather, the "whole building" is alive. I'd recommend it.


    1100 Families
  14. May 2007 Digest 095

                Our normal pattern has been 6:00 on the 1st and 3rd Fridays, 8:00 on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, (5th is up for grabs--depends on any special programming).

                Torah study (9:30) and Worship (10:30) on Saturday mornings most including a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The B’nei Mitzvah will be done by the third week in June.

                As of July, for the summer, all Erev Shabbat services will be at 6:00 and the times for the remainder of the year will be reevaluated, since we do not get very high attendance at 8:00 pm, although there is a core group who prefer that model. We do tend to be less formal at 6:00 services and any Saturday when there is no Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


    400 member units
  15. May 2007 Digest 095


    Regular Shabbat schedule:

    • Fridays: 7:30 (week 1, family service), 8:00 other weeks, Torah reading only for b'nei mitzvah
    • Saturdays: 9:30 Torah study, 10:30 service, Torah reading all weeks


    Summer Shabbat schedule (July and most, if not all, of August):

    • Fridays: 7:30 service in garden, weather permitting; no Torah reading
    • Saturdays: nothing (but there is interest in services and there is a group that meets in private homes for study)


    ~550 families
  16. May 2007 Digest 095

                During the summer (June-July-August-ish), we offer a Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00 PM, sometimes with Torah. During the rest of the year, presently the "standard" service time is 8:00 PM (but under serious consideration for change). The last Shabbat of the month (usually), we offer a Family service at 7:00 PM. Once a month, we offer a Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00 PM, and once a month we offer a Tot Shabbat at 5:30 PM (we are also trying out a Tot Shabbat service at 9:00 AM on Saturdays).

                On Shabbat morning, throughout the year, we have a Shabbat morning minyan at 9:00 AM. The 11:00 AM Shabbat morning service features a Bar/Bat Mitzvah most weeks.

                …For the summer, the 6:00 PM Kabbalat Shabbat service seems to be well-received, even though attendance does drop off a bit. The Shabbat morning routine is also well-received--attendance does not drop off during the summer!

                Our struggle has been to identify what our congregation would really like for Friday nights from September through May. We are preparing to do some polling, but the preliminary input from many is that 8:00 PM is too late (many seniors aren't real comfortable driving home close to 10:00 PM, families with younger children find that 8:00 PM is a difficult time, and our Religious School teachers pay the price Saturday morning, and even working families have expressed that after a long week of work and Shabbos dinner, they have run out of gas by 8:00). Some others (seems to be concentrated around younger retirees or those without 'firm' working hours) like the later time, as they can have a leisurely Shabbat dinner, then go to shul. On the other hand, a 6:00 PM service poses some issues, as well, including landing right in the middle of dinner time (the impact of which should be self-explanatory for families with children, difficulty of some working families getting home to gather the clan and head for shul in time, etc.). At one point, the Ritual Committee had carefully calculated 7:22:30 PM as the optimal (read: engendered the least amount of shrying) time. Other concerns include conflicting with Tot Shabbat services, our Religious School Shabbat Dinners (each grade has a Shabbat Dinner at least once throughout the school year), congregational Shabbat Dinners (at least once a month), and the 'early' Kabbalat Shabbat service.

                Clearly, we are not alone is wrestling with this issue, regardless of the time of year…


    1100+ units
  17. May 2007 Digest 096

                Our normal pattern is 6:00 p.m. for the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays of the month. Early services are preceded by a wine and cheese gathering. On the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month we have a 7:30 service with a Torah reading. These late services are followed by an Oneg Shabbat. If there is no Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Saturday morning is participatory--we usually get around 25 people. The Shabbat morning service is in the chapel, where the chairs are arranged in a semi-circle. Sometimes we have a Torah reading, sometimes just a discussion during the service. Our hazzan is there with his guitar; the rabbi leads the service--pausing for teaching kinds of moments. During the summer, all Friday night services are at 6:00, preceded by a wine and cheese gathering. We have no B'nei Mitzvah in the summer. Our participatory Shabbat morning service is at 10:00.


    595 units
  18. May 2007 Digest 096

                My 635 member congregation does not change its schedule in the summer. We did, however, contemplate the 54,000 shekel problem noted below. For years we had a well attended 8:00 service every Friday except for the 1st Friday which was held at 6:00. The 6:00 service was more folk-singing style and a bit more kid-friendly. When we held a 6:00 service, we also had a "Classic Reform" service at 8:00 using the old Union Prayer Book.

                Over the years, parents with young children stopped coming to the 8:00 service even though free baby sitting was available. So we did an online survey about service styles and times to see what people wanted. Almost one third of our households responded! The thing they were most passionate about was time. So we settled on having a 6:00 service twice a month and an 8:00 service every week. On the weeks with a 6:00 service we have dinner from 7:00-8:00. And we have continued the Classic Reform service as well. So far this has been well-received.

                I think the key was to poll the congregation and get their input. The Ritual Committee sat together and read every comment and as a result, we came to an easy consensus which resulted in the schedule I just described.

                One of the hurdles to overcome came from the clergy who did not want to officiate at more than one service in a given evening. So on the first Friday of the month, our two rabbis and cantor lead the 6:00 service. A rabbi who joined our congregation as a member after retiring from a pulpit in another city leads the Classic Reform service. On the third Friday, the cantor and one rabbi lead one service and the other service is lead just by a rabbi. So far it seems to be working.



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