USHERING Also see High Holy Day and B'nei Mitzvah subjects. The postings below include discussions on:
High Holy Day
Ushers as "Holy Servants"
Ushers as Greeters
All of the b'nei mitzvah families in a class are required to be Saturday morning "Levites" three times during the year. They arrive about an hour before the service to assist in preparations and stay after to clean up. Two to three families, plus a coordinator from the b'nei mitzvah committee are there every Saturday. This accomplishes a few things. As I said, we ask that the whole family be present. This gets families to observe what goes on before and during services.
For the b'nei mitzvah family, before the service, there is a quick walkthrough of the service. Family members are informed about their honors, shown what they have to do and when they have to do it. Pictures are taken. The "Levites" straighten up the sanctuary, set up some tables, assist in logistics for the photographer and videographer and also run errands when someone leaves something at home or forgot something. The upcoming b'nei mitzvah families get to see first hand what to expect during the service.
David 375 families
We are 900 families, and most Saturday morning services have two or three b'nei mitzvah. Each family is required to provide at least one usher, and one usher comes from the Board of Trustees. Our board members must usher at least one Friday and one Saturday per year. By the way, I personally find that "honoring" the bar/bat mitzvah's closest teenage friends by seating them near the front, where they can be seen supporting their friend, results in very little trouble with decorum.
Here at our temple, ushering for Shabbat evening and High Holy Days is assigned in advance by the Men's Club to Men's Club members. On Shabbat morning however, ushering depends on whether there is a bar/bat mitzvah. If there is, (which is most weeks), the family is responsible for supplying at least two ushers who need not be temple members. The family is informed of this responsibility well in advance of its date, but I as co-chair of the Worship Committee phone the family 5 or 6 days in advance of the ceremony to make sure the family has selected ushers (and Shabbat evening hostesses and a Shabbat morning bimah sitter). If there is no bar/bat mitzvah, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that ushering is not a problem. The bad news is that hardly anyone shows up, so ushers are not needed.
Edward 425 Families
In our large monthly community service (about 2000 attend) several things take place before and after the service that add to the Sabbath spirit.
People are greeted outside and welcomed, not shushed.
We urge people to introduce themselves to each other.
People walk into a sanctuary that is filled with music.
We dim the lights.
We are brief.
We have transliteration books and siddurim.
We are flexible, spontaneous and very open to change.
Following the service there is free food, a lecture, a class on t?filah, a guest artist and Israeli dancing. Often people leave the building after 11:30 PM.
I am the chair of our Ritual Committee. In addition to the "ritual" issues of the High Holy Days, we handle ushering. We have an usher coordinator who recruits the ushers and makes the assignments, a head usher for each of the seven adult services, and ten to twenty ushers per service. (We have two consecutive, identical morning services). In addition, a congregational officer is posted at the entrance to verify membership when necessary. Attendance is about 500--800 for the evening services and 1,000 for each morning service. Ushers are posted at the building entrance to check tickets, at doorways to control traffic flow, in the halls and in the sanctuary. We also have "special needs" ushers but, thankfully, they are coordinated by our Caring Committee.
We are trying to improve and streamline the process. Any suggestions or words of wisdom would be appreciated.