Shul choice varies greatly from location to location. In densely populated areas, one might have the choice of over 25 shuls within a 10 minute radius, while in areas with fewer Jews, the choice may be as few as one or two shuls in the same area. Wherever you are, the experience can be maximized.
I had the pleasure of spending last Shabbos in Woodmere, a relatively affluent Modern Orthodox community in the Five Towns area of Long Island. My friends are members of Aish Kodesh, but in the summer time, when Mora the D’Asra, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, is out of town and the weather is hot, they often skip the 20 minute walk and daven locally. Locally in this case means minyanim in people’s houses.
On Friday night we walked across the street to a minyan in a neighbor’s house. There were about 25 men in attendance including a number of black hatted yeshivish sons of the residents. The davening made a tremendous impression. It was a well paced, extremely spirited, Carlbach nusach with everybody in attendance participating in the many niggunim (songs). It was quite inspirational and I was informed that every week they daven Carlbach style. Nobody was in a rush, they were there to start their Shabbos on an extremely high note. After davening people shmoozed for 5-10 minutes.
On Shabbos morning we walked 5 minutes along the winding roads of the Woodsburgh section of Woodmere, until we arrived in a Shul situated in greenhouse side room. This Shul, which has been running for 29 years, has a Hashkama minyan at 7:30 am and the regular minyan is at 9:15 am. In the house itself, there is an area for women.
By the end of davening over 60 men had joined us to participate in the second minyan. The Baalei Tefillah and the Baalei Koreh were very good, and the davening ended around 11:15 am, but was most impressive was the decorum and kavod for the tefillah. Dr. Thurm, the homeowner and Gabbai runs the show efficiently as he hands out the kibbudim (the honors), picks the Baalei Tefillah and makes sure the well stocked weekly kiddush is ready on time. There is a membership fee which covers the cost of the non-sponsored kiddush, the heating, the cooling, and other expenses. It was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem and a tribute to Dr. Thurm and the participants.
So although I missed davening at Aish Kodesh and it’s legendary spirited davening, I was treated to two private house minyanim where people are going way beyond convenience and creating minyanim of inspiration and kavod (honor) for tefillah and Shabbos. There is an expression “Grow Where Your Planted” and these places go way beyond that cry providing weekly growth opportunities for those who are planted in the Woodmere domain.