It wasn’t always that way. In a must-read short article from 2007, THE SILENT REVOLUTION: How One Shul Put an End to Talking During Tefillah, Rabbi Danny Frankel (no relation) describes how the Young Israel of Woodmere transformed itself from a culture of non-stop talking to one where hundreds of people have worked on and improved their understanding and practice of prayer.
I was talking to a Baalei Teshuva friend who was a little frustrated with the talking in his Shul. I explained that it is easy for a BT who comes to davening as a mature adult and takes it serious from the start. But many people were exposed to davening when they were younger in Shuls where talking was the norm. Those habits are much harder to break. But the YI of Woodmere did just that, on a grand scale.
Highlights of their effort include:
– Getting a signed commitment for decorum from more than 1,000 members
– Streamlining the davening by 15-30 minutes each Shabbos
– Increasing the coordination and effectiveness of the Gabbaim
– Providing more education on Tefillah, the parsha and the haftorah
It hasn’t stopped there. They’ve have recently announced that Rabbi Shay Schachter has recently joined the Shul and will be starting a new, comprehensive Bais Medrash program. This in addition to an already strong education program headed by their rabbinic team.
When a Shul builds a growth culture it creates a flourishing community regardless of the size. Yasher Koach to the Young Israel of Woodmere!