Taming The Wild Shul Kiddush Scene

The Scene
You’ve seen the movie. Shul ends and it’s time for Kiddush. In the time it takes to say “Walmart Black Friday Shoppers”, the hot food is either all gone or desecrated into a non-appetizing state. Ok, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but hungry Shul-going Jews can sometimes go a little over the line. The key, like in many Shul matters, is to set boundaries that can be observed.

Wait For the Rabbi To Make Kiddush
The first boundary to consider is waiting for the Rabbi to make Kiddush for everyone. Nobody takes any food, without exception, until the Rabbi makes Kiddush. Yes, people will correctly point out that you should make a mezonos immediately after Kiddush, but that halachic problem can be addressed with well position plates of cookies and crackers around the room. For guests and members who forget, politely point out that this is a rule without exception.

The Seven Minute Rule
To make it easier for people to wait, our Shul created the seven minute rule. At the end of the davening, or at the end of announcements, the president or Gabbai reminds the congregation that nobody should take any food until the Rav makes Kiddush in about seven minutes. That’s the approximate time it takes for all the men and women to get from the sanctuary to the social hall. In your shul, it may be the six, eight or nine minute rule. It doesn’t have to be to-the-second in actuality, but knowing that they’ll be eating soon, helps people remain within the don’t-take-yet boundary.

Making It Last
Even with the Rabbi making Kiddush and the seven minute rule, when the waiting ribbon is cut, it can still get ugly. Multiple tables and smart food placement can help with the sometimes inevitable jostling that results from a many people, single destination configuration. To make the hot/best food last, having members serve can help. Smaller plates or small cholent bowls is another idea. Gentle reminders to take less can also have a positive effect over time.

The Shul Kiddush is a great event which people thoroughly enjoy. I’ve laid out some ideas to make it a little more civil, but sometimes people will cross the best behavior line. It’s important to give the benefit of the doubt when that happens and remember that there are cultural norms involved. People are generally good, but sometimes they’re also hungry!

6 thoughts on “Taming The Wild Shul Kiddush Scene”

  1. Kids hanging out outside the sanctuary shouldn’t be able to occupy the space around the kiddush serving tables before the adults come in after services. In fact, the kids should be with their parents during services.

  2. Suggestion for dealing with kids – before the kiddush prepare plates or bags with a normal amount of cookies / candies / whatever and hand them out to kids in an area as far away from the main tables as possible.

    This helps the kids take appropriate amounts of food, makes sure that everyone gets including younger kids, keeps the kids happy – especially if their plates include a treat that’s not available on the adult tables, and allows the parents to enjoy kiddush without having to fend for their kids.

  3. if the rabbi will make kiddush in the 7 minutes i can see it. this has not been the case in my experience. what usually happens is that you have 100 hungry jews waiting around in front of food. never a pretty picture.

    if the rabbi would commit to the 7 minute rule as well, all would be good. how about this? we all eat in 7 minutes, regardless. this would really go a long way to making people feel better. and the rabbi will make it on time…

    1. Fred, sounds like a possible compromise. As I said, in our Shul it’s not exactly 7 minutes, but it’s close enough. We usually wait until no more people are coming down the stairs into the simcha room, so everyone can hear kiddush.

      After a while of following these simple rules, you’ll see that in becomes the accepted norm to wait.

  4. I am very very uncomfortable with the stand-around kiddush format. In my shul, everything is positioned for everyone to access all the necessary elements for an enjoyable kiddush WHILE SEATED! Yes, a sit-down kiddush. That is the 1st step to taming the kiddush beast that lurks within.

    In another shul, the Rov has utensils positioned in the middle of the table which will force someone to ask his neighbor “to please pass…” I thought it was so simple, but brilliant. This is a shul on the smaller side, and yet we may not talk to the yid sitting next to us if not that we had to ask him for assistance.

    Sit down kiddushim are the way to go, in my opinion. It requires some extra planning, but I just can’t see it being a proper yiddishe midda to stand and eat and feel crowded all the while stuffing ourselves.

  5. I suggest less hard liquor in our synagogues because it attracts wicked people with no interest in spiritual growth or serving G_d; they bring down other Jews to their level, G_d forbid.

    The Talmud, Midrashim, Halachah and Mussar books give us countless warnings against the dangers of drinking liquor, except in very small quantities.

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