Dear Jack, I Was the One Who Said “You’re in My Seat”

Dear Jack,

I read your article on the OU’s website titled, You’re in My Seat, and I would like to apologize for being one of the five people who asked you to change your seat. I was one of the people who asked you nicely, but I should have immediately found you an available seat.

In a previous Shul where I davened, in which there were a lot of non-observant guests, we would never ask a person to move to an available seat, because of the possibility of causing offense. But here, we assume observant guests know that Shuls often have fixed seats and that our guests will ask someone for help in finding an available seat. Clearly, that was a mistake and I will try to make our members aware that they should be proactive and always help guests find an available seat.

Although you pointed to the halacha of Makom Kavua as a possible reason we asked you to move, it’s not the only reason we have fixed seats in our Shul. Most of us work pretty hard during the week and Shabbos morning is our refuge where we can sit peacefully, daven, learn, and listen to the drasha. As you’ve seen it can be quite disconcerting to have to find a seat each Shabbos, so we’ve contributed our time and money to keep our Shul running, enabling each of to have a seat we can call our own. From my experience, a regular Shabbos seat is close to a basic human need for observant Jews who daven with a minyan every Shabbos.

Although you suggest that we get there on time if we want our regular seat, our membership, in consideration of our individual situations, voted to give us the rights to our seats until Borechu. Even with that right, I would have gladly sat in another seat. However for various personal situations I usually can’t get to Shul earlier than Borechu, and because I have a desirable aisle seat, I would in fact never get to sit in my regular seat.

All the above notwithstanding, I want to apology on behalf of the Shul for this incident. If you can remember and publicize the good guest rule, “to ask for an available seat”, and we can remember the good host rule, “to immediately find an available seat for our guests”, we hopefully can both make our Shuls and communities, a better place.

With Apologies