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!