As I’ve mentioned previously, Shul Politics is the art of arriving at a set of rules, customs and standards to serve the spiritual and social needs of its members. Depending on the governing structure, those rules will be set by the Rabbi, the membership or both. The rules, customs and standards differ from Shul to Shul across communities, and also within the same Shul over time.
One fascinating area where this plays out is in the mixed Shul kiddush. Thirty years ago, the mixed kiddush was the overwhelming norm among Orthodox Shuls. However, with the change in spiritual sensitivities over the years, some Shuls and members are less comfortable with them now. New Shuls can set the standards appropriate for their membership, whereas existing Shuls have to be much more careful on how they navigate change.
In Queens, the mixed Shul Kiddush is the norm, but there are a few Shuls that have separate Kiddushes. In our Shul, near the turn of the century (~2000), some members who were making a Kiddush for a simcha, wanted it to be separate. It caused a bit of skirmish, but the Shul, under guidance from the Rav, agreed that members making a private Kiddush, could choose to make it separate. Our Shul-sponsored Kiddushes are mixed but for the most part the men are socializing with the men and the women with the women.
In a Kiruv Shul, a mixed Kiddush is a no-brainer, while in a Shul serving a Yeshivish membership it will rarely be found these days. In cross-generational heterogeneous Shuls, its a little more complicated, but if it’s done with intelligence and consideration for membership sensitivities a working solution can usually be found.
Originally Published January, 2014