For First Time Visitors
GCJC welcomes students and other visitors, and we invite you to participate with us in our religious services. We hope this introduction will provide you with the information you need to understand, feel comfortable, and get the most from your visit.
PRAYER SERVICES AND BOOKS:
As Jews, we pray directly to God, without an intermediary such as a minister or priest. The Rabbi, meaning “teacher,” leads the services, announces which prayers are being said, provides explanations, and tells the congregants which prayers should be said while standing. If the Rabbi is unavailable, a lay member of the congregation will lead the services. The prayer books are written in Hebrew and have English translations for each prayer. Some books also have transliteration, i.e., Hebrew written in Roman letters. Since Hebrew reads from right to left, the books will appear to open from the wrong direction, but the pages are numbered so you will be able to follow the services.
TYPES OF SERVICES:
There are two types of services at GCJC. While all services contain the same principal elements, there are some differences in the form and specific prayers. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset each Friday and concludes at sunset each Saturday. Therefore, the Sabbath services occur on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the services, including the refreshments and/or meals following them.
Friday evening services last 60 to 90 minutes, and are followed by an “Oneg Shabbat,” a reception in which we enjoy refreshments.
Saturday morning services (only when a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is taking place) usually begin at 11:00 AM and last about an hour and fifteen minutes. The service is followed by the blessings over wine and bread, and refreshments in the Social Hall.
CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES TO BE AWARE OF:
As in religious services of all faiths, there are certain customs and practices we follow. Most of them are required by Jewish law, and we appreciate your also observing them while at the Temple. (While you may be visiting in order to observe and learn, the synagogue is not a museum, and congregants are there to worship. Therefore, it may be offensive or disruptive if you do not respect the following.)
When attending services, please dress modestly (e.g., no mini skirts, short shorts, or sleeve-less blouses or shirts). As we are a reform synagogue, the use of kippot (also known as yarmulkes or skullcaps) is optional. If you wish to wear one, they are available in the foyer just outside the sanctuary. Women may also wish to cover their heads, but it is not required. You’ll notice that Jewish men and some women wear a Tallit (prayer shawl) during services where the Torah is being read, but since that serves a religious purpose, non-Jews do not do so.
Observant Jews do not work, conduct business, or create anything during the Sabbath, observing it as a complete day of rest. Therefore, while in the Temple on the Sabbath, please do not write or take notes, use cell phones or other electronic devices, use a camera or take pictures, or smoke (actually, the entire synagogue is tobacco-free at all times).
SPECIAL NOTE FOR CLASSES OR GROUPS:
When you call the office, please let them know you’d like to attend as a group. If possible, we’ll arrange for someone to talk with the group after the services, to provide additional information about the Sanctuary and Judaism, and to answer questions.