Interviewing a Synagogue

A questionnaire to help you decide on a shul to attend

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Observance of Jewish Law

  1. Is the facility kosher?  What are its policies regarding food consumed on the premises?
  1. To what extent does the synagogue observe Shabbat and holidays in its facility?  Does it allow the use of electricity?  Do members drive to synagogue?
  1. What is the range of observance among congregants?
  1. Is the synagogue welcoming to families at differing levels of observance?

Education for Children

  1. Does the synagogue have a Hebrew School?
  1. What grades does the school include? How many hours per week are students in classes?
  1. What subjects are covered, and what are the teachers' qualifications?
  1. Is there a bar/bat mitzvah preparatory program?
  1. Are there educational opportunities for children after their bar/bat mitzvahs?

Programming

  1. Does the synagogue offer adult education programs?  Are there classes in learning Hebrew or Torah study? 
  1. Does the synagogue offer education and resources for potential converts?
  1. Are there youth groups and other social opportunities for children and teens?
  1. Is there a sisterhood and/or brotherhood?
  1. Does the synagogue feature guest lectures or scholar-in-residence programs?
  1. Does the synagogue hold social events for different groups, like singles or young couples?

Social & Political Issues

  1. Does the synagogue hold itself to environmentally friendly policies regarding recycling, water-usage, lighting choices, and the like?
  1. Does the synagogue have a specific political or religious position in relation to Israel?  Is there an Israel-interest group through the synagogue?
  1. Does the synagogue take part in any regularly scheduled (weekly, monthly, annual) social action activities (feeding the homeless, assisting in building projects, food collection)?
  1. Do the rabbi and/or others often speak from the pulpit about political issues? If so, what are their political leanings and what issues are most central to them?

Costs & Fees

  1. How much are dues and how are they paid?
  1. Is there a building fund payment required? What is the schedule for its payment?
  1. Is financial aid available?  Is the process respectful?
  1. If there is a Hebrew School, how much does it cost?
  1. Do member need to pay extra for tickets to High Holiday services?

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Rabbi Rachel Miller Solomin is an educator living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was ordained from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) in 2001.