Monday, October 17, 2005

Fannies in the Seats

The New Year began with a bit of a disappointment.

Our synagogue, like many Orthodox shuls, offers a beginners' (we call it "explanatory") service for those whose backgrounds are more limited and wish to have a better understanding of what's going on during the High Holy Days. The service is given by a very respected member of our community, a man who is knowledgeable and explains thing well. For our community, which is aging and showing signs of a demographic dwindle of its traditional Jewish population in favor of younger, more secular Jews, the service should have been a boon.

Only problem is, no one showed up.

Well not quite no one. First day Rosh Hashanah there were three; second day, one. Ouch.

Now I know that every Jewish soul is an entire world and that I should celebrate the small victories as well, and in fact the lone gentleman who came both days was extremely appreciative of the opportunity. Still, I was perturbed.

I took a walk that morning from our shul to another a few blocks away. A friend had told me that they had just finished renovating the building and I should stop by to check it out, so I did. I was amazed. Here was this old, formerly decrepit, sanctuary that had been restored to its former glory. The anteroom was all polished marble. The terrace outside was landscaped. Downstairs, a chapel, classroom, and kitchen were brand new and begging for use. I was awestruck.

Yet the problem persisted. Upstairs, attending services, on the Jewish New Year, were fewer than thirty people. Perhaps there were a paucity of Jews in the neighborhood, I thought as I walked back. Just then, my thoughts were interrupted by a young man on a cell phone. "Happy New Year," he said as he walked by me. Two other people offered New Year's greetings on the six-block walk back to my shul. Clearly the people are there.

And the shuls are there, the programs are there, the classes are there. All that's missing is fannies in the seats.

I shared my experience with two members of the shul whom I ate lunch with. They, too, were livid. And we resolved to do something about it.

That Sunday night I got a call from one of them. Could I come over and take a look at a flyer she had put together inviting people to services on Yom Kippur? We worked on the flyer for awhile and then I went about my business—still backlogged from all the midweek holidays. Monday passed, Tuesday came. Erev Yom Kippur.

I got to shul and found out what happened with that flyer, and what happened was this: While I was spending late nights at the office, my two friends—who also have full-time jobs, mind you—were printing and distributing this flyer all over the neighborhood and beyond. Under people's doors. On telephone poles. In a local newspaper. Forty-eight people had responded. Forty-eight! If even half showed up, and that was a stretch considering the torrential rain we were having, it would be, to borrow my father's phrase, a major victory for the Allies.

We waited eagerly as the eleventh hour approached (Literally. The service was called for 11:00 AM). Almost instantly they appeared. Drenched from the downpour, they came. They came carrying umbrellas and pocketbooks. They came with their cellphones and attache cases. But they came. By ten past the hour, the place had filled up. Thirty-one people had showed up.

And we were ecstatic.

Many chose to stay after the explanatory service. By Ne'ilah, at least ten were still in shul. As soon as the shofar blasted, we ran for pen and paper to get phone numbers and email addresses. Many of our guests simply handed us their business cards. We hope they'll come back for more; we certainly need them.


Blogger Leapa said...

Wonderful !!!

Sort of corroborates your 'get my tuches moving post' of September 15.

Mon Oct 17, 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger energynorm said...

That was really beautiful. Your community is the kind that many of us dream to live in. The kind that reaches out to everyone and loves their fellow Jews simply because they are Jews, not based on what kind of black hat they wear.

Mon Oct 17, 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Good way to start off the new year - lots of brownie points :)
now let me see...which neighborhood could this possibly be? They don't call me mata hari for nothing.

Mon Oct 17, 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

Not to burst your bubble Cloo (seriously, I mean that) but that's the difference between all other yomim tovim vs. Yom Kippur and Pesach. Non-affiliated jews drop everything for Yom Kippur and the seder. I would venture that (sadly) this is probably the reason for the bette turnout on YK.

Mon Oct 17, 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mirty said...

You did good.

Mon Oct 17, 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger brianna said...

My shul has the opposite problem. We're packed to capacity and there's nothing we can do about it cuz no one pays the building fund. I'm thinking of showing up at a meeting and offering to be the shul collections officer for 5% of collected moneys.

Mon Oct 17, 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...


Honestly, I did nothing except complain about the problem and then some mild editorial suggestions for the flyer. My two friends did ALL the legwork and I give them all the credit.


I agree with you in terms of getting to first base. Yom Kippur is easy. But with the right follow up, classes, chavrusas, Shabbos meal invitations, etc., I think we can get at least a minyan involved--which would be nothing short of fantastic.

What was so encouraging was that many (and most who stayed through to Ne'ilah) were under thirty, not necessarily the most nostalgic crowd.

I'll keep y'all posted on Project FITS.

Wed Oct 19, 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bel harbor?

Thu Oct 20, 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

great job CJ seems not disappointing at all!
but why did they show up with cellphones they probably drove to shul too oooouch!

Thu Oct 20, 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

fanny, tuches, i sense a theme?

Thu Oct 20, 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

bum rap...very ifs ands or butts

Fri Oct 21, 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger The real me said...

The people are all there, their hearts open, they are just waiting for a nice Jew like yourself to tell them that they are wanted.

Keep it up!

Sat Oct 22, 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Semgirl said...

Well you already have my email. Send me the flyer. I woulld probably be happier in your Shul, Shabbos then the place I go now.

Sun Oct 23, 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

I had a great idea--too late--for an outreach program over chol hamo'eid: a barbeque in the sukkah complete with a discussion of the Arba Minim.

Call it: "Burgers, Fries, and a Shake"

Sun Oct 23, 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Why not exercise? - running around the neighborhood and then having a shiur - or perhaps at the same time.
call it learn and burn

Mon Oct 24, 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


Shkoyach - saving Am Yisrael one fanny at a time.

p.s. the British chevrah crack up every time you use the word "fanny"

Mon Oct 24, 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

TRK, Glad I could be of service. Cheers!

Mon Oct 24, 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

What about Fannie Mae's?

Mon Oct 24, 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger The real me said...

Anyone hear about the dyslexic Jew who swung the lulav over his head three times and said kein osho hilel?

Mon Oct 24, 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

an ambitious project met with success.

I'm proud to be one of your regular read blog readers.

Thu Oct 27, 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Did anyone show up for simchas torah?

Thu Oct 27, 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

kol hakovod!

Thu Oct 27, 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

That is beautiful, they say that Tzorchei Tzibur is one of the most rewarded pastimes in Judaism. And there is no end of reward for those that are Mezake et harabim. I hope you had all of Israel in mind when you prayed because I am sure Hashem was listening! (and for my sake, I try really hard to maintain my status of Israel)

What is the difference between the orthodox and non?

The Orthodox are called Benei Yisrael the non are referred to as Benei Yaakov. In order to cross over to Yisrael status they have to conquer the yetzer hara. Showing up in the rain was a battle well won, the war is on. You can be the leader, PLUNDER THE BOOTY TO THE SPOILS!

Peace for the new year

Thu Oct 27, 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Thanks for reminding us that all it takes is effort. Is it possible that many unaffiliated are so merely because none of their brethren ever put forth any effort into engaging them? Unfortunately, it seems that Christians are much more willing to do the work, and come home with starving souls...

Wed Nov 02, 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...


I don't agree at all. There is a tremendous amount of mesiras nefesh by Jews out there.

Thu Nov 03, 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, but how do we keep the shiksas away and the jews in shuls?

Fri Nov 04, 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sun Nov 06, 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

anxiously awaiting a post...

Mon Nov 07, 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tue Nov 08, 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Wed Nov 09, 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


Your blgfans are worried - lacking food for thought?


Wed Nov 09, 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

He's safe and well. Have seen pics of a dashing George Clooney peppering comments all over the blogsphere.

Wed Nov 09, 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jew Speak said...

nice post! Good Shabbos.

Fri Nov 11, 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Shopaholic said...

you are being missed! return to the land of blogging and post s/t!

Sun Nov 13, 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mon Nov 14, 09:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are you?

Mon Nov 14, 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Shopaholic said...

Ok, I know what its like to take a brake from blogging....but we all miss you!

(Well not really you more your insightful, interesting , thought provoking posts and of course the hot George Clooney...JK)

Wed Nov 16, 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Perhaps CJ is out earning a living. Maybe if all his readers chipped in $10 a month, we could get him out here full time, but short of that we just have to be patient.

Wed Nov 16, 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear CJ,

Don't you think you should give your loyal readers a little heads up as to what's going on? After all we see you all over the blogosphere.

Have you stopped blogging for good (chv"sh) or is this just a temporary break?

Please cloo us in.

Tue Nov 22, 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

I appreciate everyone's concern and kind comments. I'm truly flattered.

But mostly embarassed. I was the one who said most blogs don't last six months, and that the key to longevity was the discipline of the once-a-week (no more; no less) post.

In any case, I hope to get back on track beginning today.

Wed Nov 23, 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger turquoiseblue said...

Yeah... I'm tired of seeing the never-changing "fannies in the seat" headline during my daily blog-hour hop(make that three...)

We're waaaiiiiitttiiiinnnngggg...

Wed Nov 23, 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger callieischatty said...

Great job!

Tue Nov 29, 10:53:00 AM  
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