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2013 Resolution: Best Practices Regarding Synagogue Kiddushim following Shabbat and Yom Tov Services  
Policies Headlines
Jul 8, 2013 --
Whereas it is universally recognized that Kiddush followed by a collation on Shabbat and Yom Tov mornings, occasions when the synagogue community comes together more fully than at other times, is an important social experience that allows for an overall sense of warmth, community bonding, and good fellowship; and

Whereas this is especially important with respect to attempts on the part of synagogues to maintain proper decorum during services, by formally arranging for socializing and sharing personal experiences and even Divrei Torah specifically during the Kiddush period, as opposed to earlier portions of the morning; and

Whereas an occasional particularly sumptuous Kiddush contributes to individual Semachot being celebrated together with a family’s synagogue community and even offers the possibility of lunch being shared by a good portion of that community, when provisions are made for Netilat Yadayim, HaMotzee, and Birkat HaMazon; and

Whereas a number of considerations nevertheless suggest that particular care must be taken in order that a synagogue Kiddush is perceived and experienced as a true enhancement and sanctification of the holy days on which they occur

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America notes some of the contemporary and immediate concerns that should inform how a community engages in Kiddush, including:

A. Sensitivity to fellow synagogue community members in need

1. The recent world-wide economic downturn that has adversely affected many Jews in terms of job loss or underemployment, home foreclosure, difficulty in affording Kosher food, and inability to pay day school tuition and synagogue membership;

2. The awareness that many of these same individuals and their families who presently find themselves economically disadvantaged, had previously been accustomed to a secure and comfortable lifestyle, and therefore their dramatic downward vector is contributing to their acute sense of devastation, bewilderment, embarrassment and hopelessness (see here and here);

3. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, devastation and deprivation continue to be experienced by a significant number of communities, institutions and private individuals that unfortunately found themselves directly in the path of the mega storm, and have yet to fully recover.

B. Considerations of wasted food

1. The amount of food that is often left over following the conclusion of a large Kiddush, and its being thrown away rather than directed as much as possible to those who are in need;

2. Adults and children mindlessly taking more food than they possibly will eat, contributing to the waste of edible commodities.

C. Overlooking Halachic concerns

1. Participants neglecting to wait for Kiddush to be recited communally before beginning to partake of the food made available;

2. The failure on the part of Kiddush participants to recite appropriate and timely Berachot Rishonot and Acharonot during these occasions;

3. When fish and meat are served at the same Kiddush, to provide reminders and even physically separate these foods from one another in order that this Halacha be honored;

4. Not maintaining rudimentary principles of courtesy and civility while gathering food and consuming it.

D. Alcoholic beverages (see here)

1. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages by some Kiddush participants transforms the celebration into one that can constitute a physical and moral challenge for particular community members;

2. Younger members of the community observe less than ideal modeling on the part of adults with regard to the handling of alcohol;

3. An emphasis upon extremely high-end and exotic types of beverages may prompt questions about the priorities of the community and the synagogue (see here)

All of the above are particularly disconcerting in light of various news outlets (here, here, here, and here) reporting that a number of synagogues offer regular Kiddushim following Shabbat services that each week not only cost thousands of dollars, but raise the question of the sorts of values and emphases that such events are promoting and indulging.

Additionally, the Rabbinical Council of America

E. Urges its membership, and the Jewish community in general, to exhibit sensitivity in terms of its public activities regarding those who are in a state of financial and emotional upset.

F. Encourages its membership, and the Jewish community in general, to redouble its efforts to provide tangible support and thereby relieve to whatever extent possible those continuing to face formidable challenges in restoring their lives to a modicum of what they had become accustomed to previously (see, for example, here [programs for seniors and children, food pantries and soup kitchen; health care services; replacing Sifrei Torah], here [providing wigs to Orthodox women], here [equipment and seforim in schools], here [repairing boardwalk that serves as the local Eruv], and here[summer camp])

G. Communities that have decided that in order to attract congregants and compete with other synagogues in the area, it is necessary to provide a particularly lavish Kiddush each Shabbat, that they in particular very publicly make available to those in need, the type of assistance, both in quality and quantity, that reflects the principle, (Tehillim 91:15) “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and bring him to honor,” and thereby achieve a Kiddush HaShem both locally and globally.

H. Provisions be made to assure that no more food than necessary be discarded at the end of Kiddushim and that wherever possible, extra food be distributed to organizations that assist individuals in need.

I. Attention be paid to how best to encourage and assure that Kiddush participants observe the occasion as one at which the standards of Halacha are respected and adhered to.

J. Concern be devoted to assuring that alcohol that is consumed is not abused, that those under-age are not permitted to participate in this aspect of the Kiddush, and that consideration be given to the extent and cost of the alcohol being offered.

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