With regard to the article “Why Don’t Jews Like To Pray?” (Aug. 23), I would like to make a few observations: While the article mentions that many Jews don’t believe in God, I find that there is a lack of spirituality in the manner in which services are now presented in most synagogues. I am a synagogue choir director who has been associated with my choir for about 50 years. When I was young, I was inspired by the music that was performed at the services, particularly High Holiday services. I encountered for the first time when I was about 8 years old a service in which the cantor of my synagogue and a choir performed. I couldn’t get enough of this music, which really gave me a feeling of belonging to the Jewish religion.
Unfortunately, today the services are not performed in any manner resembling what I heard when I was young. Most synagogues today do not have chazzonim that perform traditional melodies and instead use tunes from Broadway shows or [accompaniment] on a guitar. Where is the traditional music that is supposed to inspire congregants into enjoying the service and actually enjoying prayer? It matters little that the services are in Hebrew; most siddurim provide translations of the prayers. The traditional music is supposed to set a tone for inspiration and Jewish spirituality.
I was told by a chazzan in one of the large synagogues that if I brought my choir in to perform, the congregants would bring guns in to express their dismay. I am sure this was said in jest, but I’m not so sure that this is far from the truth. I offered to bring my choir gratis to perform in a synagogue [but] was told that the choir would make the service too long and that the congregants would be displeased because they would have to stay an extra 10-15 minutes.
Why do we go to shul?
I would hope that spirituality would be a top reason, as well as for social interaction. I am dismayed by the lack of traditional music in services today.
Mitchell E. Feldman