Welcome to Temple Israel Center
This guide is intended to provide our guests with an introduction to the Shabbat morning service and our synagogue's practices. In it, you will be able to find information concerning:
- Our Synagogue
- The Books We Use
- The Sabbath Morning Service
- Attire During Prayer
- What we do and do not do on Shabbat
- Shabbat Hospitality
Temple Israel Center of White Plains is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue. The Conservative Movement is one of several branches of Judaism today.
In the front of our Sanctuary is a raised platform, called a bimah. In addition to the clergy, two synagogue officers sit on the bimah during Shabbat services. In the center of the bimah, at the rear, is a special compartment called an ark where we keep scrolls of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. As you look at the bimah, on the left hand side of the bimah is the lectern for the Rabbi. On the right side of the bimah is the lectern from which the Torah is read and the Haftarah is chanted (see "The Torah Service," below). For much of the service our Hazzan (cantor) leads the congregation from a lectern in the midst of the pews, so that worship comes from the midst of the congregation.
To assist in the services, a number of members of the congregation act as ushers. The ushers can usually be found near the doors to the Sanctuary, and they will be happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have.
We have limited quantities of large print books and headphones to assist you if you are vision or hearing impaired.
Please note that part of the ushers' responsibility is to restrict access to the Sanctuary during certain portions of the service when any entry would be too disruptive or disrespectful. Instructions from ushers are intended for everyone's benefit and comfort. We appreciate your cooperation.
Two different books are used during Shabbat morning services, a smaller book of prayers and a larger book containing the Five Books of Moses (Torah) and readings from the Prophets. In Hebrew, the prayer book is called a Siddur, and the larger book is a Humash. Although our services are conducted primarily in Hebrew, both the siddur and humash contain English translations.
The service consists of several parts that are described below (a more detailed discussion of the service may be found in the beginning pages of the Siddur):
- The Preliminary Service (Siddur, pp. 61-106)
The preliminary service is made up of two sections: (a) prayers of gratitude, Birkot Ha-Shahar, with which we begin each day; and (b) selected psalms, P'sukei D'Zimra, to set the spiritual mood. The preliminary service also contains the Kaddish, which is a prayer said by those in mourning for a deceased relative.
- The Shaharit Service (Siddur, pp. 107-138)
The Shaharit service centers around the Shema (p. 112), excerpts from the Torah that are recited in both morning and evening prayers, and the Amidah or Silent Devotion (pp. 115a-120), which is recited standing. In the Shaharit Amidah, the Cantor and the congregation together chant the introductory blessings (p. 115a) and the Kedushah (p. 116), and then complete the prayer standing silently. (On festivals, the Amidah is found on pp. 123a-128.) The entire prayer is a time for attention and concentration. Especially during the Kedushah, you should refrain from talking to anyone (other than the Almighty!), and from moving about. If you anticipate having to leave the Sanctuary during the Amidah, please do so before it begins.
- The Torah Service (Siddur, pp. 139-154; Humash, pp. as announced)
Each Saturday morning we read a parashah (portion) of the Five Books of Moses, completing the entire scroll each year. After two introductory paragraphs, the Torah Service begins with the opening of the ark and the taking out of the Torah. The Torah is then carried in a procession around the front of the Sanctuary and returned to the table on the bimah from which it will be read. Prior to the Torah reading, one of the clergy will provide an introduction or commentary on the parashah to be read. Seven people traditionally are honored by being called up to the bimah during the reading. In addition, at the end of the reading, we call up an eighth person who will, after a brief reading from the Torah, read a Haftarah, an excerpt from one of the Prophets which our tradition has associated with the week's Torah reading. If there are one or more bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies that Shabbat, (s)he or they will read the Haftarah. On certain Shabbatot and on all festivals, the eighth reading is taken from a second Torah scroll. Those who are being honored will be told when to come to the bimah by a member of the congregation called the gabbai.
Before the Haftarah, the Torah is lifted, its words shown to the entire congregation, then rewound and tied. After another procession around the Sanctuary (following the sermon), the Torah is returned to the ark.
- The Musaf Service (Siddur, pp. 155-181)
The Musaf, or "Additional" Service, is recited in remembrance of the additional service that was conducted on Sabbath and festivals in the ancient Temple. This part of the service also contains an Amidah. We recite the entire Musaf Amidah(pp. 156-161) silently, after which the hazzan repeats the Amidah aloud, and adds the Kedushah, in which the congregation joins. (On the New Moon or festivals, the Amidah is found on pp. 166-178.) As in the Shaharit service, the Amidah and especially the Kedushah are a time for devotion and attention and not for private conversation or moving about. After the Kedushah, the congregation is seated while the hazzan repeats the rest of the Amidah so that everyone can hear every word. The hazzan's repetition is enhanced by congregational singing and often by solos or duets with congregants.
- The Sermon
After the Musaf Service, one of our Rabbis teaches from the Torah in a sermon that touches on subjects of importance to our community and people.
- The Conclusion of the Service (Siddur, pp. 182-187)
After the Musaf Amidah, announcements and closing prayers, those who are in mourning for a deceased relative again stand to recite the Kaddish. Following the Kaddish we all stand, a blessing is made over wine, and then the entire congregation remains in its place to sing a concluding hymn, Adon Olam. Following the conclusion of Adon Olam, everyone is invited to enjoy food, drink and socializing at the kiddush.
All men are required to cover their heads in the synagogue as a sign of respect. Jewish men wear tallitot (prayer shawls), although in some traditions single men do not. In our congregation, Jewish women are strongly encouraged to wear headcoverings and tallitot, but are not required to do so. Head coverings and tallitot are required for people who participate in the Torah service or lead prayers. Kippot (skullcaps or "Yarmulkas"), lace caps and tallitot are available in the entrance area. Please ask an usher if you would like assistance.
The Sabbath is a day of joy and rest, spent with friends and family and in study and prayer. We invite you to join with us on Shabbat and participate as much as possible in the readings and songs that fill our services (feel free to use English if you prefer it, and to hum along if you do not know the words to songs).
When visiting on Shabbat, we would be grateful if you would wait until the conclusion of services to greet family and friends.
On Shabbat and Festival Days, when you are in the synagogue or on its grounds we do not, and ask that you do not:
- Use telephones (including cellular phones), pagers, radios, or any other electrical device
- Take photographs
- Applaud after Bar/Bat Mitzvah speeches
- Write or take notes
- Allow children to draw, color, use scissors, or play with electronic games
- Allow children to run, play ball games, or engage in other conduct that may be dangerous or disruptive
We can help if meals or lodging are needed for an out-of-town guest who would like to be within walking distance of the synagogue for Shabbat. Please contact the synagogue office for more information.