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Reform Rabbis Reject Proposal to Drop Friday Night Services

Delegates to the 96th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) rejected strongly yesterday by a voice vote a proposal made by the CCAR president, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, at the opening convention that the late Friday evening service, long established in Reform Judaism, be eliminated “as the centerpiece of Reform religious expression.”

The outgoing CCAR president proposed that Reform rabbis encourage congregants to observe a traditional Sabbath dinner at home on Friday evening and then attend worship services on Saturday morning.

Many of the delegates expressed vigorous objections to the idea in adebate following the Plaut address. When the matter came to a vote yesterday, the strength of the opposition shocked Plaut so much that a motion was approved to refer his proposal, without recommendation, to the CCAR Committee on Reform Jewish Practices.

PLAUT POINTS TO LOW ATTENDANCE

In proposing the elimination of Friday evening service, a Reform staple for more than 100 years, Plaut said low attendance at Friday evening services indicated that “our people are telling us something by their very absence.” Many of the delegates disputed Plaut’s analysis.

He said he opposed having the rabbis expend their energy “on the self-defeating enterprise of organizing Friday night services measured not by its intensity of prayer but by the number who come to attend it.”

He proposed also that the synagogue should be redirected into a “bet midrash”(house of study) where Jews go to study. He emphasized that Jews should lead a life of good deeds and thus the chief good deed (mitzvah) is not “come to the synagogue” but rather to “lead a Jewish life.”

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