Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

Chief UK rabbi: No need for a three-hour service 

‘I’ve never heard anyone complain about a shorter sermon,’ said Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis 

Synagogue services don’t have to stretch for three hours, and congregants believe they’re generally too long, said the chief rabbi of the UK, commenting on a new survey of British Orthodox Jews. 

“Overall, people were saying, ‘We’d like to spend less time in prayer services,’” Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during last week’s Conference of European Rabbis in Munich.

Mirvis said the study, conducted a year ago by United Synagogue, a union of Orthodox shuls, holds some valuable lessons for those looking to get people back into the pews in the years following the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not that we’d like shorter services; the service is what it is. But there’s no reason why a morning prayer on Shabbat morning has to take three hours,” Mirvis said.

Elaborating, Mirvis said that United Synagogue congregants have also expressed a preference for shorter sermons. “Okay, so we need to listen. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a short sermon,” he said.

The survey included 5,000 responses.

Another finding from the survey was a widespread displeasure with masking requirements. 

“During lockdown times, the one thing which will put you off coming back to shul was wearing a mask,” Mirvis said, explaining that it wasn’t that congregants were against masking, but that they don’t like the way the mask separated them from others. 

“There was also a shigaon of not singing,” he added, using the Yiddish word for nonsense and referring to guidelines restricting choirs or communal singing. “We had a year and a half without singing in shuls.” 

Mirvis also noted that United Synagogue members are seeking “better channels for spirituality,” in that many people discovered during the pandemic “that you can have a Saturday morning without going to shul.”


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.