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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.”

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