Leap of faith: How you dress for shul is a personal choice

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Leap of faith: How you dress for shul is a personal choice

Create the Shabbat that suits you this summer

Some years ago a family who was very involved with my shul came rushing in late one Friday evening. They had been at a wedding, and their kids had insisted on going home to get changed before coming to shul. Their kids exclaimed: “It would have been embarrassing coming to shul so smart”!

I realised then what a different relationship they had to their shul clothes, compared to when I was growing up, when the Jewish equivalent of one’s ‘Sunday best’ was a given.

Such formal attire brought austerity and formality. If you want people to feel relaxed, they need to be able to dress in a manner that perpetuates such a feeling.

During our first online lockdown service in March 2020, as we all greeted each other on Zoom, one member exclaimed: “I can’t possibly feel like I’m at synagogue because Lesley is not wearing her hat.” For decades Lesley has been coming to FRS dressed in a hat which was perfectly coordinated with her outfit. She grew up in a community where women would always wear a hat to shul, so for her, she’s not dressed for synagogue without one. And so even during a pandemic online service, we weren’t ready for her to break a habit of a lifetime. You’ll be pleased to know she could just pop upstairs to get her hat. And so, while the world was being turned upside down, we found the constants in our shul-going uniforms.

Some community members put Shabbat on a pedestal when it comes to how to dress. They members wouldn’t turn up to greet the King in shorts, so whatever the weather they will insist on being suited and booted like you would at a Royal garden party.

Others are together unwrapping the gift that is Shabbat – a time to rest, to be together, and to celebrate the blessings of life. You wouldn’t turn up to a picnic in a suit, but perhaps the floaty summer dress says we may be praying indoors but are bringing the warmth and sunshine into this space because it puts all of us in a better mood when the weather remembers it’s summer.

The clothes you wear give everyone a strong message about what synagogue means to you. Do you greet Shabbat with the formality of a shirt and tie or the gratitude for Shabbat rest? As the temperatures rise let’s not judge others’ choices but welcome and enjoy their expressions of how they are playing their part in creating the Shabbat that suits them.

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