Going to synagogue services

Shabbat and festivals – The Jewish Sabbath is from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday; the times of Shabbat and services therefore vary all year and are available online, or from your local synagogue. Shabbat is a ‘day of rest’, and abstention from work, although people interpret this differently (see Streams of Judaism). Many people go to synagogue on Friday evening or Saturday morning, where there are prayer services and usually a kiddush (food and drink after the service); contact the synagogue for times of services. Some synagogues also have discussion groups for adults and services or activities for children. Many people spend Shabbat with their family.
There are many Jewish festivals throughout the year. Like Shabbat, these start at sunset the evening before the first date. Most festivals are days when people do not work and go to synagogue, like Shabbat. There are traditions and foods associated with each festival.

Dress code for synagogue services – most people dress smartly for synagogue services. Men and boys wear a kippah (skull cap) and most wear a tallis (prayer shawl), although this is not compulsory. Some Masorti, Reform and Liberal women and girls also wear a kippah and tallis.
In Orthodox synagogues, women do not wear trousers and dress in a modest way (covering their shoulders and knees) and married women cover their heads (with a scarf, hat or wig).

Travelling to synagogue on festivals and Shabbat – Orthodox people may not use electricity on Shabbat and would not, therefore, travel in a car or bus or Shabbat. If someone uses a wheelchair, this can be self-propelled, or it is preferable for a non-Jewish person to push it.  There are some festivals on which you can use electricity and drive, these include, Purim, Chanukah and the ‘middle days’ of Sukkot and Pesach.
Reform and Liberal synagogues do not follow this restriction; some synagogues may therefore be able to offer disabled parking spaces for Shabbat if you let them know you are coming.

Seating in synagogue – In Reform, Liberal and some Masorti synagogues, men and women sit together. In Orthodox synagogues, and some Masorti synagogues, men and women sit separately during services; this applies to girls over 12 and boys over 13. This is important to consider when deciding who will support a person to go to the service. In some Orthodox synagogues, the women sit upstairs, although there is usually some downstairs space for wheelchair users; speak to the synagogue in advance about this.

Some synagogues have allocated seats for members and there will be an area of unallocated seating; speak to the synagogue if you have questions about this.

Mobile phones – Orthodox people do not use electricity on Shabbat and therefore no phones are allowed. Reform and Liberal people may use phones but out of respect for the service, these should not be used during services and should be turned off. Similarly, electronic devices such as iPods should not be taken to synagogue services.

Services – the service is different in each synagogue. In general, Reform and Liberal services use more English and Orthodox and Masorti services are mainly in Hebrew.

Women and men lead services together in Liberal, Reform and some Masorti synagogues. In Orthodox, and some Masorti, synagogues only men lead the service.  Most synagogues offer children’s services or activities on Shabbat mornings.