Guide to non-Jewish visitors

We welcome non-Jewish visitors to our synagogue – whether you have an interest in interfaith or finding out more about Judaism.

Synagogue services are very different to other faith services and this guide will help prepare you for what to expect.

 

Welcome to the WJCC's Beth El Synagogue

continuing 3,000 years of tradition

 

כִּי יוֹתֵר מִשֶּׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל שָׁמְרוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת, שָׁמְרָה הַשַּׁבָּת אוֹתָם

"More than Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Jews"

Friday Evening Service

Friday evening services consist of several services held back to back: a mincha or afternoon service followed by a kabbalat Shabbat service to welcome Shabbat, followed by ma’ariv or evening service for Shabbat. (In winter the mincha service may be omitted if services are starting after sunset.)

 

Mincha

is recited in the late afternoon and consists of:

  • An introduction based on Psalm 145.

  • Amida or silent prayer, which is repeated aloud by the leader if there is a minyan or quorum of 10 adult Jewish men.

 

Kabbalat Shabbat

Consists of:

  • Yedid Nefesh, a 16th century poem.

  • Psalms 95-99, 29.

  • Lkha Dodi, another 16th century poem.

These passages are normally put to melodious tunes by the leader accompanied by the congregation.

 

Ma’ariv

is recited in the evening and a modified version is recited on Shabbat, consisting of:

  • Introductory Psalms 92 and 93.

  • Shema – a prayer central to Judaism repeating passages from the Torah which Jews are commanded to recite.

  • Amida or silent prayer (which is significantly shorter than the weekday version).

  • Silent recitation of excerpts from mishnah and talmud (texts of Jewish law) relating to Shabbat.

  • Concluding prayers – including aleynu, which is recited towards the end of all Jewish services.

  • Yigdal, a poem setting out the thirteen principles of faith codified by Maimonides.

Following the service kiddush is recited over wine or grape juice and refreshments to fulfill the commandment to remember Shabbat.

 

Saturday morning services

Saturday morning services consist of:


Shacharit morning service.​


A Torah service where the week's portion of the Torah is read.

A sermon by the Rabbi or visiting guest.

Mussaf or additional festival service for Shabbat and other festivals.

Kiddush or festive meal.

 

Shacharit

consists of:

  • Introductory blessings and Psalms of thanksgiving and praise to God. Many additional readings are said on Shabbat in its honour making this section longer than on weekdays.

  • Shema – a prayer central to Judaism repeating passages from the Torah which Jews are commanded to recite.

  • Amida or silent prayer, which is repeated aloud by the leader if there is a minyan or quorum of 10 adult Jewish men.

 

Torah Service

The Torah service then begins with a procession bringing a sefer Torah (Torah scroll) from the Aron (ark) to the bimah (reading platform) in the centre of the synagogue (on festivals and special Shabbatot more than one sefer Torah may be removed for additional readings).

Seven congregants are then honoured with an aliya where they are called up to the Torah to have a portion of the week’s reading read in their name. An additional person is honoured with reading a related passage from the writings of prophets.


After the reading, prayers are read for the congregation, the royal family and the New Zealand government, the Israeli government, and for any Jews held in captivity.


The sermon is delivered, usually by the rabbi.

 

Mussaf

consists of:

  • Amida or silent prayer, which is repeated aloud by the leader if there is a minyan or quorum of 10 adult Jewish men. The musaf amida is significantly different as it is an additional service for Shabbat and festivals.

  • A series of concluding passages – with some led by children.

 

Kiddush

Kiddush is a festive meal, usually served in the Myers Hall after services. Kiddush is recited over wine or grape juice and refreshments to fulfill the commandment to remember Shabbat. The extent of the refreshments will vary with a larger offering for a special occasion like a bar or bat mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) or other commemoration.