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I have been practicing my observance with a super-friendly Chabad congregation but my area, predominantly secular and Modern Orthodox, has a bunch of MO congregations that I'm very curious to visit, perhaps to taste the difference. As someone with a Chabad background, albeit a beginner, what are some things I should expect to be different?

(Also, I am going to bring a Koren Sacks siddur there instead of the Tehillat Hashem one, good idea?)

Edit: I'm curious about all aspects of difference, not just the nusach.

  • "Brich Hu" instead of "Amen" during Kaddish. – Shalom Jan 29 at 21:08
  • Chabad siddur is very good. Are you really forced to switch? – kouty Jan 29 at 21:16
  • Not really @kouty . I own both and I am indeed more used to Tehillat Hashem, but I don't expect an MO congregation to use it. I agree with with DanF's answer below, I will likely be able to pick up the right one at the shul anyway, except if they don't happen to have enough. – Yosef M Jan 29 at 21:49
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    @Alex a good answer would cover both methinks – Double AA Jan 29 at 23:57
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    Welcome to MiYodeya Yosef and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Jan 30 at 3:29
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You won't find too many differences other than some changes in the Nusach and the siddur.

Most MO shuls tend to be Nusach Ashkenaz from what I've seen, but you should inquire. That's not a given rule. I don't recommend bringing a siddur with you unless you are personally comfortable with the Koren siddur and can't readily transfer to another one. My reasoning:

  • The shul has its own siddurim usually in ample supply, so there's no need to bring your own
  • If the shul is not in an eruv on Shabbat, then you definitely should not bring your own siddur
  • You may get confused with finding the proper page that the cong. is on if you use a different siddur than the rest of them do

The tunes the cong. sing may or may not be familiar to what you’re used to. It depends where you go. Some do more congregational singing than others.

MO shuls tend to start much earlier than Chab"d shuls on Shabbat. In the U.S., that time can range from 8 - 9 AM in most places. But, it's most likely not starting at 10AM as many Chaba"d shuls do.

If you're a guest, you may or may not find the "open friendliness" that I've found Chaba"d tends to offer. Some MO shuls have people that will spot you as a guest immediately and you may get numerous lunch offers. Others, have no clue that you came in or cared either way. Pick a "small" place, if you can. It will be a less intimidating start.

I will say that MO shuls have changed significantly since the 70s. In U.S., it seems that philosophy and demographics have trended towards being halachically stricter. Many men in MO shuls wear black hats, now whereas that wasn't as much the trend until about 20 years ago. I've seen a bit of a trend towards separate men / women seating at meals and even at lectures. My point is that there's no set "standard" - at least less so now than there was 30 - 40 years ago.

(If you're somewhat curious about the MO trend, Rabbi Riskin's Lincoln Square shul in NYC was considered MO when he was there. I don't know if it would still be considered that way, now. Even so, I understand that it has attracted more of a "yeshivish" crowd.)

In short, I recommend contacting the shul's rabbi and asking some basic questions and introducing yourself. It will provide you with answers and it helps if the rabbi, at least, knows that you will be a guest there. It also makes it easier for you vs. entering "blindly".

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Things you’ll find in the shuls you would like to visit (unlike Chabad):

  • Congregants don’t wear a gartel (waistbands)
  • The pronounciation of cholam (Chabad substitutes it with a tzere)
  • Typically only say the prescribed Kaddeshim (Kaddish) in their respective siddur (Chabad customarily will add pieces of liturgy or other things to say additional Kaddish)
  • Even unmarried chazzan for Shacharit will don a tallit
  • Even an unmarried ba’al koreh (Torah reader) will don a tallit
  • The chazzan will ordinarily don a tallit for afternoon and evening services
  • Haggbah is done differently than at Chabad. (As you’ve probably been accustomed to at Chabad, after the Torah is lifted it is laid back on the bimmah, both ends are rolled together and then raised again by the nominee who retreats to his designated chair to have gelilah done. At virtually all other synagogues who use the same kind of Torah casing, after the scroll was displayed to the congregation the nominee retreats to his chair while still holding the scroll open.)

(Will try to update as more come to mind. Feel free to add any.)

  • I haven't been to a Chaba"d minyan in a while. But, perhaps an item to add is that few MO congregants wear the Tallit over their heads. – DanF Jan 30 at 14:21
  • @Oliver while I accepted the other answer because it's more broad, your answer is also very helpful, and I would appreciate any further additions or comments to it - thanks! – Yosef M Jan 30 at 17:55
  • @DanF However IME many MO congregants at various synagogues (of theirs) do cover their heads after Barchu, which is fairly common with Chabad too. – Oliver Jan 30 at 18:15
  • @YosefM I don't think that you can accept more than one answer. This answer adds some very good info that mine doesn't. I think that the best that you can do is place a bounty with the intent to reward this answer, as well. – DanF Jan 31 at 16:00
  • @Oliver Agreed. Which is why I stated in my answer that the nature and practices in current MO shuls have changed a lot. There aren't too many left as far as I know. "Young Israel" started as a MO type shul years ago. Since about 30 years ago, many of them are yeshivish. There's been a general trend to become "more frum" and "stricter". (I could write a paper as to why that's happened.) Many people have been starting to denounce Yeshiva University and their graduates! I don't get it. – DanF Jan 31 at 16:06

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