Shul rings changes on phones

By Jay Grenby, Radlett, August 13, 2009

Radlett Synagogue leaders are clamping down on the use of electronic devices during services to “bring some respect back into the shul”.

Members and guests have been using mobile phones, BlackBerry devices and even laptops in synagogue. One visitor was seen trying to order a takeaway at a recent Shabbat morning service. Another guest was caught discreetly videoing a barmitzvah with a camera hidden inside a tallit bag.

In a letter to members, Radlett chair Michael Seres wrote that such behaviour had “left our regular members, myself included, feeling very sad and disillusioned. It is time we took a firm stance.”

He said this week that adults were as guilty as children of “breaching the fundamental rules of shul decorum while displaying a marked lack of respect for the service in which they are alleged to be participating.”

In addition to notices warning against the use of electronic devices, it is hoped that initiatives such as moving the bimah to a more central position will have a positive effect. The community’s youth leaders, Daniel Finn and Ronen Gordon, are also coming into the main shul to ask youngsters present to join in the youth activities next door.

One visitor was trying to order a takeaway

“Not only will this free up space,” Mr Seres explained. “It is hoped that having heard the barmitzvah, the kids will then be interested in participating in our youth set-up rather than sitting talking at the back of the shul.”

Radlett minister Rabbi Ariel Abel is doing his bit to stop mobile phone use in shul by reasoning with offenders. Over the festivals, the plan is to ask congregants to hand in their phones at the door.

Last updated: 11:24am, August 13 2009