NHBZ to hold first ‘Synaplex Shabbat’

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

Nusach Hari B’nai Zion will hold a new kind of Shabbat experience on Saturday, April 14, when the congregation welcomes the community to its first “Synaplex Shabbat.”

After the regular Shabbat service at 8:30 a.m., congregants and visitors will be able to attend one of eight simultaneous breakout sessions on a variety of topics. Speakers include Rabbi Sroy Levitansky of the St. Louis Kollel, who will speak on “An inside Look at Avraham in the Chumash,” and Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who will speak on “Another New Anti-Semitism: Jimmy Carter and Others.” At noon, participants will be treated to Kiddush lunch.

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In offering Synaplex programming, NHBZ joins the more than 150 synagogues across the nation who are participating in the STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) Foundation, a Minneapolis-based organization that started three years ago to develop new ways to increase participation and involvement at synagogues.

NHBZ is the first Orthodox congregation in St. Louis to offer Synaplex programming, and along with United Hebrew is one of only two synagogues in the area taking part in the program.

“We’ve gone past the stage of one size fits all,” said shul president Menachem Szuz.

“We recognize the fact that different people have different tastes in what they want to get out of a synagogue experience and especially education programs,” he said.

NHBZ Rabbi Ze’ev Smason said the congregation plans to offer Synaplex Shabbat programs once every other month, alternating on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.

“At our congregation, we look at it as a tremendous opportunity to be able to both expand our programming for members of our own congregation as well as providing meaningful programming and outreach to the general community,” Smason said.

“Synaplex programming, like the term ‘Cineplex’ provides both a nice opportunity for people to socialize and also a menu for people to be able to select programs and classes from a number of speakers, with both people in the congregation and in the community participating,” he said.

Brigitte Rosenberg, associate rabbi at United Hebrew, said UH is gearing up for its fourth Synaplex Shabbat, on Friday, April 20, when it offers an Israel-themed Shabbat service and Israeli dancing and a talk from congregant Marcy Cornfield about her involvement with “One Family,” an organization which supports victims of terror in Israel.

United Hebrew has taken part in the STAR Foundation’s Synaplex program since last spring, Rosenberg said. The program not only provides congregations with programming ideas, but it also helps them to critically evaluate their marketing, communication, programming, and volunteer coordination to see how well they are serving congregants’ needs, she said.

“It’s sort of a way to get congregations to think about what they’re already doing,” Rosenberg said. “The goal is not to get you to radically change what you’re doing or who you are but it’s to work with what you have, and then figure out with what we have, where can we improve and what can we can add.”

“The congregation needs to think of itself as offering not only t’fillah — worship, but also offering study opportunities and what they call social opportunities, to think of your congregation as a gathering or a meeting place,” Rosenberg said.

For more information on the NHBZ Synaplex Shabbat, visit nhbz.org or call 314-991-2100. For information on the Synaplex program at UH, visit unitedhebrew.org or call 314-434-3404.