Bombing At Shul

Growing up a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian, I got used to speakers being introduced with a little prayer. You can see some of that action here at Loma Linda last Sabbath.

Christians will often say a word of prayer along the lines of, “Dear Lord, please open our hearts to hear the words of Doctor Ford today as he speaks to us about the eternal truths of the Gospel.”

By contrast, Jews never say prayers to God that He open their hearts to hear the words of another Jew. (Dennis Prager)

Jews are a much tougher crowd. They’re much more difficult to impress.

I’ve spoken to Jews. Around 1995, I gave a talk in Westwood for the Sephardic Educational Center about my conversion to Judaism and people were constantly raising their hands and challenging what I was saying and making me read aloud in Hebrew from certain sections of the prayer book (Pirkei Avot).

I enjoyed the challenge, but talking before goyim is much easier.

No wonder Jesus got so pissed off at the Juden.

Every shul has a distinctive personality. A speech that goes over well at Bnai David-Judea may well bomb at Beth Jacob and Young Israel of Century City (YICC). David Klinghoffer is a favorite Orthodox author of mine but he did not go over well at YICC in 2001.

Dennis Prager is my hero but he bombed at YICC in 1994 when he said that masturbation and pre-marital sex weren’t so terrible.

It’s mortifying when someone you love bombs at your shul. It’s the worst feeling. You wonder where did you go wrong? What were you thinking? How did your understanding of reality get so warped? Why did you ever think this combination would work out?

In my vast experience, most Jews at shul want to hear comforting non-challenging words. Talks to sleep by rather than talks to live by. Most of the time when a speaker challenges his audience at shul, he bombs.

YICC is a particularly challenging shul to speak to. They have a very particular vision of Modern Orthodox Judaism. They’re strong in their Torah and in their worldly success. They’re overwhelmingly frum from birth. They went to the same yeshivot. You better know you’re speaking at the Four Seasons of shuls.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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