Reform and more religiously liberal* shuls do many things right– they often have great community service/charity programs, excellent day schools that provide a great blend of secular and Jewish/Hebrew education, they have realistic expectations for blended Jewish families and LGBT congregation members. There’s lots to be positive about.
But the services really make me cringe. They are awful. I hate the guitars, keyboards, microphones. I hate that the cantor sings facing the congregation like I’m at a middle school recital. I hate the pews.
Part of what I love about being Jewish is that I’m not a Christian that has to perform my religion in a church-concert. Why can’t Reform shuls bring it back down to earth and have services that are not modeled on church services?
I love how orthodox services don’t demand my full attention– I can say hello to people as they come in, I can take my time through prayers that I find really relevant to me. It’s beautiful when people are davening different parts of the service and it feels so much more authentic and less produced. I love kids running around the shul and people coming in and out. In Reform shuls I feel like I have to stand at attention and be exactly where the cantor is. It’s really distracting and overbearing.
I feel like one shift I’ve noticed is that Jews want their Jewishness to be distinct from American WASPness, and I think the way Reform services are is a huge turn off to young people because it emulates a lot of WASPy traditions. I’d much rather step into a synagogue and feel like I’m in another culture, a place that transcends place/time, because to me that’s a huge part of Judaism– 3000+ years of being apart and being distinct.
I know some people will say “ok then go to an Orthodox shul”…but as I mentioned at the beginning, reform shuls do many things right, and they serve an important part of the community. I think their services are the weakest part of what they offer and I think they are out of touch with the experience people would respond to.
Edit: I did not tag this LGBT, idk if a mod did or if it’s automatic.
Edit 2: got some really good perspectives and comments. Thank you!