LETTER TO EDITOR: Why do people think it’s okay to take any empty seat in shul?


Dear VIN,
There is an issue that arises every week in many shuls that I believe should be addressed.

When I visit a shul as a guest, I’m faced with a dilemma. I don’t want to take someone else’s seat, so I usually end up standing in the back or finding a corner. In addition to being somewhat uncomfortable, it is an even bigger problem when my children are with me.

Sometimes a shul member will approach me and tell me which seat is open. However this is not always the case, and even if they try to help, they don’t always know which congregants are away that Shabbos, or if they’re just late for shul.

In my experience, some people feel like they can walk into shul as a guest and take any vacant seat they find. This seems bizarre. How would they feel if they come into shul 15-20 minutes late (or later) and discover a stranger in their seat?

You may be thinking: Why can’t they politely tell the person to get out of their seat?

I don’t know about you, but I could never bring myself to kick someone out of my seat. I know it may technically be within my rights, but I just can’t do it.

I realize this is not as serious as the shidduch or tuition crisis, but I believe this is an issue and may have a simple fix. I’m thinking that every shul should have someone officially in charge of seating who will monitor which seats are available, and guests can approach him and be guided to an available seat.

This would prevent a lot of awkward situations, and be a solution for both shul members and guests to never need to stand in the back.

–Standing in the back for 2 hours


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