The Conspiracy

Can I Get a Yasher Koach?

Ashrei. That was the start to the service I led at my temple two weeks ago. Standing at 5’3, squeaky voice me, I stepped up to the bima at my local Conservative synagogue. A mere 40 minutes later, the service concluded with “yasher koach” being whispered left and right. But after stepping away from the rickety podium, I wondered to myself why more people my age haven’t tried to lead a service. For most people, years of religious school, weekly Hebrew tutoring sessions, joining Jewish youth groups, all eventually climaxed in a Bat Mitzvah; it never seemed to end there for me.

I stood there and connected the dots as I scanned the audience for my friends and family. Other 12- and 13-year-old students had to prepare just like me all those years ago…there must be some reason why I don’t see more 20-year-olds reading from the Torah on Saturday mornings. Are they frightened? Lazy? Too busy? After all, words like “responsible” and “mature” aren’t the first to come to mind when most people think of a typical college student. And then, I saw a class offered by UF Hillel &#8212 my home away from home &#8212 that took me by (pleasant) surprise. Aside from intense Krav Maga classes and weekly Shabbat dinners, Hillel has now started offering a service leading class. Instructed by Howard Rosenblatt, a former cantor of my local congregation, the class is specifically geared toward college students, explaining the fundamentals on how to lead a service including the songs and the slight body movements. Through learning the importance of prayer, students will gain the feeling of belonging to a much larger community that may not have had access to before.

Perhaps students leaving this class won’t feel the urge to become rabbis, and, no, the class won’t cure the classic case of stage fright, but what a class like this would do is convince Jewish students &#8212 Reform, Conservative and Orthodox &#8212 that leading a service should be seen as a privilege and an honor.

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