As a long-time Temple Sinai member, I never gave much thought to the pews in the Sanctuary until I became the head of the Ritual Committee almost 20 years ago. The Ritual Committee at that time had a varied and wide-reaching jurisdiction, ranging from planning the Friday night chicken dinners, to the time of Friday night services (it will surprise many readers to discover that the majority of Friday night services in those years started at 8 p.m. and included a Torah service), to whether the clergy should perform interfaith marriages. But one of the more entertaining aspects of the job was to receive complaints from congregants about the High Holy Day services (who didn’t like which sermon from which rabbi or who didn’t like which melody that the cantor chose). Nonetheless, the number one complaint every year was how uncomfortable the pews were.

That complaint led me to explore replacing the pews with chairs. I researched chair companies and obtained some quotes, but in the end the money for this project was not budgeted, and so I abandoned the project although I remained committed to it. I told every successive Board president that I remained willing and eager to tackle the removal of the pews whenever the time was right.

Finally, the time was right. Gary Friend asked me to meet him in the Library one Sunday morning a few years back, told me of the Capital Campaign and the plan to renovate the Sanctuary, and asked me to gather information and cost estimates for the Board for replacing the pews with chairs. I became the Chair of the ad hoc Chair Committee with Tom Plotz, Deborah Scheck, Meredith Margolis and Kevin Mulshine. We interviewed chair salesmen, obtained and tried out many chair samples, debating and evaluating comfort, stackability and book racks.

The end result was all new chairs in the Sanctuary and Bet Am and new choir chairs. To my knowledge, the chairs have been universally well-received, and the complaints about being uncomfortable (physically) during services have ended.


– Lafe Solomon