Service at Darchei Noam

Located in a modern, sunlit building, the Modern Orthodox congregation of Darchei Noam worships and celebrates the end of Pesach (or Passover). Male and female congregants are separated by a moveable mechitza, which divides the room into left and right, a version of Mechitza that some feel is more egalitarian than one which places women behind men. However, the Torah and bimah are still firmly located on the men's side of the congregation. A transparent curtain on the wooden Mechitza is drawn during prayer but pulled back for announcements and the sermon. 

Although, like Kenesseth Israel, there were far more men than women at the service, there were far more women at Darchei than we saw at Kenesseth. The atmosphere overall is far less formal, and many of the women chat and embrace openly during the service. Married women cover their heads, though few wear wigs, most opting instead for scarves or hats. Men too seem to be dressed in a religious state of "in-between," wearing kippot and tallitot, but with few exceptions are clean shaven.

This is a more professional congregation than the other two Orthodox synagogues in town; many congregants are lawyers, doctors, or occupy other highly educated positions in the community. The community is also clearly tight-knit. During breaks in the service people ask about each other's family members, in the women's section babies are passed around so often it is difficult to tell who the child's mother actually is. Halfway through the service, a stream of children rush in, eager to grab a marshmallow treat from one of the women, before running back out to the playrooms across the hall from the sanctuary. 

Though the atmosphere is very religious and undoubtedly focused on Judaism, the secular world too makes an appearance. In his sermon, the Rabbi brings up Shakespeare, later congregants say prayers for the U.S. Government and the U.S. Military. Near the end of the service two collections go around (because congregants are forbidden from writing on the sabbath, they are given envelopes with their names and information already printed, and are asked to fold down a tap indicating the amount they would like to donate), one for observant Israeli farmers who maintain the practice of "resting their land" every seventh year, and another to provide Kosher meals for Jewish members of the U.S. Military.