A Jerusalem congregation goes to the dogs

JROAST Purim Spoof: Snacks are brought in a doggie bag and a dog kiddush concludes the service before the dogs return excitedly to their owners and “the prayer for the welfare of dogs” is recited.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Southern Jerusalem is famous for its variety of progressive synagogue options, but one congregation can claim its bark is worse than its bite.
Kehilat Kelev bills itself as Israel’s first dog-friendly congregation. “Pet-ition God with your pet by your side,” the shul’s website proudly proclaims.
Chairs at the egalitarian shul are arranged with extra space between them so that prayer-goers have room for extra paws among the pews. A separate section with more tightly packed seating is designated for members with lap dogs.
Kehilat Kelev ups the ante over notoriously dog-affable Tel Aviv, where it’s common to find man’s best friend welcome in the trendiest of restaurants.
Midway through services, dogs are invited to leave the building for “Tefilat Klavim” – aka the dog service. There, the dogregants are pampered for 45 minutes with a trip to the nearby park where tummy rubs are dispensed along with rebbe-themed games of fetch. (“Rashi says, ‘go long.’”)
The portion of the week is explained in dog-appropriate language. Snacks are brought in a doggie bag and a dog kiddush concludes the service before the dogs return excitedly to their owners and “the prayer for the welfare of dogs” is recited.
The highlight of Kehilat Kelev’s programming for pets is when a bark mitzvah takes place. Dogs that are turning 13 are invited up to the bima, where they are pelted with dog treats and chew toys while congregants sing out “That’s a good boy” or “That’s a good girl” while dancing around the room. Dogs that are especially vocal are offered a platform to bark out a short divrei barka and to thank any special trees, curbs or plastic bags they have befriended over their decade plus of life.
The bark mitzvah concludes with the assembled congregation crying out in unison, “Muzzle tov!”