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1st Seating Pilot- 10/28/2023

Thank you to everyone who attended Washington Square Minyan's first seating pilot on October 28, and also to all those who shared feedback by completing the survey. In the interest of transparency, we are sharing the responses from the survey with the community. We look forward to your continued participation and feedback in the coming weeks and months, as we continue to experiment and reflect on our experiences.

TL/DR: We got mixed feedback on the first seating pilot (see below for more details). There were definitely some logistical/setup issues on 10/28 that need to be taken into consideration in planning the next pilot.

Please see the bottom of this email for a recap of the email that was sent to the community over the summer, explaining the goals of the Seating Pilot and our approach to communal decision-making.


We set up the chapel with the table (amud) further back than usual, which created additional space in the front of the room and allowed us to set up more chairs than usual in our regular space (the KI chapel). The back of the room was the all-gender section, and the front of the room had separate sections for men and women. Each of those two sections had options for facing forward (toward the ark) or facing inward (toward the other separate section). We started with an equal number of chairs in each of the three sections, and added more chairs to the all-gender section during the service as the entire room, and especially the all-gender section, filled up. We sent out a diagram of the room set-up in the pre-Shabbat weekly email (click HERE to see it).


Responses (based on the survey that went out to the mailing list):

By Tuesday evening (11/7/2023), we had received responses from 43 people who had attended the pilot service:

  • 22 people (51% of respondents) indicated that their experience was better than a typical Shabbat.
  • 7 people (16% of respondents) indicated that their experience was worse than a typical Shabbat.
  • 13 people (30% of respondents) indicated that their experience was about the same as a typical Shabbat. (One person did not answer that question.)

Note that we had a very large turnout on Shabbat morning; the 43 responses received represent around half of the adult attendees. 

Just as a reminder, the survey is designed to solicit feedback to help us plan for future seating pilots. It is not intended to be a vote or a tool to make a decision about whether or not to make a permanent change to WSM’s seating configuration. We are sharing the results of the survey with the community in the interest of transparency, with the understanding that it should be taken simply as a snapshot of people’s reactions to the specific pilot service. (We have included at the bottom of this email language from the original email that went out to the community during the summer about the seating pilot; you can read more about it at 


Some of the things that people liked:

  • Sitting with family
  • Robust attendance and good energy
  • Well organized, engaging, great davening
  • Nice to have options of where to sit; it felt more inclusive and more flexible.


Some of the things that people disliked:

  • Crowded; difficult to move around the room.
  • Difficult to hear (especially during d’var, since the speaker was so far forward).
  • Noisier than usual.
  • A specific criticism of separate seating areas (in the front of the room): some people did not like having their back to the leader/amud; some people did not like “facing in” (i.e., looking directly at the people in the other “separate” section).


Other feedback:

  • Placement of the amud (table) got mixed reviews: a few people liked that it was further back than usual (felt more participatory), but others thought it was too far back (especially for those sitting in the front) and it should be moved up in the future.
  • Some people thought that it was a “serious davening experience,” while others thought it felt more chaotic and that undercut the tefillah experience to some degree.
  • There was disagreement about whether it “felt like an integrated whole” or if the minyan “was divided into two camps,” with others saying that it felt like a good “compromise.”
  • Where people want to sit based on their preferences for mixed/separate didn’t always match where they want to sit based on their preference for front/back of the room.
  • Some people wondered if we could really gauge what people’s true seating preferences are, as some people (especially those who came later) may have wound up sitting wherever they found an empty seat (rather than where they might have chosen to sit based on other criteria).
  • Some people wondered whether changing the seating configuration would change the feel / essence of WSM, either by attracting a particular kind of (potential) new member or by alienating others.
  • A few people (approximately 10%) expressed strong discomfort with the idea of “mixed” seating and said that they did not want to see any change.


Next Steps
Our next pilots will take place on November 18, December 9 (followed by community lunch), and December 30. We will be experimenting with different room set-ups for future pilots, and will continue to solicit feedback from those who attend. At some future point, we plan to send a more detailed survey questionnaire to those who are official paying members of WSM (click HERE for more information about membership), and we will use that information to help make decisions about next steps for our community. Implementing the Seating Pilot does not mean that we are definitely planning to move to a different seating configuration in the coming months; decisions will be made based on careful consideration of responses from the community. What the precise process will be – both for engaging in community-wide conversation and for decision-making – is still under consideration.

To share more detailed feedback/opinions/concerns, or to ask questions, please reach out to the WSM Vaad (leadership team) by writing to

We are appreciative of the community’s support for this experiment, and we look forward to continuing to learn and grow together as a community.

Tue, May 28 2024 20 Iyyar 5784