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Synagogue Establishes "Fantasy Shul League"

May 9, 2009 | by Isidore Rappoport

Competition heats up to draft best "Daveners."

In an effort to increase attendance, the Emanuel Synagogue of People in New Connecticut (ESPNC) announced the formation of what they are calling the "Fantasy Shul League" (FSL). "Fantasy sports leagues are all the rage among men between 18-35 years old," said ESPNC president, David Light, "and we're trying to bring the kind of enthusiasm you generally see on the sports field, into the house of worship."

Light has named former ESPNC gabbi (ritual assistant) Saul Korin commissioner of the FSL. Korin will supervise the draft and will be responsible for overseeing official scoring, trades and the waiver wire. The league will consist of 36 "team owners" who will draft members of the congregation for their team. "Every member of the synagogue will be eligible for the draft, as long as they have paid at least part of their 2007/2008 dues," said commissioner Korin. Each team will consist of a minyan, with seven players designated as starters, three as reserves on the bench.

Like Fantasy Football, team members of the FSL will have designated positions on teams; quarterback (shaliach tzibur -- leader of the services), three running backs (aliyot – reciting the blessings over the Torah), two wide receivers (hagbahah/galil'yah – raising and tying the Torah), tight end (ba'al koreh - torah reader), defense/special teams (maftir/haftorah – reciting passages from the prophets) and a kicker (peticha – opening the ark). The point scoring system is based on people's involvement in services (a list of the official scoring structure can be find at the bottom of this article).

The shul has been abuzz about the upcoming draft and team owners have been developing scouting reports trying to evaluate who the weekday regulars are, Shabbat morning regulars, who can lead services, who can read torah, and who can read haftorah. "I've even heard that several owners are getting team kippahs made to be worn as a kind of team jersey," said ESPNC President Light.

Discussing nuances of Fantasy Shul League strategy, commissioner Korin said, "For example, team owners need to weigh the pluses and minus of drafting a Cohen, Levi or Israel. While those from the tribe of Israel have more opportunities for aliyahs, there are fewer Cohens and Levites in the shul."

Reaction to the FSL has been quite positive and there has been a noticeable up tick in participation at ESPNC as members try to improve their ranking in the upcoming draft. There were even reports that competition for roles in a recent Thursday morning torah service became so fierce that one congregant actually tackled another on his way up to open the ark. In order to prevent future conflict the shul's gabbai will increase security, and institute a rigorous anti-doping policy.

Fantasy Shul League Scoring System:
Leading Maariv: 7
Leading Psukei D’Zimra: 3
Leading weekday Shachrit: 9
Leading Shabbat Shachrit: 10 (extra point for hitting the high notes in kedusha)
Leading weekday Mincha: 5
Leading Shabbat Mincha: 6
Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv: 11
Carlbach style Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv:13
Shabbat Musaf: 8
Carlbach style musaf: 10
Shabbat Musaf/Rosh chodesh: 11

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