After reading the article, “Making Synagogue Meaningful”, I found three tips which might prove useful:
1) “Five Minutes of prayer said with understanding, feeling, and a personal connection.” I found this tip interesting because I grew up with most of these prayers, and I can usually find some kind of memory (happy or sad) to connect with most of them. It wouldn’t be difficult to connect the service to a memory ‘playlist’ during the high holidays.
3) “Read through the prayers slowly and think about what you’re saying”. I found this nice because, although I don’t have a perfect understanding of Hebrew, I know enough of the language to ponder over the differences between the English and the translation, and to think about how the meaning changes depending on the language through which a passage is viewed. This happens to me during Torah services a lot, and it usually results in something thought-provoking for me to discuss with friends and family later on.
6) “You are joined by millions of Jews in synagogues all over the world”. I find this a very comforting statement, particularly as Judaism and Israel have recently come under a great deal of external pressure. Knowing that I am not alone, but part of a greater community, helps make my trips to the synagogue meaningful.
Beyond these, a tip that I’ve always found to be particularly useful is to use a service as a means to organize my thoughts and think about my own life, and what I can do to improve it. Jewish services, particularly during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are laced with moralistic passages discussing what we’re thankful for. During each of these passages, I take time to think about why/if I truly am thankful for each of these things and what I can do to improve the situation for myself/others if I am not satisfied with my answer.