web analytics
September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Rabbi Kleiman – Still The First One In Shul

Rabbi Sidney Kleiman

Rabbi Sidney Kleiman

It’s not often that I get to speak to a rabbi about to celebrate his 99th birthday.

Last week I visited Rabbi Sidney Kleiman, who has served as rabbi (now rabbi emeritus) of Manhattan’s Congregation Adereth El for over 70 years. Hired in 1939, Rabbi Kleiman still attends minyan every morning without fail. “I’m determined to do so,” he told me. “I’m the first one in shul because I believe that minyan is the most important part of Judaism today. If people come to minyan every day, then Judaism will endure.”

In a sense, Rabbi Kleiman’s age perfectly fits his synagogue, for Adereth El is New York’s oldest continually used synagogue building. Founded in 1857 by Bohemian Jews, the congregation constructed its current building on East 29th St. (between Lexington and Third Avenues) in 1864.

The synagogue originally possessed a German character – the traditional prayer on behalf of the government, for example, was recited in German until 1899 – but by the time Rabbi Kleiman came to the shul, Russian Jews had taken it over, and its rabbis delivered sermons in Yiddish.

Times were changing, though. “My first drasha was in Yiddish,” Rabbi Kleiman recalls, “but the American kids didn’t understand Yiddish. They said, ‘Rabbi, speak in English,’ so I did.”

Not everyone was happy. “When I preached my first English sermon, a fellow [named] Goldberg walked out and made a whole tumult,” Rabbi Kleiman said. Nonetheless, most of the congregation supported him. “They were trying to get the American youth back to Judaism,” Rabbi Kleiman explains. “Not many Jews were observant; everybody was going away from Judaism.

“When I came here there was nothing. It was a non-Jewish neighborhood. I had to build it up. I used to get on the telephone and call up people for minyan. Sunday morning I would call, and they would say, ‘Hey, rabbi, I want to sleep.’ I said, ‘Never mind sleep, come to shul.’ They resented me for what I did, but that didn’t stop me.”

Synagogue attendance was not the shul’s only difficulty. The Great Depression naturally hit the synagogue hard, and Rabbi Kleiman remembers congregants donating coal and suits instead of money. “They donated a suit to the chazzan and shamash, but the shamash resented it. ‘I don’t want your suit. Give me cash,’ he said. It was a tough period.”

I asked Rabbi Kleiman, who was born in New York City, why he decided to enter the rabbinate in an era when so many others pursued more “American” and lucrative careers. “As a child,” he replied, “I used to go to a synagogue on 146th St. in the Bronx. The rabbi was Rabbi Abraham Naphtali Gallant and I was inspired by his talks to become a rabbi. My family thought I was crazy. ‘That’s not a job for an American boy,’ they said. They wanted me to become a lawyer, but I insisted.”

To that end, Rabbi Kleiman attended the newly established Yeshiva College, receiving his semicha from Rav Moshe Soloveichik. “He was a great man,” Rabbi Kleiman recalls, noting, however, that he “wasn’t as strict as [his legendary son] Yosef Ber.” He also remembers the school’s founder, Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel. “He was a big scholar and very dedicated to the yeshiva. He liked me and encouraged me.”

Achieving his goal was not easy. Due to an accident, Rabbi Kleiman’s father had to have his leg amputated, and Rabbi Kleiman was forced to assume responsibility for supporting his family. “I became a salesman. Every day I would walk from my house to the yeshiva, going into all the candy stores and selling them stationery.”

“He’s really an inspiration,” said Rabbi Gideon Shloush, 40, Adereth El’s current rabbi. “He’s impacted so many lives over so many decades. He continues to give drashos. That’s an amazing thing – he’ll get up and speak with no papers for 10-15 minutes. People are very inspired; they love to hear him. He kept this shul going, and now, remarkably, we’re seeing a resurgence and revitalization of the community.”

I asked Rabbi Kleiman if he sees himself as a role model. “I’m not interested in setting myself as a model,” he said. “I’m not that big a man. My name is Kleiman, which means ‘small man,’ kleiner mann. I’m just happy to do what I do, and if people want to follow my example, so much better.”

Adereth El is celebrating Rabbi Kleiman’s birthday next Shabbat, January 28. Rabbi Kleiman will deliver the sermon. Rabbi Shloush asks that people e-mail their memories of Rabbi Kleiman, and tributes, to info@aderethel.org.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Rabbi Kleiman – Still The First One In Shul”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
In Lebanon, smoke rises from a Sunni Muslim dominated neighborhood in Tripoli on August 21, 2014.
Iran, US Equip & Finance Lebanese Army to Fight ISIS
Latest Indepth Stories
terrorists

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

obama

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Ayatollah Hossein-Kazamani Boroujerdi, in better times (left) and in his prison cell (right).

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Senior Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza City on April 22. Hamas and Fatah signed a deal to establish a unity government, but since then little progress has been made.

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

Shemita is about relating to each other by temporarily eliminating gaps of wealth power & status

David transcended adversity to become a leader; Who are we to make excuses for a lack of greatness?

sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience

Last week the president announced a four-point plan. Unfortunately, there’s little buy-in from our European and Middle Eastern allies. Here’s my own four-point plan that may be more palatable to our allies.

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
FE_PR_100112_22Learning_CableTV425x282

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Ben Cohen

If you remember, in 2006, a Jewish kid in Paris, Ilan Halimi, was abducted, beaten, and held hostage for three weeks… These are the kinds of people attending these Gaza solidarity rallies.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

Formerly an attorney at the prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose for 40 years – six of those years as its chairman – Fagin holds degrees from both Columbia and Harvard Universities. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to the Jewish community.

The message is that Zionism, which used to be great, is today very institutionalized and [consists of a] bunch of people who are just squabbling over titles and budgets.

For Steinsaltz, the Rebbe was no less than “the greatest man I have ever met,” as he writes in the preface to his book.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/rabbi-kleiman-still-the-first-one-in-shul/2012/01/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: