web analytics
November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



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
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry .
NYT Ignores US Condemnation of PA Incitement, Prints Info on Ferguson Cop
Latest Indepth Stories
Kessim (religious leaders) mark the opening of a synagogue in the village of Gomenge, Ethopia, one of five built in Gondar with JDC aid, 1988
Courtesy of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York.

In a world where people question whether they should be engaged, we are a reminder that all Jews are responsible for one another.

Greiff-112814-Levaya

My son is seventeen; he didn’t want to talk about what happened, or give any details of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words of chizuk.

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri

All involved in the Ferguson debate should learn the laws pertinent to non-Jews: the Noahide Laws.

Charley Levine

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

Abbas has been adding new layers of rhetoric to his tactical campaign to de-Judaize Jerusalem

The Jew’s crime is his presence.

Hamas’s love for death tried to have as many Palestinian civilians killed as possible

Israel recognizes the fabrication called a Palestinian nation; So what do we want from the Swedes?

Arab attacking Jews in the land date back a century, long before Israel was created or in control.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”

Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.

Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Joshua Klein

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

The reality is that civility is less important than clarity, and right now only very few people on the Left are interested in having a civil conversation about the merits of particular policy solutions.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

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”?

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.

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: