web analytics
May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Old-Time Orthodox Shul Celebrates 70th Anniversary

   Yes, it is your father’s synagogue, and it had just observed its 70th anniversary.

 

   The liturgy, prayer books, and services at Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills, Queens, hearken to the Orthodoxy of an earlier generation. A professional cantor leads the services every Shabbat, as the congregants follow using their Birnbaum siddurim.

 

   In the women’s section, doilies and hats still outnumber wigs. On the other side of the mechitza, one sees only a handful of the black hats that have become standard in many Orthodox circles.

 

   “You learn a lot from these people,” said Shoshana Glass, 32, a young face in a mostly elderly population. Glass considers the median age of the congregants a plus. “I am there for a purpose, helping and visiting them.”

 

   “They’re accepting of people,” said congregant Barry Schnall. “They don’t judge.” At 49, he is also on the younger side of the age average. “You can be friends with older people. They have more character.”

 

 


Rabbi Manfred Gans

 

   Any member over age 80 has a story of survival to tell. “Many of our members are survivors,” said Rabbi Manfred Gans. The city, in fact, commemorated them with a street corner sign pointing directly at the shul.

 

   Founded in late 1939 as a landsmanshaft of recent German Jewish immigrants in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, the synagogue took the name Machane Chodosh, or “New Camp,” reflecting its new American home.

 

   The congregation spent its first 19 years renting out space within existing local synagogues. Like any teenager, the maturing shul eventually moved into its own home, two blocks from Ebbets Field.

 

   By the time the shul opened its new building, however, the longtime Dodgers ballpark was in the process of being demolished, and that section of Brooklyn was facing a gradual slide into urban decay.

 

   Some of the members moved to Forest Hills, and Rabbi Gans proposed relocating the shul in Queens. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the membership was reduced to a hardy handful as the crime rate skyrocketed.

 

   By 1977 it had become clear that Machane Chodosh had no future in its Brooklyn neighborhood. The aron kodesh, stained glass windows, and memorial plaques were removed for safekeeping, and the sanctuary became a Haitian church.

 

   “We were a kehillah without a synagogue,” said Rabbi Gans.

 

   They had seen it before. Many members of the congregation had experienced Kristallnacht, concentration camps, and the battlefield. They were determined to keep the synagogue alive in a more stable neighborhood. Ground was broken in Forest Hills in March 1979.

 

   “Our shul did something which only a few shuls could accomplish,” said Gans.

 

   The home was new, but the services remained true to tradition.

 

   While many Orthodox synagogues feature chazzanut during the high holidays, cantor Joel Gafni, 34, leads the congregation every Shabbat at Machane Chodosh.

 

   “My first time, I was surprised,” said Gafni. “Such a small shul.”

 

   It took three auditions before Gafni was selected. It may not look like a “choral synagogue,” but the cantor’s schedule is a busy one. “It was the best of possibilities,” he said. “A full-time position in New York, the center of the world.”

 

   Rabbi Gans, the mora d’asra of the synagogue for 50 years, is an integral part of its storied history. He observed his 85th birthday in April, and there are no signs of retiring.

 

   As the shul’s founders aged and passed on, Rabbi Gans took measures to welcome new immigrants to the synagogue. In some ways, the new membership hearkens to an earlier period. Most of the students in the synagogue’s Talmud Torah attend public school while taking Sunday classes at the synagogue.

 

   “They are on the fringes of Jewish society,” said Talmud Torah director Richard Schneider. “If they don’t get a love of Judaism now, they’ll assimilate.” Schneider reactivated the Talmud Torah in 1997, with a class of two boys. It has since ballooned to over 100 students.

 

   (On a personal note, it was at Machane Chodosh that I learned to read Hebrew and lain the weekly parsha. It was also where I learned to appreciate a timeless Orthodoxy personified by a rabbi who reads several newspapers a day, is well-versed in classical music, diligently calls any member who is ill, and delivers memorable sermons.)

 

   Each week as Shabbat comes to a close, congregants recite Psalm 144 in a melody that member Gary Jacoby calls the “Yekkie national anthem.” The congregation slowly whispers through the last pages of the motzei Shabbat Maariv. Nobody dares to whisper about sports, business, or politics. It is an inspiring sight.

 

   The service ends with Gafni’s bold voice benching Havdalah. Congregants prepare for a new week filled with pride in this unique shul that has a history like few others.

About the Author: Sergey Kadinsky is a freelance writer and political consultant residing in Queens. He previously served as assistant editor of The Jewish Star and as a reporter at the New York Post.


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 “Old-Time Orthodox Shul Celebrates 70th Anniversary”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
New York Police Department
NYPD Cop Dies 2 Days After Shooting, 3rd in 5 Months
Latest Sections Stories
Safar-050115-Califlower

Cauliflower is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with – it blends so easily into whatever dish I am preparing.

Eller-050115-Fruit

For all their deliciousness, frozen beverages do not stand the test of time well, as any ice or frozen fruit thickening your drink will melt into a watery mess.

blintze_cake

“DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste.”

Schonfeld-logo1

How do we ensure that our students aren’t studying for the grade or the end-of-the-year pizza party? How can we get them to truly want to learn for learning’s sake?

The message being conveyed is that without “flour,” without the means to support oneself and one’s family, one’s focus on Torah will be impeded by worry.

Someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance,

Rabbi Pinni Dunner and Holocaust survivor Heddy Orden.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the keynote speaker at the Westchester Government Relations Legislative Breakfast on Friday, May 8, at 7:45 am at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.  The annual event, which brings together important elected officials and the Westchester Jewish community, is sponsored jointly by UJA-Federation of New York […]

“Like other collaborative members, we embarked on this journey as an opportunity to build on New York leadership’s long commitment to expand and diversify opportunities for Jewish teen engagement,” says Melanie Schneider, senior planning executive with UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal

The poetry slam required entrants to compose original poetry with powerful imagery and energetic rhythm bringing their poems to life – making it palpable to the audience.

“I was so inspired by the beautiful lessons I learned and by the holiness around me that I just couldn’t stop writing songs!” she says.

More Articles from Sergey Kadinsky
Rabbi Manny Behar

On certain public policy issues, Orthodox opinion stands in sharp contrast to the views of most American Jews.

V-E-Day-052413-Grandpa

Nearly half a million of them fought in Red Army uniforms, under communist slogans but with a personal vengeance that was solely the result of Jewish experience. More than the “Greatest Generation,” they were the living superheroes hidden in plain sight.

Finding a classmate has never been easier, with online tools rekindling long-lost childhood friendships. For those whose last school exams took place more than 70 years ago, only to be followed by the ravages of the Holocaust, a long-distance reunion leads to an outpouring of emotion.

He founded a college that spans the world, and served as its president until his death Monday evening at his home in Forest Hills, New York.

He founded a college that spans the world, and served as its president until his death Monday evening at his home in Forest Hills, New York.

Yes, it is your father’s synagogue, and it had just observed its 70th anniversary.

It was shocking to see the writer Hillel Halkin marking the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem by calling for its division. In a May 15op-ed in the New York Sun (“Mounting Figures”), Halkin wrote about the concern of Israeli political leaders with demographics. As a solution, he extended their call for territorial concessions even beyond Judea and Samaria, applying it to the capital city of Israel.

“I support a clean environment as much as you do,” I wrote, “but if you are a real rabbi, how can you honestly support marriage for homosexuals? How can you label our president a reactionary, when he has proven his support for Israel and the Jewish people?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/old-time-orthodox-shul-celebrates-70th-anniversary/2009/07/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: