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July 27, 2016 / 21 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘shul’

Orthodox Shul Will Keep LGBT Shabbaton Despite Neighborhood Rabbis’ Objection

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

The members of the Stanton Street Shul community on Thursday night received an email from their board announcing that the inclusive event of hosting Orthodox LGBT in an Eshel Downtown Shabbaton. This despite a warning letter from neighborhood Orthodox rabbis who declared that “No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox.” (See: Lower East Side Rabbis Hint at Excommunicating Orthodox Shul for LGBT Shabbaton)

The Stanton Street Shul board wrote: “We want to take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to hosting the Eshel Shabbaton this Shabbat and to being an Orthodox shul where all Jews can feel safe praying, learning Torah, and finding fellowship with each other — a place where all are welcome and all feel welcome. We are proud of our members, our rabbi, and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue for fostering the kind of inclusive community that respects the dignity of all people, recognizing that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim, in God’s image.

“We encourage you to show your support by coming to shul this Shabbat for services and for the Shabbaton programming, and we welcome your feedback, questions, and notes of support.”

However, the Stanton Street Shul website’s page announcing the Eshel Shabbaton has been removed.

For its part, the Eshel organization, whose mission is to integrate Orthodox LGBT in the community, started a petition online titled: Support Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino (the spiritual leaders of the Stanton and Sixth Streets shuls). The petition reads:

“Dear Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino,

“We are Orthodox LGBTQ Jews, parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews, and allies. We believe in inclusive Orthodox communities that welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families.

“We are disheartened to learn that both of you have been attacked for hosting Eshel in your synagogues. However, we want both of you, and your synagogue members, to know how much we support you and appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

“We thank you, Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino, for giving us hope with your commitment to Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests). We thank the leadership and membership of both synagogues for agreeing to host us. You are a model for what warm, compassionate, and inclusive leadership should be.”

As of Friday morning, the petition has received 259 signatures.

In our original story, JNi.media referred to the local Lower East Side rabbis’ letter as hinting excommunication of the “erring” shul. But in the reality of a diminishing Orthodox Jewish presence on the Lower East Side, which comes with the weakening of the Orthodox “establishment” in the neighborhood, it’s hard to imagine what steps the local rabbis might take to make good on such a threat. The relationship between the shul and the neighborhood Orthodox leadership (as opposed to the neighborhood rank and file Orthodox Jews) has always been tense, with the Haredi leaders being critical of the Stanton Street Shul’s egalitarian policy regarding women (the shul maintains women’s minyanim several times a year; shul women dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah; the shul invites women scholars in residence for Shabbat lectures). The dispute over the LGBT Shabbaton may just fizzle away without any tangible negative consequences. At the same time, as has been expressed several times in online debates over the story Thursday, there’s also little chance of an honest dialog between the Stanton Street Shul community and the neighborhood rabbis over the serious issues facing the declining Orthodox community on the Lower East Side.

JNi.Media

Lower East Side Rabbis Hint at Excommunicating Orthodox Shul for LGBT Shabbaton

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

If things go according to plans, the Stanton Street Shul, which has been hosting Jewish worshipers on the Lower East Side since 1913, will be participating in the Eshel Downtown Shabbaton this coming Shabbat. According to the shul’s email, received by JNi.media, Eshel’s mission since 2010 has been to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox communities. The theme of the Shabbaton is Creating Welcoming Communities.

This event has been denounced in benign but clear language by local Orthodox rabbis, and as things stand, should the Shabbaton take place, the Stanton stands to be cut off from the mainstream Orthodox community, with possibly devastating consequences.

A later email from the shul reflected the discomfort some congregants may have felt regarding the Shabbaton. It read: “In preparation for the Shabbat, we would like to invite you to an open forum tonight, May 31st at 7:30 PM at the Stanton Street Shul on the topic of ‘Why we are hosting the Eshel Shabbaton.’ At this time, we will hear from [shul Rabbi] Rabbi [Aviad] Bodner what the goals of the Shabbaton are and why we are hosting it. This will be an opportunity to express support, voice concerns, and ask questions.”

Although many of its regulars reside in the Grand Street Co-Ops near the East River in downtown Manhattan, and are part of the Orthodox community there, the Stanton Street Shul since the 1990s has charted a somewhat different path than the largely Haredi community south of the Williamsburg Bridge. The Stanton is located north of the bridge, in the hip/Hispanic community of Alphabet City (named after its north-south Avenues A, B, C, and D). As such, the Stanton, which at some point was salvaged by its congregants from being sold and converted into a church, caters to the unaffiliated Jews scattered in the neighborhood. On the high holidays and on a few other key dates during the Jewish year, the Stanton is packed with Jews, from Israeli NYU students to fallen Hasidim, to secular folks who miss that bit of traditional sweetness in their lives.

Needles to say, the Stanton Street Shul has also been more accepting and tolerant than most. Shabbat morning services often start at 10:30, Friday night kiddush includes a sampling of quality whiskeys, and the congregation has integrated several gay and transgender members with the kind of ease one doesn’t easily find outside New York City and Tel Aviv. The LGBT Shabbaton was another step in that direction of affiliating the shul more with uptown than with the Lower East Side.

On its website, Eshel writes that “through community gatherings Eshel helps LGBT Orthodox people pursue meaningful lives that encompass seemingly disparate identities while also fulfilling Jewish values around family, education, culture, and spirituality.” On that part, regarding the definition of Jewish values through the spectrum of the LGBT lifestyle, the Stanton Street Shul received its stern rebuke from the local rabbis.

The signatories at the bottom of a letter titled “An important Message to the Community” are well known beyond the Lower East Side: Rabbis David and Reuven Feinstein, the sons and spiritual heirs of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the universally accepted halakhic authority in North America; Rabbi Yeshaya Siff, of the Young Israel of Manhattan, possibly the sweetest and easiest going man of the cloth in downtown Manhattan; his son, Rabbi Azriel Siff, whose Chasam Sofer synagogue stands next door to the Stanton, but is well to the right of its hipster neighbor; and Rabbi Zvi Dovid Romm, whose Bialystoker synagogue hosts the largest congregation this side of 42nd Street.

“All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls,” write the exulted rabbis. And they’re right, for an ultra-Orthodox community, the Lower East Side is probably the most open and accepting on the planet. Some have suggested that the reason for the sense of comfort that is so typical of this community has to do with the nature of the co-op apartments: everybody in the neighborhood is living in the same Soviet-style, square, low-ceilinged apartments — there are no secrets, no really rich and really poor. Things may have changed since privatization, people have been buying up and connecting strings of apartments, but the community is still humbler than most. But we digress.

“However, the basic mandate of the Orthodox synagogue is to promote fidelity to our Torah and our mesorah,” the letter continues. “Sadly, Eshel demands that we change the Torah’s timeless standards to accord with prevalent secular attitudes.”

Notice how instead of saying they’re furious, the rabbis stress their sadness, many times: “We are saddened that the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue have unilaterally chosen to associate our community with an organization which we cannot consider to be Orthodox, one whose stated aims are at odds with the verses of the Torah itself.”

Next, the rabbis deliver the only threatening line in their letter. It may not sound like one, but it’s a herem, an excommunication, as unmistaken as the herem that was imposed on Baruch Spinoza and Uriel da Costa in 1656 by the Amsterdam rabbinical court: “No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox.”

That’s heavy. It means that many of the committed Orthodox members of both shuls, who preferred them over the Grand Street shuls for a variety of political and emotional reasons, are likely to leave. Excommunication is serious stuff. The letter calls on both shuls to disassociate themselves from the Eshel group and cancel the Shabbaton. We’ll keep you posted, if we can.

JNi.Media

Torah Ohr – A Thriving Shul In Boca Raton

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Boca Raton boasts one of the fastest-growing congregations in the U.S. In an area of burgeoning communities, Modern-Orthodox Torah Ohr is not a typical family synagogue but a congregation of 900 members ranging in age from 60 to 90. Located in the beautifully landscaped enclave of Boca Century Village West, Torah Ohr welcomed nearly 150 new members last year.

Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton

Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton

“We are a huge welcoming community with people from all over the United States and elsewhere, coming together to pray, learn, and socialize,” said Josh Samborn, president of Torah Ohr.

This past season, from late November to early April, full-time residents, snowbirds (seasonal residents), and snowflakes (residents who travel back and forth from their northern homes) enjoyed up to five Shabbat morning minyanim. The shul building buzzes with learning activities that include daily daf yomi, chumash, Mishna Berurah, and classes on such topics as the parshah of the week, hilchot Shabbat, and ethics in the Bible. There are also various women’s educational programs.

Guest speakers visit frequently to share their knowledge and experiences while social activities fill the calendar. Sisterhood events include hat shows, boutiques, a pushka party, annual luncheon and fashion show, and catered seudot for Chanukah, Purim, and other occasions. The men’s club is known for its fascinating book review and lecture evenings and the social action committee has an active agenda. Bikur Cholim and a hospital volunteer group are essential for helping the sick.

This past winter was notable for the dedication of two sifrei Torah at Torah Ohr. One was loaned by Pinny and Ann Davidman. The other, presented by Jerry and Shelly Abramson, was inspired by a trip to Lithuania in 2012. Jerry, the son of Holocaust survivors, and his wife were deeply moved on witnessing the remnants of centuries of what had been a thriving Jewish life. The Abramsons commissioned a Torah to honor the six million who died in the Holocaust as well as his mother Miriam and their children.

The Sefer Torah, written by sofer Rabbi Sholom Michalshvilli of Jerusalem, weighs only about 12 pounds. Mr. Abramson says this was intended to make it easier for older congregants to be able to lift the scroll and continue to participate fully in davening.

With all the excitement comes a challenge: the shul is running out of room for all its activities. After exploring various options, shul president Josh Samborn announced, “To accommodate our growing community, we have design committees working with architects and planners on an important expansion plan to the kehilla.”

The congregation is located at 19146 Lyons Road in Boca Raton. For more information, visit www.torahohrboca.org or call (561) 479-4049.

Helen Garfinkel

Second Synagogue Arson Discovered, Holy Ark Burnt

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Even as condemnations for the arson at the Givat Sorek synagogue< near Karmei Tzur/a> are still reverberating in Israel’s media, a new report has emerged about a second arson where a synagogue and sacred books and articles have been incinerated. According to NRG, a group of soldiers who were training last week in the Yatir Forest, on the southern slopes of Mount Hebron, on the edge of the Negev Desert, ran into the charred remains of what used to be a synagogue in a mobile home.

The soldiers believe the mobile home had been stolen from a different location and transported to the spot where it was discovered, between the Jewish community of Shani-Livne and the Bedouin village of Houra. In additional to the burnt books the soldiers also found burnt tefillin (phylacteries) and other sacred articles.

“We were in the middle of a navigation exercise, when suddenly we noticed a charred pile, and relatively quickly realized it was a synagogue that had been burnt down,” one of the Jerusalem Brigade soldiers told NRG. “We found there siddurim-prayer books, sacred books, talitot, tefillin, and even a holy ark.”

Authorities believe the structure was ignited in recent days. Nearby infrastructure work has begun for a new Jewish community, Hiran, whose residents are staying temporarily in the Yatir military camp. There are a few Jewish-owned farms in the area as well.

On Friday night, Arabs burnt down a synagogue in Givat Sorek, next to Karmei Tzur, named after the three boys who were kidnapped by Hamas, which ignited the 2014 Gaza war. Their bodies were discovered in an area the Givat Sorek hill overlooks.

Yatir synagogue arson 1

David Israel

Arsonists Burn Down 2 Shuls Over Shabbat

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

A Chabad synagogue near Road 6, near Baka Al-Garbiya, was burned down over Shabbat, destroying everything inside the synagogue, according to a Kikar Shabbat report.

Police say there was a strong odor of benzene at the site, and it appears to have been an arson attack.

In Petach Tikva, an arsonist poured gas inside the shul and lit it up. The fire department managed to put out the fire before the Torahs were burnt.

Police are not ruling out that these were both terror attacks, and are checking to see if there is a connection between the two arson attacks.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Syria’s Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue Destroyed (Video)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The 400+ year old Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue, one of the oldest surviving shuls in Syria, was flattened and destroyed by Assad’s forces in Syria over the weekend. The synagogue is located in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue Destroyed Exclusive full-size photos of the destroyed synagogue are available on The Daily Beast.

Syria used to have a large, vibrant and ancient Jewish community.

Here is a video of the synagogue before it was destroyed:

Jewish Press News Briefs

Italian Police Find Pig Culprit

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Italian police have identified the man who sent the pig heads to Rome’s main shul, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

The man was identified as Ernosto Morosini, and he wanted to create an Antisemitic movement, and sent them to build a following.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/italian-police-find-pig-culprit/2014/02/02/

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