Click on the map below – The Shul World Weekly brings you incredibly local shul news from across the globe!
This week : Montreal, Hashmonaim, Los Angeles!
Los Angeles, California, USA
Leave it to California to be at the cutting edge of shul business. Young Israel of Century City caters to the Beverly Hills-Beverly Wood Jewish community and welcomes between 600-700 members each Shabbos. What makes them cutting edge is their detailed, downloadable, and award winning annual calendar which breaks down every event, program, and guest lecturer for the upcoming year. The 5776 calendar, soon to be published, is with the designer now. The shul opened in 1976 renting space from the Ramada Beverly Hills Hotel under the name Ohavei Israel (known then as the Ramada Minyan). Four year later, they landed in their present location and moved under the National Council Young Israel charter. On the eve of their 50th anniversary, they are on their way to another major expansion. YICC has been lead by Rabbi Elazar Muskin – originally from Cleveland, Ohio – since 1986. Last Shabbos, there was an aufruf celebrated and Rabbi Muskin discussed the seemingly superfluous words “Shma Yisrael” spoken to soldiers just before they go out to battle. He suggested that in war, as in life, one cannot act impulsively, but should take the time to listen. To always be paying attention to the situation and the needs of those around you. He tied this in to the upcoming commandment of shofar, where the obligation is to literally “hear” the call.
Of course there is a story behind a shul calling itself Beit Knesset Ramat Modi’im al shem Glenwood. The story goes back 20 years when a group from Hashmonaim went to pay a shiva call to one of their own, Ira Hartman, whose mother passed away in Glenwood, Brooklyn. There they learned that the Hartman’s shul was on its last legs. And so, since Hashmonaim was in the market for a new building and interior, the entire Glenwood shul – yahrzeit plaques and all – was purchased wholesale, packed, shipped, and set up in Hashmonaim. Nowadays, about three quarters of the shul’s membership are olim (transplants), and on a Shabbat, the shul can see crowds of up to 1000. Glenwood also has an exceptional attendance record of women on Friday nights, especially for their monthly Carlebach Kabbalat Shabbat. What additionally makes the shul unique is that, by design, it is run entirely by lay leadership. Although the yishuv has a Rabbi, the shul does not. A board runs and addresses the day to day needs and sticks to shul’s Takanon, or bylaws, for guidance. There are seven gabbaim on call and a rotation of lay people who speak words of Torah to the congregation on Shabbat mornings. They are currently voting on another expansion project.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
If you were wondering who owns the domain shul.org and the email address email@example.com, wonder no longer. Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation (the name being the result of a merger) and Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko would be the answer. In this case, Cote St. Luc beat Silicon Valley to the digital punch and Rabbi Poupko procured the name in the mid-1990s (his first searches – Beth Israel and BIBA – were taken). Rabbi Poupko reported that, despite the universal value of the web domain, he has never received an offer to buy it. BIBA began in the early 1970’s by a small group, but with the arrival of Rabbi Poupko in 1986 and the purchase of their current building, the foundation was set for long-term health. As the winters in Montreal are legendarily brutal, many locals clear out of town, but an average Shabbos finds 250-300 members coming to services (with Ashkenazic and Sephardic minyanim available). BIBA has been described as a no drama shul; a throwback to the shul’s of the 50’s and 60’s where deference for the Rabbi was the preeminent rule. Rabbi Poupko quoted the Talmud last Shabbos which states that one of the sins that prevented soldiers from going to war was their speaking between putting on tefilin shel yad (arm) and tefilin shel rosh (head). He said the seemingly harmless act represents a dangerous disconnect between sentiment and behavior. He stressed how important it is to keep our passions in sync with our intellect. Upcoming speakers at the shul include Joe Lieberman on September 17th and former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird on the 24th.