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Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Dying Shul: Last Gasp or Comeback?

Something interesting in this week's Jewish Star:
Far Rockaway's famed "White Shul," Congregation Kneseth Israel, is conducting a "serious negotiation" with Touro College to establish a local campus of The Lander College for Women on the shul's property, Touro founder and president Dr. Bernard Lander has confirmed. He called the potential dual use of the property "a historic achievement in an historic synagogue."
Sources tell me that there were rumors swirling for weeks that the shul had been sold in its entirety to Touro, until a letter was sent out to White Shul members denying that rumor, but informing members that the shul is in negotiations to consider selling a part of the shul. The letter apparently also took pains to note that any plan would be required to go before an election held for all shul members before it would be approved.

Anyone who knew anything about the Far Rockaway neighborhood some decades ago knew that the White Shul was THE place to be if you were spending Shabbos in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway area. The place was always packed to the gills on Shabbos after davening, with young folk populating the lobby and spilling onto the driveway.

Well, sadly, that isn't really the case any more. Though there are shuls within a few blocks of the White Shul that are thriving and teeming with people on any given Shabbos, the White Shul seems to have become less and less popular of a place to daven as years go on. It seems to have found it's niche as a so-called "minyan factory", catering to community members looking to find a minyan around the clock, whether they are shul members or not. But on Shabbos, the shul is operating at much less than its capacity, and though the Orthodox community has grown exponentially in the area, the White Shul is far emptier these days than it was in its heyday.

Sources who attend the shul tell me that the current membership is extremely unhappy with the shul's status a "minyan factory", and are extremely resentful of what some view as the rightward shift in the neighborhood demographic that has sent the community's young married set to other shuls in droves. Shuls that have tables and chairs, not pews, like the White Shul. The White Shul's longtime regulars feel that it is unfair for community members to utilize the shul's resources when they need to grab a convenient minyan, or when they need a shul to affiliate with when their kids need a little league team (apparently, the shteebles and more "yeshivish" shuls do not participate in little league), but feel no such sense of responsibility when it comes to choosing a shul to daven in on Shabbos, or when it comes to paying membership dues. They feel that a community has a responsibility to fill an existing, venerable old shul, before they start new ones many times over.

I have mixed feelings about the circumstances that brought the White Shul to this juncture. I think that community members should be allowed to daven wherever they wish, and choose a shul based on where they feel they and their family members would be most comfortable. I also feel that their right to do so trumps their responsibility (if there even exists such a responsibility) to maintain a dying community shul. There is no basis to force people to daven in a shul simply because it's half-empty, and because it used to be a community institution. Still and all, it's sad to see the changing tastes of a community's residents cause a shul that was once a center for yiddishkeit to lie more and more fallow.

In any event, the locals' dying interest in davening in the White Shul, a huge building on a large property that probably costs a pretty penny to maintain, has apparently left the shul in need of a desperate infusion of cash. And I guess Dr. Lander of Touro College is just the sugar daddy it needs.

But what is the White Shul looking to achieve with this deal? Are they hoping the cash will be just the shot in the arm they need to rebound? Or are they looking to subsidize the cost of a smaller congregation as part of a college campus? Anyone have any ideas?

80 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I just have a few tiny corrections. The White Shul is not a minyan factory all day. Just in the morning, for shacharis. the white shul also has one minyan in shabbos, the one that has tables and no sermon, that is quite full. Otherwise good. also, many white shul people feel that the cause for their decline is the shift to more right-wing hashkafas. which is proven by the fact that the same effect of a half empty sanctuary is affecting shaarey tefila which has a similar format to the WS.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the agudah was built right across the street. now all the young people go there. amusingly, it is the white building now, while the white shul is no longer white. so the agudah is the new white shul. so to speak.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is my observation that dying shuls limp along for a very long time before either "merging" or actually dying. It is wonderful how people cling to their beloved relic, and also sad.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a point you seem to ignore is the fact that providing a minyan factory is quite a service. did you ever see Landaus in Flatbush? with a fancy building like that it cant be suffering finacially.

1:18 AM  
Blogger eem said...

The WS itself doesn't like the idea that it has become just a minyan factory for people who have no other part in the shul, service or not. As someone who used to daven there (my family has since moved to Shor Yoshuv), I definitely remember when the shul was full of kids shabbos morning ( I don't know if they still have the groups for the kids going on like they used to), and there were alot more that came to the activities the shul ran on chol hamoed succos and pesach. Part of the problem is, I think, that the original founders/members of the shul like things a certain way, and don't like the idea of changing things to accomodate a newer crowd (e.g. people who prefer no talking during davening). The shul just isn't the same without R' Pelcowitz.

6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that the new community has no tolerence for MO, and these new Holey Rollers will not support an institution like WS, no matter that it provides them with a service.

I am in this community almost 40 years. This is a shame. I've seen it all over the community. Young Israel's in the rockaways are dieing, while their more yeshivish neighbors are thriving.

We are all 1 Jewish people and we all pray to the same god for the same things. Lets pray to god that we share our similarities more often and not our differences.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in FR in the 70s and the WS was never 'the place to be.'

Why doesn't the right wing just daven there and take it over by sheer numbers?

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Your Conscience said...

I think the reason that the WS (and some others) are hurting financially is this: When someone davens in a shul on a regular basis, for a daily minyan or a Friday night minyan, it is only right that you give thanks to the shul for providing the service (no pun intended). Writing a check to the shul is the right thing to do. It costs alot to keep a shul going. I happen to daven in another shul. On Friday night there are many people who daven there for the convenience on a regular basis. Have they ever given even $5 to the shul? NO! When they made an appeal on Friday night, a person stood by the doorway, blocking it, so that the guilty parties could not exit. The reason for that was that when they held such an appeal in the past, they walked out! No one asks you to become a member. Just give SOMETHING to show your hakores hatov!

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Still consider Far Rockaway my home... said...

"Anyone who knew anything about the Far Rockaway neighborhood some decades ago knew that the White Shul was THE place to be if you were spending Shabbos in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway area."

Well, Yes and No - it depends upon what you mean about "some decades ago" and "THE place to be." I can't speak for the 1960's, but when I was growing up there in the 1970's and 1980's, the White Shul was not the only place to be, and some of us spent very little time there.

As a kid, I was never comfortable going to the White Shul. When we went for a simcha, I always felt awkward. My mother did not own any Hats (with a capital H); she wore a sheitel. I never felt like my clothing was adequate, and with the layout of the women's section (with everyone facing center), I was always self-conscious that I was not as beautifully attired and coiffed as everyone else seemed to be. (Yes, there were some plainer dressed people here and there, but they were overshadowed by the fashion parade.)

The White Shul definitely had its glamorous image, and I don't know how much of the younger crowd is interested in that specific image. I do see a lot of young affluence and conspicuous consumption in the community, but the "new generation" wants to express it their own way, which they insist has to be different from their parents and grandparents generation. I also don't know how flexible the long-time congregants are in ceding to the younger generation's vision.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous TW said...

The proposed plan is a hint of reality in the 5 Towns area. It goes to show you that the younger generation feels the need to create their own shuls, while shuls on the same street or a few blocks away can't get a minyan for shacharis.

Why do the young people always feel the need to create their own? Do they feel that established shuls are against them? The creation of all the new shuls in the area is a call to the demise of other established congregations-- when will people learn?

Obviously, achdus is out of the question!

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with an above commentator that the shul has made it own bed, so to speak. They did not change with the times in any way. Shaarei Tefilla is considering switching to tables instead of pews to grab the younger generation, but the WS is not.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Elster said...

Sadly, WS is slowly passing away - membership decreasing dramatically. The main minyan on shabbos morning, once packed to the gills, is now almost empty.

As my grandparents lived (grandmother still) in Far Rock, I saw the "glory years" and the decline.

The fact is, WS is a big kehilla-type shul in a commmunity that is much more interested in nusach sefard, Shteibel-type davenings. The whole are has become increasingly more right wing and the net result is that there aren't enough more "modern" people left in the community to fill it up. It's merely the slow change in dynamics.

As for the Touro synergy - sounds like a quick fix money solution to me. WS doesn't really have too many class rooms etc - I'm interested to see how it converts to a school use.

9:47 AM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"I am in this community almost 40 years. This is a shame. I've seen it all over the community. Young Israel's in the rockaways are dieing, while their more yeshivish neighbors are thriving."

First of all, it is not only in the Rockaways, but Young Israels all over are following the neighborhood in which they reside's trend, and shifting to the right.
In my neighborhood there are four YIs within walking distance of my house, and in three of them there are more black hats than Srugies at any given tfillah-even Shabbos. Let's face it, as the community's make up changes, so will the shul's membership. It is up to the Shul's leadership to roll with it, and make the shul inviting to the incoming community members. If not, as older members move away, or pass on, the membership numbers will drop. If the community is moving to the right, and the shul wants to maintain its membership, what have they done to entice these newer community members?

Have they invited dynamic speakers that are of interest to the younger crowd? Or would the stalwarts on the board automatically reject any speaker they deem 'too right wing'?

Have they joined the 'Motzei Shabbos-Avos Ubanim Program' That is becoming increasingly popular with the more Yeshivish crowd, or does that conflict with the Saturday night basketball league?

When a black hatter drops in for a Shabbos Morning Shachris because it's raining out, and he doesn't want to walk the extra block with his four year old in the rain, is he welcomed enthusiastically by the oldtime machers in the shul?, or is he given sidelong glances that make him feel as if he is an outsider intruding on OUR minyan?

It's very simple, a shul has the same life span of exactly one generation, unless it adapts to the changing demographics that are inevitable in any community.

9:48 AM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

Mom

I posted about the WS a few months ago (focusing on their lack of strategic planning which led to their slow and painful demise). I heard thru the grapevine that a few people were upset with what I wrote.

Ironically, this move seems to be a wake up call. The shul in its current state is terminal. There is no long term future for an MO shul in Far Rockaway. It sounds like the powers that be have finally processed this fact.

There is nothing wrong with the WS returning to life in a new iteration. On the contrary, I think it's great.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sources who attend the shul tell me that the current membership.... are extremely resentful of what some view as the rightward shift in the neighborhood demographic that has sent the community's young married set to other shuls in droves.

In the old days, its important to remember, "right-wing" peopel were very comfortable in that shul. I grew up there in the 80s, and it was full of black hats, and gartles. In fact the shul's official nuscah has soem small concessions to nusach sefard, and there were always hakafot on shmini atzeres night.

The problem is that this generation of right wingers don't play well with others and are too haughty to mingle with anyone who's even a little bit different. The old white shul thrived not because Far Rockaway was "modern" but because, a generation ago, Far Rockaway's right-wingers weren't such snobs.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just in the morning, for shacharis. the white shul also has one minyan in shabbos, the one that has tables and no sermon, that is quite full

The back room minyan has about 100 people in a small room. The main shul minyan has a about 100 people in a HUGE room.

No shteeble in FR attracts 200 people on a given shabbos. By the standards of the neighborhood the shul is fine (200 people is a good number) The trouble is the shul was built for 800.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

flatbushrenegade, what you've said doesn't apply to the WS. First, as I say above, in its glory days the WS was much more RW than the average young Israel. It was full of shiurim that were packed, very RW speakers were frequently guests, and as I say above, the shul made many nusach sefard concessions. As a result, the shul was FULL of people who wear black hats, and there were many in gartles, too. (along with many in kippa srugot) That achdus is gone, and the reason is the RW kids were raised (in Brooklyn) to despise anyone who is different. They came to FR and decided the shul was modern and that was it.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous TorahTorahTorah said...

I posted about the WS a few months ago (focusing on their lack of strategic planning which led to their slow and painful demise).

And your post was mocked here:
http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2006/03/funny.html

THE BOARD MEETING WHICH SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED 15 YEARS AGO

President: Ok, in the near future a bunch of spoiled rotton Brooklyn creeps are going to have their parents buy them houses in our neighborhood.

VP: Oy

President: So let's get strategic. What should we do?

VP: Well, we could continue to offer a full slate of outstanding programs for adults, young adults and youth.

P: NO! You fool! That's modern! If you do that, those snotty newcomers will sneer at us (while using our services all the same.)

VP: How about if we invite them to join our board, you know, give them the chance to shape the shul into something they would like...

P: IDIOT! You want to let those Brooklyn people know we're a democracy which allows members to work together to create a shul that matches and reflects their own aspirations? Are you crazy?? Brooklyn people are trained from the womb to DESPISE democracies. If we do that, they will FLEE!

VP: OK... how about if we start shabbos davening at 9:30, instead of 8:30, our current time which allows people to make krias shma...

P: Now you're talking!

VP: And we could remove the elegant pews and replace them with ratty tables...

P: I like it...

VP: And let's encourage all the srugi-wearing members to go someplace else. Their population is shrinking, and the newcomers won't allow their holy-selves to pray alongside a srugi-wearer.

P: Keep talking...

VP: And instead of a devar halacha between mincha and maariv during the week, we could give out kugel... without forks...

P: Nice touch!!

Rabbi: I don't need this crap. I quit.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That achdus is gone, and the reason is the RW kids were raised (in Brooklyn) to despise anyone who is different. They came to FR and decided the shul was modern and that was it."

Your dead wrong. The WS old guard was in no way shape or form welcoming to the young marrieds. They did not have any onetrest in making any accommodations. well this is what happens.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous TorahTorahTorah said...

Not acocmodating? They let them have their own minyan in the back! They created board spots for them!

And could we all please grow up? In a big shul what does "accomodating" mean? The white shul has a board, that anyone can join. If the young married hadn't been a bunch of spoiled brooklyn creeps who expected "accomodating" they could have put int heir time, joined the board, and reshaped the shul any way they wanted.

Also, as the skit above shows "accomodating" creeps often means ciolating your own principles. I am sure the Brooklynites would have loved at 9:30 start time, but the shul wanted to make krias shma. Etc.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous sam said...

Hi, I remember when, if you walked into shul @ 8:45 Shabbat morning there was not a seat to be had. All of the above commenters have valid points but neglect one crucial factor & I don't mean to dis the current Rabbi but the shul was always PELCOWITZ. He was the RABBI. He performed their weddings, officiated at brisn, pedyon ha-bens bar-bat mitzvahs and buried parents & grandparents. When Rabbi P opened his mouth the words of torah flowed like liquid gold. Even though his knowledge of Jewish texts was way above my head just the sound of his voice and it's inflections, the way he removed his glasses to make a point soothed my lost Jewish soul. Now just as an aside, Beth Sholom is packed to capacity. In fact it has become the White Shul of 25 years ago. Hain is a dynamic speaker but he is no Ralph Pelcowitz. The Young Israel of LC is also packed. Rabbi Teitlebaum isn't much of the way of a personality but I am told he is a fantastic pastoral rabbi. The YI of FR never took off. BTW inspite of my words of praise for the days of yesteryear I did feel a certain degree of alienation from the WS establishment becaue I wasn't one of them.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a long time mispalel member of the White Shul.On a given morning we have at least 500 men davening at our various minyanim which are from 5:50 -9:30.
Unfortunately the dinosaurs who run the shul have no inkling of how to make use of this wonderful oppotunity to make our shul once again the center of the community.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The administration of the white shul (not including the rabbi or shammis) are a bunch of imbicals. Any person who davened there on Tisha Bav last year can attest to this and the way they handled the "renegades and non paying people" who did not know that there was no minyan factory on thios day and tried to make a 9:00 minyan for the 40+ people who showed up. The administration turned off the air contioning and lights, forced them out of the bais medrash and locked the door. A hunched elder man who was part of that minyan told the executive director who was carrying out the administration's order that the last time he was forced out of a shul was in germany by the nazis.he never expected a jew let alone a shul administrator to throw him out especially on tisha bav. Thank god the rabbi had the sechel to get involved and allow the minyan to continue. were these people wrong for trying to make a minyan when the administration did not allow one? surely. but they didnt know there was only one minyan and wanted to daven hear krias torah and say kinnus bitzibur on tisha bav instead of doing it biyachid and not having krias torah.while they should not have been chutzpadik and insulted the shul staff, the staff was way out of line. it is no wonder the young people do not want to join and pay membership when this is what they receive in return.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what, you dont pay you don't get to use the facility. God forbid there should be an attack here like in Seattle and we have to lock up our buildings with security and only members are allowed in then we will see how the freeloaders like it. These renegades from Brooklyn only want want want, but will not give a penny. Put up or Shut up.

As for Touro kol hakoved, they didnt get the public school so they found another piece of land for a facility (alah Dov Revel in Queens)

3:50 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Not familiar with the WS or FR, but the issue of large, beautiful shuls that sit empty is common in nearly every established community. And, I find it unfortunate. But, you have to "market" your goods and create a "product" that people want to buy into, and unfortunately many places just don't utilize their creative side to do that.

However, what is most unfortunate is when people use the services of a shul and don't even write a small check in recognition. This isn't a positive middah to say the least.

3:53 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

One more thing, I'd love to see more utilization of large buildings that already exist. Once the building needs maintained and heated, extra use generally is a win-win situation.

It is nice to hear that a large shul won't be sitting totally empty, as many shuls that have seen their hayday pass are.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Fed up with them said...

I think this problem is from the new people who move in who are holier than thou. When I was a teenager when Far Rockaway wasn't as rockin' as it is today and a lot of the WS congregants were from Lawrence, even though it was a MO shul it was quite used and accepted by even the more right wingers. It's the new crop moving in (sorry to say, but my generation)that is causing things to change. For the past few years you see so many new Right Wing shuls opening up all over the Five Towns area. I think it is terrible. Are they all moving into the community to be part of the community or to start a new faction? Are the old shuls (like WS) less Orthodox because of the pews? Could it be that it is just a much more efficient way to design a shul? Allows more space to...gasp! include more people? The elitist, holier-than-thou (literally) attitude makes me sick to my stomach!!!

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You know what, you dont pay you don't get to use the facility."

I agree and disagree. people should dontae to all shuls where they daven even if you only daven there on the weekdays or on friday night or shabbos micnha and so on. but the shuls doors and premise should not be closed to peoiple that dont pay. and besides even if people are not members they still likel;y contribute to the shul during the kol nidray appeal and on a daily basis to the shuls pushkis.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe the problem is that YU rabbis just know how to cater to jews but don't know how to cater to yiddishe neshomas

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Rabbi Zwick from Shulamith bought it for cash and will be opened next September for school.

5:43 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

torahtorah...

You can mock all you want but the bottom line is that the shul is dying. It is very narrowminded to think that there was no solution to the approaching challenges. They were evident many years ago.

(I am not justifying anyone's hashkafah, just pointing out that entrenched administrations did not do anything to address the oncoming trainwreck).

6:01 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I've never lived anywhere near these communities so I can't and won't comment on the White Shule, which I've never seen in my life.

But I have to say, the "it's terrible that people use services at a shule but don't donate any money, they should put up or shut up" thread here is a fascinating juxtaposition to the "Being an Orthodox Jew is incredibly expensive and there is so much pressure to pay for this, that, and the other thing everywhere you turn, and we have trouble making ends meet" thread of a couple weeks ago on this very blog.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Rabbi Zwick from Shulamith bought it for cash and will be opened next September for school.

Is this is a joke?

8:08 PM  
Anonymous LONGISLANDLIFER said...

The situation in Far Rockaway is not unique and spreads south.
I was just in Miami Beach for Shabbos, for a litle thanks giving R&R and heard about a local tumult
re: a new shteibel that just opened up mostly sponsored by a NYer whos is from the 5 towns and now resides on Miami Beach.

The largest and oldest functioning shul in Miami Beach is Beth Israel which is almost a twin sister to WS it is round in shape, mechitza is the balcony with full view like WS grand arcitecture and finishings and during the 70's & 80's packed to the brim on Shabbos.

Today it is virtualy empty on Shabbos Morning.

The new shul is located in the heart on the 41st street area.
Standing room only on Shabbos morning. Tables and chairs it is a simple "shteibel" packed with young black hats, kids galore.

Good or bad it seems to be the trend.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the truth be told it is like the old addage, "You can't make chicken soup out of ckicken S--t."

give the guy somthing to work with.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nor the chiken at GG

9:25 PM  
Anonymous gross said...

"Historical moment" my foot...Touro "college" is a for-profit business with a poor product to say the least.

From a minyan factory to a "degree" factory. Right-wingers have zero class.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

A query for all of those who are bashing the "right-wingers" for abandoning the White Shul.

With all of the options available in Far Rockaway these days (particularly the Agudah and Shor Yoshuv), what reason would a more right wing person have to daven at the White Shul. It is not a sign of a lack of achdus or being holier than thou, just of people going where they are more comfortable.

I do agree that those who utilize the shul for weekday shachris should donate to the shul. However, I don't think this rises to the point that they are obligated to pay anything like the full membership price. Given that, even if the people who use the shul did donate (and I believe quite a few do), the shul would still suffer from its structural financial problems to a large extent.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Whoa - British Airways to Contact Passengers After Traces of Radiation Found on Planes

12:47 AM  
Blogger - Typo Lad said...

Touro College has some very fine alums, thanks. Especially the graduate schools. I willa gree that the undergrad programs can be a little shvach, but the Women's Division is actually doing pretty well. The one in Manhattan has an amazing new Dean, new campus, and an impressive student body.

Note: I am not a Touro Employe or Student.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sugar Daddy? Orthomom- do you even know what that means? I think that's a highly inappropriate phrase for someone of your caliber, especially in this context.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noun: sugar daddy 'shûgur 'dadee

1. A wealthy older man who gives a young person expensive gifts in return for friendship or intimacy



I don't think the term is really that bad or inapropriate. Certainly got her point across.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all has to do with demographics..Go to Boro Park, and you will see that not only is Beth El empty, but the new Agudah that is being built on 50th street, is also empty !!
The majority of Agudah type people in Boro Park, have moved to Flatbush, and there is absolutely no demand for a shul like "Beth El"
which probably sits close to 600 people...
Kids who grew up in the white shul, have moved to places like Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Teaneck and Edison. Housing "was" cheaper, and kiddush clubs were easier to find.

Ask any of the old timers, who complain about the right wing migration into FR, if any of their kids still live in the neighborhood...i guarantee you that most of them don"t,,.. and those few who did stay, many daven at other shuls....
I think the blame should be put on the old timers, who let their children abandoned FR

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in a community where I go to the "old persons" shul, which gets 25 on shabbos where capacity is over 250. I see the similarities in the situations. First, most if not all of the young people in the community did not stick around, because of housing options. Second and most important, the people that built and ran the shul, never provided the tools for the shul organization to be transfered to the next generation. They people in charge of everything couldn't turn the keys over while there was still an opportunity for others to take the lead until it was too late.
What happens in these situations is that another Jewish organization like Touro or Chabad will swoop in and basicaly deed themselves the property in question, and before long the "rabbi" in charge makes out like a bandit by either, selling off the property or mortgaging it up the wazoo and doing whatever they want with the money.

This isnt only a problem here, just travel all over the Lower East Side, Brownsville, Bronx, even parts of Queens, and youll see old shuls which just vanished. Even in Manhattan this is happening, and others are just swooping in, just to claim the multi-million dollar properties.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

This all reminds me of an incident I witnessed at the WS a couple of weeks back. I occasionally find myself in FR on Sunday mornings where I stop into the WS knowing I can probably find a minyan at that time. The minyanim then are either in the small shul or in the main sanctuary.

On this particular morning, I came in and went to the coat room to hang my coat and put on my tallis and teffilin before joining one of the main minyanim. When I walked in, I was pretty suprised to see that a minyan was being conducted there in the coat room! Here I was was, hanging up my coat, people walking in and out and they're in the middle of the silent shemona esrei. An older man, who I soon determined to be one of the WS administration, came in and announced that he's respectfully asking everyone to leave the coatroom. "this is not a shul", it's disrepectful to daven in a coatroom with people coming and going" and he waited to make sure that this 'minyan' vacated the coatroom.

When they saw that they were actually being booted, some of the younger 'ringleaders' began arguing with the older man that they now don't have a place to daven to which he responded that there are b"H plenty of minyanim on a Sunday morning and they're more than welcome to join one of them. The rest of the exchange went like this:

RL: "but all these people came for an 8:30 minyan and there wasn't one, so we made a minyan in the coatroom"

OM: "we have plenty of minyanim to join. There isn't an 8:30. Please read the shul schdule in the future and don't just create your own miyanim"

RL: "well, no one mailed me the schedule."

OM: "are you a member? do you contribute to the shul?"

silence. They finished their minyan outside the front doors of the building.

Take what you will from this, but as an outside observer, I saw a group who felt that they have some inaliable right to do what they want, where they want.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

"Historical moment" my foot...Touro "college" is a for-profit business with a poor product to say the least.

From a minyan factory to a "degree" factory. Right-wingers have zero class.


Actually Tuoro is a not-for-profit. You can view all their tax records online.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

at least if touro takes over there won't be a gay minyan like the YU medical school sanctions.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Tuoro is a not-for-profit. You can view all their tax records online.

So Bernie isn't getting rich>

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is no wonder the young people do not want to join and pay membership when this is what they receive in return.


IF THEY WOULD JOIN AND PAY MEMBERSHIP THEY WOULDNT GET THAT IN RETURN YOU DOPE!

2:37 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

at least if touro takes over there won't be a gay minyan like the YU medical school sanctions.

And this is why the telephone game is dangerous!!!

There is no gay minyan. The grad schools do have to allow domestic partnerships (which I have no love for). But, let's at least get the story right.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I witnessed JUST PASSING THROUGH'S story.
A few weeks ago when the shammos told a freeloader that he can't start his own minyan the gentleman with the black hat said.This is not your shul!!It belongs to the whole community!!Never a red cent from this guy who comes six days a week.
When the shammos told a collector that he can't collect during the davaning,another feeloader called him a Nazi.
Then of course ther's the guy who blew his nose and threw the bloody tissue on the rabbi's shtender.
Of course there's the guys who park their car blocking the Hatzola garage.
I can go on and on.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same thing is happening in Flatbush as well. The shuls along Ocean Parkway - both the Young Israel and the shteeblach are losing daveners. The demographics have simply changed. None of the young Flatbush people buy hosues near Ocean Parkway. They're all in the 30's and beyond.

I remember the WS from the 70's when I would visit for Shabbos. It was a rich, possibly snotty, crowd.

I wonder what the shul's attitude was in the 80's when the tide started to turn but there were still a lot more of the original mispallelim there. Now they're all in Deerfield Beach where the Young Israel has 500 people a day.

No excuse for bad manners and the way some of the young snobs act. I can't believe that they all come from Brooklyn.

The WS sees the handwriting on the wall, albeit a bit to late. The upkeep must be enormous. If they sell the whole left side (is the catering Hall included?) and close down all the black hat minyanim they'll have plenty of money for upkeep and then they can keep their 50 person Shabbos minyan and be happy.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

125 people on shabbos in the mnain minyan, not 50. And another 100 in the back.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

i know of many shuls (esp. mo ones)in brooklyn (where i live) that are suffering the same problem as the white shul. even some rw shuls that are packed have few paying members (so this is not necessarily a mo-rw issue).

as far as the community's "responsiblity" to maintain the ws: i've never been to the ws or to fr so i don't know anything about either other than what you write here. but i don't think there is a responsibility to maintain a struggling shul, especially where there are others in the vicinity. as a student of history, and specifically of american jewish history, i write this with a heavy heart. but we have so many financial obligations (family and communal) that we can't support every shul that still has 10 jews. to the contrary, it is irresponsible (and in some situations not fair).

i think making use of communal structures for more than one purpose (shul and school for example) is good financial sense.

shavu'ah tov.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"125 people on shabbos in the mnain minyan, not 50. And another 100 in the back. "

and another 20+ hanging out in the lobby and coatroom

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to attend the WS semi regularly Sunday morning due. During the week and Shabbos I attend anothr Shul in the FTs. During their Chodosh Elul membership drive I asked one of the people manning the desk in the lobby whether it was possible for me to join based upon some reduced membership level based upon the fact that I only attended the shul in a very limited way. All I asked was to recieve the weekly flyers. The person called me back a few days later and said the administration told him that I could only join the Shul as a full member.It is this lack of flexibility and failure to recognize the changes in the FT and FR that has doomed the WS.

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Sam said...

The beginning of the end of the WS was when Pelcowitz retired. AS I said in an earlier comment it was SRO shabbos morning- not for the chazan-not the shammish and not the mini skirts. It was the Rabbi. And is was Pelcowitz and his supporters who had the unsightly apartment building across the street removed from the FR landscape which paved the way for all of us. Maybe Rabbi Ralphs biggest mistake was his intense dislike for R'Weinberger who set the shul on a new course during his sabatical. But that's history now.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think there is a responsibility to maintain a struggling shul, especially where there are others in the vicinity

Wrong,Wrong, Wrong.

This is still a vibrant shul, 6 days a week, but is being used by freeloaders. Pay dues od Daven Somewhere else.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Rabbi said...

"125 people on shabbos in the mnain minyan, not 50. And another 100 in the back. "

and another 20+ hanging out in the lobby and coatroom


Same as at any shul or shteible

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not for the chazan-not the shammish and not the mini skirts.

For every mini-skirt, there were 10 long skirts, ten wigs, and ten black hats.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Rabbi said...

Maybe Rabbi Ralphs biggest mistake was his intense dislike for R'Weinberger who set the shul on a new course during his sabatical

True enough. If Ralph hadn't tossed out Weinberger we might have had a happier ending.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous rabbit said...

This is still a vibrant shul, 6 days a week,

Its still a vibrant shul on shabbos, too. With the three minyanim, it pulls in close to 300 people. How many shuls do that??

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who lives “out of town” but has visited the shul a few times recently, I’d like to add a few thoughts.

A shul like any organization needs to occasionally reinvent itself. Sometimes, this means tough decisions or personnel changes. The demographics of the 5 Towns and FR have obviously changed over the past 20 or so years. From what I saw, the “minyan factory” depiction of the WS is quite accurate and I can certainly understand the resentment of the paying membership which built the shul and has maintained it all these years. My other observation is that the physical plant of the WS is falling apart.

Despite the changes in the neighborhood, the shul has obviously maintained its same identity and course and has tried to hold on. It’s hard to beleive that they could not see the current situation coming. One easy reaction is to “punt” by adding minyanim to make the shul vibrant again. They have done that but the result is merely a façade. At the end of the day, there are bills to pay and overhead to account for. Minyan factories and those who are processed through them rarely can be counted on to cover operating costs.

One very unfortunate result of the yeshivishization and shteibelization of any community like this is the narrow-mindedness of those educated in the yeshivas. Their products have no patience to sit through a Drasha (unfortunately, some Rabbanim are not capable of giving good ones anymore) and they are turning to their Roshei Yeshivos for psak and guidance. So, it is no surprise that shul Rabbanim are now irrelevant. The larger shuls have been reduced to a place where people can dispense with their obligation to “daven with a minyan” a couple times a day. This is a far cry from the lofty goals of prayer being “tefillah b’tzibbur” and “b’rov am hadras melech”. In many cases, the leadership of the yeshivos is to be blamed for rendering larger full-service shuls irrelevant, either explicitly or implicitly. The sense of kakaras hatov is sorely lacking, because “after all, the shuls are dying and under-attended and we Bnei Yeshiva are keeping the shuls alive”.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not unique to FR. It exists elsewhere too. One’s financial responsibility if any, is limited to where he davens on Shabbos morning (assuming that even this is consistent). Somehow, there is the illusion that overhead and ConEd utilities during the week are gratis. And “shul membership” is something that maybe my grandfather once did. And it’s not a matter of fiancés, as much as it is a matter of community priorities. What’s scary is that many parents of teens and newly marrieds, while spoiling them with houses, SUV’s, the latest fashions, and Blackberries, have no issue with their kids being floaters absolved on any community achrayus.

It may take some time to realize this, but the value of a full-service shul (albeit in some perhaps modified form) in addressing not only the spiritual needs of a community but the serious problems within it, will soon be appreciated. Unfortunately, by that time, their infrastructures may have been so weakened that it will be too late. For example, how many of the teens at risk could be prevented if they could participate in boys or girls youth programming? Such a forum would give them opportunities to participate in davening, learning, and social activities. It could also give them an opportunity to take on leadership and responsibility. How many of the achdus problems could me ameliorated if different segments of a community would not be davening in their own virtual daled amos (i.e., people their age, who learned in their yeshiva, who send their kids to the same schools and summer camps), but would have a forum to come together as part of a “cross-cultural” tzibbur?

And what about the women? I presume that many in the FT/FR area see their role as looking good and hosting their husband’s chevra for Kiddush. Any appearance in shul is reduced to shmoozing outside of it with their clothing from Cedarhurst, furs from Manhattan, and custom sheitels from Europe. This increasing sentiment is limiting the number of appropriate role models for girls in how to behave in shul or on Shabbos.

So, until a community grows up and sees where people daven as more than place that caters exclusively to married males, we have a problem.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say that the freeloaders who use the WS sun - fri, use the shil more then the Saturday only attendee, and should share in the costs of running the shul

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its still a vibrant shul on shabbos, too. With the three minyanim, it pulls in close to 300 people. How many shuls do that??

250 are FREELOADERS

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely not true.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone post the WS letter to the members?

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so sad, so sad...

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting to note that ORTHOMOM never writes anything bad about Yeshiva University or its machers. I can unferstand why people in the haredi/Aguda/Yeshiva world are skeptical about (her)bias. I can't recall one article about YU/OU/RCA scandal.

9:54 AM  
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