Some Great Shul Experiences in Woodmere

Shul choice varies greatly from location to location. In densely populated areas, one might have the choice of over 25 shuls within a 10 minute radius, while in areas with fewer Jews, the choice may be as few as one or two shuls in the same area. Wherever you are, the experience can be maximized.

I had the pleasure of spending last Shabbos in Woodmere, a relatively affluent Modern Orthodox community in the Five Towns area of Long Island. My friends are members of Aish Kodesh, but in the summer time, when Mora the D’Asra, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, is out of town and the weather is hot, they often skip the 20 minute walk and daven locally. Locally in this case means minyanim in people’s houses.

On Friday night we walked across the street to a minyan in a neighbor’s house. There were about 25 men in attendance including a number of black hatted yeshivish sons of the residents. The davening made a tremendous impression. It was a well paced, extremely spirited, Carlbach nusach with everybody in attendance participating in the many niggunim (songs). It was quite inspirational and I was informed that every week they daven Carlbach style. Nobody was in a rush, they were there to start their Shabbos on an extremely high note. After davening people shmoozed for 5-10 minutes.

On Shabbos morning we walked 5 minutes along the winding roads of the Woodsburgh section of Woodmere, until we arrived in a Shul situated in greenhouse side room. This Shul, which has been running for 29 years, has a Hashkama minyan at 7:30 am and the regular minyan is at 9:15 am. In the house itself, there is an area for women.

By the end of davening over 60 men had joined us to participate in the second minyan. The Baalei Tefillah and the Baalei Koreh were very good, and the davening ended around 11:15 am, but was most impressive was the decorum and kavod for the tefillah. Dr. Thurm, the homeowner and Gabbai runs the show efficiently as he hands out the kibbudim (the honors), picks the Baalei Tefillah and makes sure the well stocked weekly kiddush is ready on time. There is a membership fee which covers the cost of the non-sponsored kiddush, the heating, the cooling, and other expenses. It was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem and a tribute to Dr. Thurm and the participants.

So although I missed davening at Aish Kodesh and it’s legendary spirited davening, I was treated to two private house minyanim where people are going way beyond convenience and creating minyanim of inspiration and kavod (honor) for tefillah and Shabbos. There is an expression “Grow Where Your Planted” and these places go way beyond that cry providing weekly growth opportunities for those who are planted in the Woodmere domain.

5 thoughts on “Some Great Shul Experiences in Woodmere”

  1. It’s nice to experience different things, different communities. But I am not so sure the article is a positive one. I believe davening should be in a shul. It is sad to see, and it happens here in KGH as well, that people do not have the patience to be in a shul and need to make their own minyanim. Especially in KGH where we there are sooo many choices, unless there is a specific need (such as aveilim), why can’t people go to a shul and stick it out? I’m not a learning expert, but I am sure one of the mitzvos is to write yourself a sefer torah, not build yourself a shul.

    By forsaking the traditional shul setting, it adds to growing fracture in the Jewish community.

  2. I tend to agrees with about 60% of what was said above.
    The minyan you went to on Shabbos day sounds pretty official, though and seems no different than the setup many Chabad Houses have.
    I am curious how many go to the 7:30 minyan.

    I also daven at a Carlebach minyan on Shabbos night. It is held in the beis Midrash of a shul and gets around 16-25 people. They keep the davening moving at a good pace.

    1. I’m a big Shul fan myself, it affords connection, chesed and learning opportunities that are usually not found in house minyans and most importantly, a full service Shul has a Rav to guide, inspire, teach and pasken.

      That being said, some people don’t need, don’t value or can’t find a Shul with the attributes just listed. It’s nice to see that in those situations, people are trying to maximize the Shabbos davening experience.

  3. It’s my understnding that shtieblach were created out of necessity by Eastern European Chassidim because the established shuls operated according to a different nusach (standard local Ashkenaz) than theirs, and there was also general friction between Chassidim and non-Chassidim.

    What is the modern justification for davening at what amounts to a shtiebel when a larger shul using one’s own nusach (whichever variety) is within walking distance?

  4. One issue is timing of davening.
    In the summer, if you make “regular Shabbos”, you might want a minyan close to your house that goes quicker than average because your family is waiting for you at home.

    Ruchnius is also a factor. During the week I am always rushing to and from minyanim and on Shabbos night, for example, I happen to daven at a very close Carlebach-esque minyan that is leibidig and lets me appreciate the tefillos.

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