Boca Raton, Florida is one of the fastest growing Jewish and Orthodox communities in the United States. According to a recent article in Hamodia, the first Orthodox Shul opened there in 1983 and today there are over 1,000 Shomer Shabbos families. The biggest Shul is the Boca Raton Synagogue, with 700 families and according to their Shul beliefs and History web page, former Rabbi Kenneth Brander, now at Yeshiva University was instrumental in Boca’s growth. Rabbi Brander has been succeeded by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg who goes beyond his Rabbinic leadership duties with an insightful weekly blog column.
Last summer, a family I am close with, moved to a smaller community outside of Boca proper, where Rabbi Yaakov Gibber is the Rabbi of Shaarei Tefillah. My friend is very happy with the community and attributes it’s marked warmth to the fact that the residents are transplants from other communities and don’t have much extended family so they form close connections with their neighbors.
Last fall, another close family announced they were moving to East Boca which is 7 miles to the east of Boca proper. The East Boca community was established 7 years ago when Rabbi Shimon Feder and 5 other alumni families of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Queens founded the Jewish Education Center which is primarily involved in teaching Torah to unaffiliated Jews. Rabbi Feder is the son-in-law of a long time friend from my Shul, so he regularly updates me on the exciting thing going on down there.
A few years ago, Rabbi Noach Light, another musmach from Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim was appointed as the first Rav of Congregation Yagdil Torah of East Boca. I’ve known Rabbi Light for many years and last week I had the pleasure of driving him home from a vort in Passaic to Queens. I mentioned a growth project I was working on which is focused on improving kavanna during Tefilla, and he told me that the entire community of 25 families in East Boca is focused on continual growth in Tefilla and all aspects of Yiddishkeit. Along with the tremendous outreach activities, East Boca is taking the Growth Culture Shul to the next level, with an entire Growth Culture Community.
I miss my friends very much, but I’m excited to hear how they’re growing, and to learn how to apply their continual growth culture to Shuls and communities in other parts of the country.