How To Alienate Jews From Torah (Kew Gardens Hills)

Baruch Gordon,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Baruch Gordon
Baruch Gordon founded the Arutz Sheva - website in 1995 and served as manager and News Director for its English Media Department for 14 years. Today he serves as Director of Development and Public Relations for the Israel Defense Forces Preparatory Academy in Bet El and Bet El Institutions. He also directs which offers countrywide tours of Israel. Baruch founded in Bet El a Smicha Program for working men, and received his smicha in 2014 from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Baruch served in the IDF Search and Rescue Unit. Born and raised in Memphis, he was elected International President of United Synagogue Youth in high school and soon after became religious while studying at Tufts University. Baruch resides with his wife Anat, a native Israeli, in Bet El and has 7 Sabra children and even more grandchildren. ...

Meet a young Israeli-born Jew who lives a life of Torah today in Kew Gardens Hills NY, with his wife and four kids - Amir Raphael:

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I sat next to Amir on a recent flight home to Israel from NY. Amir comes from a Jewish family in Ramat Gan, Israel which was never introduced to religious observance.

“The first time I heard of the concept of keeping kosher and not mixing milk and meat,” Amir told me, “was when I was in the IDF and told not to wash the color-coded blue plates for dairy meals, with the red plates which are designated for meat meals.”

Amir had never been to a synagogue in his life.

Amir came to NY after the army and moved to Kew Gardens Hills, NY. He befriended some Israelis who suggested he check out the synagogue Shabbat service on Friday night.

One fine Friday, Amir made his debut appearance in synagogue.

Amir was the first person to arrive, apart from the Rabbi who was seated in front.

So the scene is Amir seated in the middle of the synagogue surrounded by at least a hundred empty chairs, and the Rabbi.

In walks a regular synagogue-attendee who we will call “super-duper meticulously religious,” or SDMR for short.

SDMR walks right up to Amir and says to him, “You’re sitting in my chair. Get up.”

Amir glanced again at the vast number of empty seats all around just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Feeling about as welcome as a black man at a Ku Klux Klan rally, Amir got up and went to a movie.

Four years elapsed before Amir entered a synagogue again.

I repeat, four years.

I understand SDMR. After all, he is super duper meticulously religious. And our holy Torah urges us to establish a permanent “place” or seat to pray in. But, our Torah also allows a person to bend on this rule, if sticking to his assigned seat will alienate a guest. And even if SDMR is not ready to bend, he can make the guest feel welcome, before tossing him from his seat. For example, he can check with the synagogue sexton where there is an available seat, and only then walk over to Amir, greet him warmly with a smile, and then escort him over to the available seat.

Today Amir goes regularly to Rabbi Shmuel Marcus’ synagogue in Kew Gardens Hills who, I know, bends over backwards to make everyone feel welcome, as do, I’m sure, most of the local residents.

But to those SDMR’s who haven’t considered the consequences of their actions, I hope Amir’s story enters your heart, as it did mine.

Polite pro and con opinions are welcome in the comments section below.

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