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Tradition! Young adults on the Upper West Side flock to a new, independent Shabbat service



(New York Jewish Week) — It was a mild Friday afternoon in mid-December and Avital Katz and Ilana Sandberg didn’t know what to expect once Shabbat began.

The pair had texted, emailed and posted on Instagram to invite as many people as possible to an egalitarian Shabbat service that they were hosting in the living room of a friend’s townhouse apartment on West 75th Street. Katz and Sandberg were craving a younger, fresher Friday night experience on the Upper West Side, but while they knew others felt the same, they weren’t sure how many people would show up.

In the end, Katz said, the final tally was “shocking”: 55 people crowded into the room for that first service, bringing their own prayer books and traveling significant distances to join a Shabbat community they’d only just heard about.

“We knew people wanted it,” said Katz, 29, who teaches at a Jewish day school in the neighborhood. “But we were just so excited and so grateful that this was something that actually excited people and we weren’t just making it up in our heads.”

Over the next four months, Katz and Sandberg, a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, held four additional Kabbalat Shabbat services, with a tentative schedule stretching out into the summer. Their informal prayer community, known as a minyan, has no name — yet — but it does have a third organizer, growing buzz among young adults on the Upper West Side and the support of a slew of synagogues in the neighborhood and beyond. 

This Kabbalat Shabbat minyan’s arrival marks something of a return-to-nature on the Upper West Side, a pulsing heart of Jewish life in New York City. Over the years, other minyans had sprouted up in the neighborhood, which is popular among young Jewish professionals because of its density of synagogues and kosher restaurants, the vibrancy of its dating scene and the networks of camp and college friends who are committed to maintaining Jewish community in their lives.

Some of these minyans faded away as members moved away, while others evolved into more established communities with dues, leases and programs for families. But the informal, lay-led minyans that were drawing young adults just before the pandemic — such as the Wandering Minyan, Shira B’Dira (Hebrew for “Songs in an Apartment”) and one sponsored by Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement’s summer camp network — have been slow to reemerge.

Katz and Sandberg are members of a congregation, Kehilat Hadar, that itself grew out of an informal minyan launched back in 2001. But Kehilat Hadar doesn’t regularly hold Friday-night services, which tend to be challenging for people with young children to attend. Plus, Katz and Sandberg thought that an independent minyan with less established roots might be more appealing for many people who hadn’t yet found a Jewish community of their own. 

Of course, there are numerous synagogues in the neighborhood, but none seemed quite right: Congregations such as B’nai Jeshurun and Romemu use musical instruments — something considered taboo on Shabbat by many observant Jews — and Orthodox congregations tend not to appeal to people who are committed to egalitarianism. Plus, Katz, Sandberg and the third organizer, Bradley Goldman, were looking for a service led by people who aren’t rabbis, so the participants could feel more ownership over the experience. 

“Obviously, there are some choices,” Katz said. “But there wasn’t anything that kind of fit with a more traditional Friday night davening [praying] that really focuses on young people who might end up moving away from the Upper West Side after a few years.”

She had heard others expressing the same longing as the world reemerged from Covid limitations. “All of these Shabbat meals that we were going to, everyone — whether or not they go to shul constantly or have rarely gone when they’ve moved to the Upper West Side — was talking about how there’s really not a lot of options for Friday night davening that are appealing to the 20s and 30s crowd, either religiously or age-wise,” she said.

The crowd at their services are all young people, many of whom know each other already, most who live on the Upper West Side — but anyone is welcome. In fact, Katz stays at the door to welcome anyone and everyone who walks by, which she said has been her favorite part of the experience. 

A large contingent of attendees also have a background either attending or working for one of the camps in the Ramah network, and many prayers use Ramah tunes, creating a sense of nostalgia for those who attended the camps. 

“We create such a powerful Shabbat experience at camp and I wanted to be able to capture that here with the same people,” said Adina Scheinberg, a Ramah alum who led a recent service that took place at Schechter Manhattan, the Conservative day school located on West 100th Street, that drew around 60 people. 

After the service, which includes traditional Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy and maariv, or the evening service, attendees have the opportunity to schmooze with each other, snack and have a drink. “We want to be as inclusive as possible,” Katz said. “If you just want to come for the snacks, we love that too.”

The setting at Schechter was familiar to anyone who has attended Kehilat Hadar services in recent years: Kehilat Hadar has partnered with Congregation Shaare Zedek since 2019 and they meet together every Saturday morning at Schechter while Shaare Zedek’s permanent space is undergoing a major redevelopment. For Kehilat Hadar, the new minyan is not competition but an exciting addition to the fabric of Jewish life in the neighborhood. 

“Friday night davening has always gotten a different crowd from Shabbat morning davening,” said Emily Scharfman, president of Kehilat Hadar’s board. She said Kehilat Hadar has held monthly Friday night services but lacked the volunteer capacity to hold weekly ones, particularly as community members have grown their families over the past 20 years. 

“We are happy to be supportive of something that was mission-aligned, from a traditional, egalitarian perspective, especially coming from two people within our community,” Scharfman said, adding that Kehilat Hadar and Shaare Zedek would likely not have sponsored a minyan with a mechitzah separating men and women, or one that brought in music.

Kehilat Hadar has sponsored at least one of the Shabbat services, paying to rent the space at Schechter Manhattan for the evening and providing the snacks. And they’re not the only ones: The Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale helped rent space at SAJ, a Reconstructionist synagogue, for a future Shabbat, while Ramah plans to sponsor a service on May 5. 

Though the presence of JTS, the flagship Conservative seminary, has always meant that there are ample young adults on the Upper West Side committed to innovative prayer experiences, Sandberg said she’s especially pleased that her growing new minyan draws from beyond that community.

“It’s logical that I as a rabbinical student was looking for something like this and that I felt like there was a gap in the community that I was hoping to find on the Upper West Side,” Sandberg said. “But it is really gratifying that this sentiment is shared by so many people and that this minyan can be something that young Jews on varying levels of being involved and engaged and observant are looking for.”

The post Tradition! Young adults on the Upper West Side flock to a new, independent Shabbat service appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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