Lower East Side Rabbis Speak Out Against Neighborhood Shuls For Hosting LGBT Event

Stanton Street Shul, 180 Stanton St.

Stanton Street Shul, 180 Stanton St.

Several Lower East Side rabbis, and a few from outside the neighborhood, are calling on two local synagogues to “publicly distance themselves” from a group pushing for acceptance of gay Jews in Orthodox congregations.

The Eshel Downtown Shabbaton is scheduled to take place this coming weekend at the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue. According to Eshel’s website, the organization’s mission “is to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox communities.”

As The Jewish Press first reported in a story that carried no byline, rabbis from the Bialystoker Synagogue, Young Israel of Manhattan and Congregation Chasam Sofer were among a group that released a statement titled, “An Important Message to the Community.” The letter was also signed by Rabbis David and Reuven Feinstein, the sons of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a towering figure in Orthodox Judaism who died in the 1980s.

The statement read, in part:

There has been a monumental shift in the larger world’s attitude towards homosexual expression over recent years. Unfortunately, acceptance of what the Torah forbids has seeped into parts of the Jewish community, including parts that identify as Orthodox… All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls. However, the basic mandate of the Orthodox synagogue is to promote fidelity in our Torah and our mesorah. Sadly, Eshel demands that we change the Torah’s timeless standards to accord with prevalent secular attitudes. We are saddened that the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue have unilaterally chosen to associate our community with an organization that we cannot consider to be Orthodox… No Jewish that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox. We call upon (the synagogues) to publicly distance themselves from Eshel and its decidedly non-Orthodox worldview.

This morning, we contacted Rabbi Aviad Bodner of the Stanton Street Shul. He provided the following statement:

At the Stanton Street Shul, I’m proud to partner with the board in our decision to embrace the LGBT Jewish community, welcome them in our shul, and love and encourage them to observe mitzvot to the best of their ability just as we do with every Jew who joins our community. This is not a compromise but rather an expression of the mitzvah ואהבת לרעך כמוך – Love thy neighbor as yourself. It’s that simple, and it’s unfortunate that we need to justify our obligation to observe one of the greatest values of Judaism. We believe that we may invite an organization or and individual to come to the Stanton Street Shul even if we do not agree on everything or even strongly disagree. The rabbis who made the statement do not have the monopoly over Orthodoxy or the Torah. Disagreements are healthy and welcome, but they must be voiced with respect. Decisions about what is best for each shul will rightfully differ, but they should be left to the synagogue leadership, and no one should be subject to public shaming.

The Stanton Street Shul, established in 1913, is one of the only tenement synagogues left on the Lower East Side. It has a longstanding reputation for welcoming people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life. As The Jewish Press noted, the shul is seen as an alternative to the more traditional synagogues (such as the Bialystocker), which serve the Grand Street Jewish community.

The article intimates that Stanton Street Shul could be in jeopardy if it doesn’t acquiesce to the demands in the rabbinical letter. The prospects for “a herem,” an excommunication, is seen, at least in some quarters, as an idle threat  regarding a shul that’s served the Lower East Side community for more than 100 years.

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Photos: Simchat Torah on Stanton Street

Stanton Street. All photos by Clayton Patterson.

Stanton Street. All photos by Clayton Patterson.

It was festive in the streets Thursday evening as the Stanton Street Shul celebrated Simchat Torah.

Stanton Street Shul Invites Community For Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur Services

The Stanton Street Shul is spreading the word that all are welcome for the Jewish High Holy Days, which begin next week.

Stanton Street Shul Reaches Initial Fundraising Goal; $20,000 Still Needed

Stanton Street Shul.

Rabbi Josh Yuter at the Stanton Street Shul let us know that they have raised $10,000 through crowdfunding site Lucky Ant, which means the synagogue’s post-Hurricane Sandy campaign to repair water damage has been successful.  But Stanton Street still must raise a total of $30,000 to be eligible for matching funds through the New York Landmarks Conservancy.  The money will go towards repairing the roof at 180 Stanton Street.  Click here if you would like to help.

 

The Chalk Project: Remembering the Triangle Fire 101 Years Later

Photos courtesy Stanton Street Shul and Yenta Laureate.

On Sunday, people from all walks of life paused to remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 101 years after one of New York’s most devastating tragedies.  Every year since 2004, volunteers have chalked the names of the victims on sidewalks across the city.  During the weekend, the Stanton Street Shul participated in this relatively new tradition, saying Kaddish for the dead and chalking in memory of the Rosen family, who lived at 78 Clinton Street.

Yenta Laureate, who sent us these photos, explained: “Julia Rosen, was a widowed mother and new immigrant who had worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in order to earn the money to send for her 14 year old son, Israel, who was still in Europe. Once he came to New York, (Israel) then worked with her there.” 

Stanton Street Shul Holds Purim Talent Showcase Tonight

Happy pre-Purim! There are quite a few activities planned throughout the neighborhood in the next couple of days, including this evening’s Purim Talent Showcase at the Stanton Street Shul. It begins at 9:30pm, following Maariv services and the megillah reading. In addition to the entertainment, there will be refreshments, hamentashen and klezmer music throughout the evening. There’s a $10 suggested donation at the door. The historic Stanton Street Shul is located at 180 Stanton Street (between Clinton and Attorney streets).

Stanton Street Shul to Host Purim Talent Showcase

As part of their Purim holiday festivities, The Stanton Street Shul will be hosting a talent showcase. They write: The Stanton Street Shul is overjoyed (it is Adar after all) to announce a Purim Talent Showcase. If you sing, dance, act, tell jokes, perform magic or have any other talents, now is your time to shine! Enjoy refreshments, hamentashen and klezmer music throughout the evening. Spread the word and bring your friends –- The more the merrier!

Get your act together and sign up here by March 7th.  The showcase will be held on Saturday, March 19th (following Maariv services and megillah reading) at 9:30 pm // $10 suggested // 180 Stanton Street.

Weekend Guide

Along with our Weekend Music Picks, an interesting “Time/Store” opening, “Five ‘Til (solo) at Dixon Place and Howard Fishman at Abrons, here are a few more events worth checking out on the Lower East Side this weekend:

Jumanji via childstarlets.com (playing at the midnight movie at the Sunshine this weekend)

  • StoryCorps will be leading a workshop for families at The New Museum this Saturday titled, “The Last Newspaper: Share Your Story.”  StoryCorps staff will help you have a conversation with members of your family or close friends by asking, “Tell me about your life.” 

A Conversation with Rabbi Josh Yuter

Rabbi Josh Yuter

When I stopped by the Stanton Street Shul one day last week, I found Rabbi Josh Yuter alone in the beis midrash, a ground floor study room.  He was seated at a long table, working on his laptop computer.  A prolific tweeter, blogger and a former applications developer for major corporations, there’s not much doubt Rabbi Yuter has embraced the digital revolution.  Taking a break from preparations for Rosh Hashonah (which begins at sundown tonight) he spoke with me about his online endeavors, but more importantly, about the Stanton Street Shul’s unique place on the Lower East Side.