Monday, January 09, 2006

Shul Politics

Most of my quality time spent at Beth Sholom Congregation in Frederick was as a child. It was only later in life, when I became involved with shuls in Baltimore that I realized that not even shuls are exempt from politics. However, it never struck me until recently that Beth Sholom has been, or at least is now plagued with them.

Most people reading this know about the shul in Frederick. Here's the short story: unaffiliated charter, Rabbi comes 40 some years ago as a kiruv stop on the way up the rabbinical ladder, falls in love with town, never leaves. Rabbi (Kosman) is Orthodox, service is Conservative, and most of the people would fall under the Reform categorization.

I believe that everything was status quo for the majority of his 40 some odd years in Frederick. He brought warm Judaism to a place that may have been without it otherwise, and over the years has seen many of his congregants make Aliyah from Frederick to Baltimore as a result of their climb up the Jewish ladder (obviously, all thanks to Rabbi Kosman). However, recently there have been suggestions that have affected Beth Sholom. First, there was a push for a reform synagogue. Being that Rabbi Kosman comes from a Ner Israel background, he does not allow women to read from the Torah or the lead services. There were those on the left that felt left out, and wanted to break off to form a reform synagogue (which, to the best of my knowledge, meets in a church). Fine, no big deal. There was some chutzpah involved, but all in all, that doesn’t bother me too much. What bothers me greatly is a suggestion by a couple of Beth Sholom old-schoolers: forcing Rabbi Kosman to retire. They have their reasons: decline in membership, time for a change, Rabbi Kosman’s age, etc. Similar to the tear-filled speech I gave at my own Sheva Brachos in Frederick where many of the big-whigs of Beth Sholom were present, here is my rant against you, Mr. “I want Rabbi Kosman to retire” man:

You, your kids are Jewish. They probably want to marry someone Jewish, right? Ever stopped to think why that is? Is that because of the in-depth Jewish education that you gave your children at home? I bet not. Is it because it just happened to be like that? I know not. The intermarriage rate in this country ridiculously high and I bet if we did a study of that intermarriage rate of the children that Rabbi Kosman has taught, it would be significantly lower. The reason your children want to marry Jewish is because of the love and respect for Judaism that Rabbi and Morah Kosman have taught your children. Rabbi Kosman realized that he could only do so much; this is why with the help of a couple of Finkelsteins, he started Shoresh - A summer a camp; a place which could reinforce the love for Judaism instilled in the Frederick Kinderlach during the year by the Kosmans. This camp has grown from 10 children, to over 300. 300!!! In the history of Shoresh (25 years), there have been only a handful of intermarriages. Do you want your children to be susceptible to the same intermarriage rate as the rest of the country? Go ahead…your ancestors, some of which are probably holocaust survivors, would be so ashamed. Leaving your families susceptible to the end of the Jewish lineage…this is exactly what you are doing. Shame, shame on you.


Blogger Jewboy said...

Amen, Amen, Amen. Well stated. To kick RK out now is the height of disrespect, an utter lack of hakaros hatov, and very stupid. How long will Beth Shalom survive if it removes RK (G-d forbid)? I fear not very long.

9:48 AM, January 09, 2006

Anonymous Lanie said...

There is so much to be said about this. So much to be said, that I'm sure I won't be able to say it all eloquently.

There are so many troubling things about any push to remove Rabbi as the spiritual leader of Beth Sholom (or, as the "Chief Rabbi of Frderick" as he was introduced to Ehud Barak). Most that want an "alternative service" are NOT regular attendees of shul. Perhaps if they gave the service of Rabbi Kosman a chance, they would find the inspiration that brings the "regulars" back week after week. Unfortunately, I've found that the fight and protest becomes more of the "ikur" than that which the protestors are fighing for.

I personally have learned so many things from Rabbi Kosman. Everything that comes out of his mouth is filled with depth, inspiration and love for G-d and all fellow Jews. The main thing that Rabbi Kosman has taught me is just how much an individual is able to accomplish in his time on earth. Just think about all the Jewish souls that wouldn't be here today were it not for Rabbi Kosman, both in the physical and spiritual sense. I think of how many friendships wouldn't exist, how many babies wouldn't have been born. It's hard to go somewhere and find a person that has NOT heard of Rabbi Kosman and has not been directly impacted by his work.

And Joel, I don't think it's an issue of Beth Sholom ceasing to exist. I'm sure the shul will always continue to exist in the physical sense. The question is whether the people of Frederick will choose to continue Rabbi Kosman's legacy and vision in the spiritual sense. The thought of that disapearing is far more sad in my opinion.

Hopefully, those of who "LR" will be able to outspeak those who do not.

10:25 AM, January 09, 2006

Anonymous Mitnick said...

Very well said.

11:14 AM, January 09, 2006

Blogger Greg Gershman said...

Lanie, did you just "out" Jewboy?!?!?

4:28 PM, January 10, 2006

Blogger Jewboy said...

Leave it your wife to out you. Joel who?

7:13 PM, January 10, 2006


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