Synagogue Website Reviews

Joe emails: I have a deviant fascination (is there any other kind?) with monitoring synagogue websites. Some are quite useful. More important than the content is the theme of the site and what it tells you about the shul.

WWW.YICC.ORG is the perfect example.

YICC stands out as the big leaguer in orthodox shuls in L.A. It does not mess around. Its site is ridiculously detailed, and is very cold in that way. It is led by a Rabbi who believes that Rabbi Soloveitchik and his Lithuanian precision is still the model – it reminds me of an old joke that shows how heartless the lithuanian jews were – the story was that there was this new lithuanian rabbi who just got the job of watching the matza (unleavened bread) being made. This is a very strict process and the matza must be completed in a very short period of time – there is some window for error, but zero tolerance is to be preferred. So the new rabbi ask the old rabbi if there are any special idiosyncrasies the old rabbi followed – the old lithuanian rabbi said – yes – you should know that the women preparing the matzas are mostly widows who desperately need the money to feed their families. Accordingly, you should therefore be very kind to them because if you yell at them to move the process along, they tend to cry and those tears could get in the dough and the matza could leaven rendering the lot unkosher.

YICC is that way, very professional, but at the expense of some coldness. I have never seen a shul website where members post pictorials of their families with one-upsmanship about who has a more perfect life. The site has a book of its own proprietary customs with the most exacting methodology for when the leader of the prayers can or cannot repeat words. In one bit of exclusionary brilliance, the book says:

"Members of YICC who are mourners during the 12 month period of mourning always have precedence for the “Amud” even if there is a non-member who has “Yarzheit” for a parent or is in “Shloshim”."

In essence, like american express, membership has its privileges. I am sure there is a rock solid source for this custom, but even with a source, it does not seem very christian – if someone visits the shul in the immediate 30 days of mourning, i think the christian thing is to let the visitor pray and lead the congregation.

Unlike its competitor – there is no touchy feely crap. This is division 1 football as the man says. Yicc does not assist the local homeless, instead, it has a ridiculous staffing level so that every age group is home at YICC, literally from cradle to grave. Bnai David favors the youth and has a great child’s program so that the professional women can get some time away from their bratty kids and participate in the services. At YICC, your professional woman should be bringing in two to three hundred large (on top of the husband making 4-600k) and afford a nanny.

Moral of the site – what the hell was YICC thinking even letting you breathe in its general direction?

CHAIM AMALEK EMAILS: "I just checked out the YICC web site and a random assortment of member biographies for the first time.  Was this one of the shuls you were expelled from; was it/is it THE shul you wanted to/would like to belong to?  Because if it is, then perhaps a useful writing exercise would be for you to write up some member bios of the Luke Ford that you think you could/will/want to be in 2014."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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