Pico-Robertson In The 1960s

It was populated with faux yeshivas to get Orthodox Jews out of the Vietnam draft.

By 1980, there were only two Orthodox synagogues in the community — Young Israel of South Beverly Hills and Beth Jacob. There wasn’t a kosher restaurant. There was Pico Kosher Deli (under different manager) which observant people wouldn’t eat in because they did not trust the kashrut. There was a black non-Jewish guy who was the primary cook who’d be drinking coffee with real cream while cooking the meat.

In the early 1980s, Young Israel of Century City started as a breakaway minyan from Beth Jacob. They simply wanted their own minyan (like Benny’s Minyan) but Rabbi Maurice Lamm would not permit it. So they moved out and davened in a room at the Ramada Inn.

This breakaway ended up costing Maurice Lamm his job. His successor at Beth Jacob, Abner Weiss, had no problem with multiple minyanim.

Beth Jacob is filled with old timers. They’re not interested in helping people becoming observant.

YICC is for those who were raised Orthodox. They’ve designed a shul that converts and baalei teshuva (newcomers to Orthodoxy) are unlikely to feel comfortable in. In the late 1980s, Bnai David was struggling to become Orthodox.

Into the neighborhood in the late 1980s comes Aish HaTorah. It’s an outreach organization. It wants to help people. It wants to spread Orthodox Judaism. It became hugely successful. Aish Los Angeles now employs nine rabbis.

Aish is a warm shul. It wants to help you grow. Growing spiritually has been the in-thing for the past 20 years.

Aish is on the far left of charedi Judaism. It’s faux chareidi with all sorts of stuff about sports and TV and other sweeteners on its website Aish.com.

YICC is the most right-wing Modern Orthodox shul in Pico-Robertson. Women don’t dance with Torah scrolls there on Simchat Torah. They do at Beth Jacob and Bnai David.

Rabbi Kalman Topp at Beth Jacob has impeccable left-wing Orthodox credentials. One of the rabbis (Dovid Cohen?) he beat out for his position was to the right and went to Mir yeshiva.

There’s no reason to expect that any of Pico-Robertson’s Modern Orthodox shuls will move to the right in the years ahead, even as the community around them becomes more chareidi.

Shaarey Zedek in the Valley is a right-wing Orthodox shul. Shaarey Tefila in Hancock Park is holding on as a centrist Orthodox shul. Everyone there wants to be part of a Modern Orthodox shul, but their kids are moving away. They don’t want to be a Modern Orthodox in a charedi neighborhood. The shul is getting steadily older. Eventually the charedim will take over.

YULA boys and girls high schools have moved to the left under their new principal Rabbi Heshy Glass. His predecessor, Dovid Landesman, was to the right.

Wikipedia says: "Former headmaster Rabbi Dovid Landesman was recently replaced by principal Heshy T. Glass. Rabbi Landesman went to a new all-boys, Orthodox Jewish high school Aish Tamid, after leaving very recently due to differing opinions of the proper way the school should run and its main philosophy as well as the role of the principal in general. Rabbi Dovid Landesman was and remains today one of the most accomplished and influential Rabbis ever to have held a position in YULA."

YULA’s fundamental problem is that its rabbis are way to the right of the students and their parents.

Rabbi Shalom Tendler was another force keeping YULA to the right. He left in 2004 to start his own center-right yeshiva — Mesivta Birkas Yitzchak (on Crescent Heights and Pico Blvd). Rabbi Tendler does not want to appeal to a wide variety of students. He only wants the elite and he has siphoned off YULA’s and Yeshiva Gedolah‘s best students. He wants no more than 120 kids.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy is the biggest Orthodox primary school in Los Angeles but it has had increasing competition over the past 15 years from Maimonides (to the right), Ohr Eliyahu (to the right), Yavneh (to the right).

Even though Beth Jacob owns Harkham Hillel, Beth Jacob’s former rabbi Steven Weil sent his kids to Yavneh.

At Hillel, Rabbi Menachem Gottesman had the philosophy that every Jewish kid who wanted a Jewish education there could get one. That many kids whose parents were not observant of Jewish law.

Rabbi Gottesman was the school’s fundraiser so he always got his way. He was more of a businessman than an educator. He hired educators.

Rabbi Gottesman did not want to shmooze all the pulpit rabbis in LA, so they did not send him their kids, and the student population at Hillel dropped.

Dr. Marc B. Shapiro blogs:

It is actually Aish Hatorah that has done more to “normalize” intermarriage than any other organization in the Orthodox world. Not only does Aish Hatorah do outreach to the intermarried (something we can all appreciate), but they use various intermarried Jewish celebrities in their publicity, and have even honored these people at their events. I am not saying that they are wrong in what they do. After all, the old approach to intermarriage doesn’t work today, and although I find something distasteful about using an intermarried celebrity as the poster-boy to invite people to a Torah class, I see how people can disagree. But about one thing there can be no doubt, and that is that R. Aaron Kotler would be turning over in his grave if he saw what this supposedly haredi organization has done when it comes to tacit acceptance of intermarriage.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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