What Is Your Shul’s Vision?

What is Shalhevet’s vision? It is the one Orthodox high school school in Los Angeles where boys and girls receive the identical education. Its mixture of Lawrence Kohlberg and Orthodox Judaism is highly un-Orthodox. I’ve never met a Shalhevet student who did not love his school (Shalhevet is the only school I can say that about).

What is YULA‘s vision? It is a yeshiva. If there is a conflict between Torah and secular values, the Torah always wins. A yeshiva does not need to have a vision, it’s about Torah. Shalhevet is a day school and needs to articulate a vision.

Shuls need to articulate a vision. YICC is about high achievement among those Orthodox from birth. Beth Jacob under Rabbi Kalman Topp is developing an increased emphasis on Torah study. Rabbi Topp clearly toils in Torah. Bnai David-Judea stands for high ethical standards for its congregants, ethical business practices in the wider community, inclusiveness, women’s prayer groups, and such progressive causes as homelessness, global warming, pluralism and academic scholarship.

Ethics is clearly a higher priority at Bnai David than any other shul in Pico-Robertson. The shul is the least tribal of any Orthodox shul in Los Angeles. It is welcoming to converts. You look at its website BnaiDavid.com and it is about values and ethics. It is active in numerous community causes.

It started with Rabbi Philip Schroit, whose rebbe was Moshe Feinstein. The latest version of Bnai David started with Rabbi Danny Landes, who moved his minyan over from Beth Jacob. Rabbi Landes specializes in ethics. He didn’t have to build a shul. He didn’t have to fundraise for the shul. He was one of the founders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He had tenure there. He didn’t have to kowtow to any donors. It was easier to be ethical. He didn’t have to make compromises.

His successor, Yosef Kanefsky, runs Bnai David. That makes it easier to be ethical. If Rabbi Kanefsky doesn’t get his way with something important to him, he might leave. He’s not stuck.

Rabbi Schroit grew up on New York’s lower East Side. It was 95% Jewish. Everyone spoke Yiddish. Rabbi Schroit did not allow anyone to donate more than $3,000 to Bnai David so they wouldn’t feel that they have power. He would take unpopular stands. When he’d raise money for Moshe Feinstein, he didn’t insist on a public ceremony to hand over the money. He didn’t chase honor.

About Luke Ford

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