Elazar Muskin, Steven Weil: A Study In Contrasts

Steven Weil of Beth Jacob is a CEO with semicha (rabbinic ordination).

Elazar Muskin is the quintessential shul rabbi. He devotes himself to his community. He sets aside Fridays to call widows and shut-ins, etc to wish them a Gut Shabbos. He visits the sick. He brings soup. He’s there for his congregants in their crises and in their simchas (joys).

Rabbi Muskin is a smart accomplished man, but what stands out about him is his heart. He’s passionate. He loves people. He gave me the most beautiful gift I’ve received in my life — a pair of tefillin (when I was too poor to buy my own).

Rabbi Weil is all brain. He’s power hungry. He has an MBA. He doesn’t like to be bothered with pastoral care. He’s Mr. Cerebral. "He doesn’t feed the soul of his congregants," says one Beth Jacob member. Rabbi Weil doesn’t speak to their hearts. Perhaps that is why the main minyan at Beth Jacob is dying. All the other minyans at Beth Jacob, the ones Rabbi Weil has nothing to do with, are booming.

Rabbi Weil is a master fundraiser. During his tenure, Beth Jacob secured the lot next door and renovated the downstairs. He’s got the shul running like a business. It’s in good financial shape. But the budget has boomed during his tenure. Beth Jacob is adding a fourth rabbi. If his successor is not a master fundraiser, Beth Jacob could be in financial trouble in as little as two years.

Rabbi Weil was great at reaching out to secular Jews (such as Benny Alagem, owner of the Beverly Hilton) and getting them to come to shul on occasion and donate vast sums of money.

Rabbi Weil and Rabbi Muskin can’t stand each other. Rabbi Muskin won’t sit on the same platform as Rabbi Weil.

Rabbi Weil views Young Israel of Century City as a breakaway from Beth Jacob (which it is) and therefore feels no compunction about trying to poach its leading congregants such as Mark Goldenberg, etc.

Beth Jacob is looking for a new rabbi and a new cantor. Contrary to what I previously thought, Daniel Korobkin is not a shoo-in to be the next rabbi. The position is wide open.

Cantor Avshalom Katz has been flying in once a month from Israel but the arrangement is not working for Beth Jacob. Everybody likes Katz but once a month is not enough.

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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