The Luke Ford Solution To The Troubles At Young Israel Of North Beverly Hills

Jacob Graff was the president of YINBH until the shul decided not to hire his nominee for rabbi – Nachum Braverman, the author and ex-Aish rabbi.

That deal broke down because Rabbi Braverman insisted on staying close to a group of his students – wealthy individuals who contribute $250,000 a year to the fund he manages and from which he draws.

Graff has now sued the shul.

Until this meltdown, YINBH was member-for-member, the most affluent Orthodox shul west of the Mississippi.

YINBH wants and needs a full time and fully committed Rabbi. They learned the drawbacks of a part time rabbi from their experience with Sholom Tendler who was "part time" in several places simultaneously.

YINBH has imploded. It was controlled by men with big egos. They put less planning into a mushrooming $6m real estate development than any of them would put into a kitchen remodel at their homes. The leaders of YINBH included some of the most successful real estate developers in town. They started construction of the new shul with no budget, no plan, inadequate funding, and no community. Yet they went forward.

YINBH has a common Jewish problem — they all want to be chiefs. Very few YINBH members are content to be Indians.

YINBH is not a democracy. Its leading members have a "my way or the highway" attitude.

Recently the daily minyan that had been held at the home of Edward Czuker (the current president) was terminated. That’s probably the final nail in the coffin of that troubled community.

Several members say they were better off when they were renting space opposite the Beverly Hills Public Library. During those days, politics and fundraising were essentially absent. Those were the god ol’ days when it felt like a real community would evolve.


1) Affiliate with Beth Jacob and tap into their "infrastructure" and become BJ North,
2) Sell the lot immediately (with the partially completed project) to Chabad or the Sephardic shul,
3) Rent a storefront or a large office suite and focus on building a community instead of an edifice. They got the sequence wrong – and have paid dearly for it.
4) Hire a young dynamic rabbi to lead the shul forward.

Ohr HaTorah developed a community for a decade and then they moved into a permanent building.

I used to go to Stephen S. Wise’s Mountaintop Minyan (1994-1997). That was run from the top down. Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin and Stephen Marmer and company decided everything and everybody just went along. The leaders unilaterally decided to drop the learning session after one Shabbat when only a few people showed up. There was such a huge protest that Rabbi Tova August restarted the learning.

Anyway, my point is that the Mountaintop Minyan, which I loved, was run from the top down.

When I went to Ohr HaTorah, I noticed that it bubbled up from below with excitement. Yes, Rabbi Mordecai Finley is an ex-Marine and it’s his way or the highway, but all the members there are heavily involved and committed to pursuing a communal dream (a non-Orthodox version of Aish HaTorah). There’s communal discussion and a holy method for making decisions.

About Luke Ford

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