04 Dec The Yavneh Minyan: A Community of Fine and Unique Individuals
Each Chanukah we recall the sanctity of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple. The Beit Hamikdash was the central place for the worship of G-d and the governance of our nation. Here we brought our offerings and tithes, conducted national business, adjudicated laws, heard the King read from the Torah, and gathered in unity for festivals. We could only begin to imagine the connection to G-d, national cohesiveness, brotherhood, and sisterhood we experienced during that era.
The shul or synagogue in American Jewish life serves similar purposes. First and foremost, it is a place where minyanim gather to pray and sanctify HaShem in unison. Second, it’s a venue where we hear Torah-infused sermons in order to better understand our G-d given purposes in this world. Last, it’s a place where people connect, bond in community and find camaraderie and support.
The Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush quintessentially exemplifies the three above stated roles of a shul. It is a quiet Shabbat minyan where one can focus on his or her tefillot. Our baalei tfilla engage the kehilla in harmonious and sublime prayer every Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rabbi Moshe Sokol, the Dean of Lander College at Touro College and University System, is our esteemed moreh d’atra. We are fortunate to benefit from his learned and eloquent divrei Torah each week. The derech of the minyan is paved by the teachings of Rav Joseph Ber Soleveichik and Rav Abraham Kook.
Notwithstanding its communal spirit, the Yavneh Minyan values the individuality of its members and does everything possible to ensure that they are able to participate in and contribute to the kehilla. Members deliver divrei Torah and shiurim when the rabbi is on summer vacation; women actively participate on the board, lead various committees and projects; and men and women engage in an annual siyum Mishnaot and siyum NaCH programs, as well as in Rabbi Sokol’s weekly Gemarah shiur after Kiddush.
When you visit or join our shul, you will meet warm, engaging and hospitable families, couples, and individuals; people who use their legs to get around; people who use wheelchairs; and men and women who wear the full range of head coverings and Shabbat attire. Mincha or Maariv services might be led by a sheliach tzibor with Downs Syndrome who values each and every word.
As a woman for whom wheelchair access is essential, I value the lengths that the minyan has gone to make our space wheelchair accessible. As renters of our venue, which is located in the Ohr Shraga Yeshiva in Midwood Brooklyn, down a long flight of stairs, we had limited choices in how to go about making the place wheelchair accessible. The Yavneh board was determined to make sure that any wheelchair user, male or female, could access services, learning sessions and programs.
After much research, members of the board found the Jolly Standard Stair Climber, a free- standing device with tank-like treads that hooks onto a wheelchair or customized seat. Zomet in Israel halachically customizes the Jolly Stair Climber so that it can be permissibly operated by Jews on Shabbat. The shul held a fundraiser and supplemented the donations in order to reach the total amount needed to purchase the stair climber and ship it to the U.S. The Shabbat-adapted stair climber should not be among the first considered mobility access solutions. This model cannot hold powerchair users on weekdays and cannot be operated independently by the occupant. This interferes with one’s ability to come and go as one wishes. That said, given that the minyan, as a lessor, was not able to install a platform stair lift, my husband and I very much appreciate the lengths that the Yavneh Minyan went to ensure that I and others with limited mobility can access the shul on Shabbat.
Praying with a minyan is important. But, what about opportunities for aliyah l’Torah? Yavneh’s bima can be accessed by any wheelchair user and Yavneh member Gideon Gur-Aryeh constructed a shulchan top that can be tilted and lowered. The first time I saw it function, I squealed with delight. Mr. Gur-Aryeh fulfilled my long-time dream. Now men in wheelchairs can be called up for Torah reading! In fact, a valued long-time Yavneh member who is relatively new to wheelchair use, can now reach and read the Torah scroll with dignity. A few years ago he was Chattan Bereishit!
We don’t stop at wheelchair access. The minyan now has several large print siddurim and machzorim. Upon request we will hire sign language interpreters or real-time captioning for shul programs. For people with environmental sensitivities, we ask that shul attendees refrain from or at least limit their use of fragrances. When planning events, we ask people to let us know in advance about any accommodations they need, including dietary restrictions.
The Yavneh Minyan is a community that welcomes and values each individual within the fabric of Torah and Am Yisrael. We invite you to visit, daven with us, learn with us, and perhaps grow with us.
YAVNEH MINYAN OF FLATBUSH
At Yeshiva Ohr Shraga Veretzky Elementary School 1102 Ave. L (off Coney Island Avenue)