Have You Ever Been to Boro Park?

Just 5 miles from Crown Heights, Boro Park boasts 25 thousand frum families, making it one of the largest Frum communities outside Eretz Yisroel. While the vast majority are what you would call “Poilishe,” it contains an influential Lubavitch shul, which is embarking on a campaign of expansion and growth.

Borough Park, Brooklyn (Boro Park for short) is a colorful place. It is a neighborhood located just 5 miles (8 km) away from Crown Heights and it boasts a Frum community numbering almost 25 thousand families, making it one of the largest Frum communities outside Eretz Yisroel.

The vast majority of Yidden in Boro Park are what you would call “Poilishe” or “Chasidim who are not Chabad” with a small minority being non-Chasidish altogether.

Boro Park boasts over 300 shuls spread throughout the neighborhood, so many in fact, that you can find at least one shul within several hundred feet of any spot in Boro Park. Almost every block has its own local shul.

Famous shuls in Boro Park include “Shomer Shabbos” and “Bobov” – each of which have minyanim Shachris every 15 minutes and Mincha/Maariv every 5 minutes.

Any of you who have been to Boro Park will surely have been to Bais Menachem – Lubavitch – the central location for everything Lubavitch. On your first visit there you may have been surprised to see that the vast majority of the Mispallelim and guests there do not adorn the traditional Chabad attire but mostly wear the likes of Streimlech and Beketches. This is because almost all of the mispallelim do not originate from Chabad families.

You see, Bais Menachem was actually founded almost 30 years ago, by a small group of yungerleit and a few bochurim, all from non-Chabad backgrounds, who were introduced to ספרי חסידות and who decided to put themselves into לימוד החסידות completely, eventually dedicating their lives to being Mekusher with the Rebbe. This group initially started to have Shiurim and davened at one of the local non-Chabad shuls but quickly realized that in order to allow growth in their new path, they would need their own place.

It began with a rental and as they quickly outgrew that place, they set out on a search for a new spacious location, eventually purchasing the current location of Bais Menachem on 16th Avenue in Boro Park.

Rabbi Mechel Karczag is one of the founding members of Bais Menachem, who was very heavily involved in searching and eventually acquiring the shul. “We did not have a lot of money for a new building” begins R’ Mechel with a nostalgic smile, “but it was crystal clear that we cannot remain at the rental any longer. Besides the fact that it was way too small at that point, it was also not set up practically for the type of shul we were creating, with the shiurim and farbrengen and all. Lastly, we felt that for the Kehilla to be able to invest in growth, we could not be tied down to a rental. It was vital that we have our own home. Our search for a new home began. We had tremendous סייעתא דשמיה. Not only did we find what we were looking for, but we also got a donor. One of אנ”ש to whom the Rebbe’s mission was very dear, helped us with an extremely generous donation enabling us to go ahead with it. The building we ended up purchasing originally belonged to the Belzer community who had moved their shul to a bigger location. It was a double lot – 40 x 60 – smack in the center of Boro Park. Just perfect.”

After purchasing and taking over the Belzer shtibel on 16th Ave there was finally room for them to expand and it clearly reflected in the number of people coming into the new shul in the center of town. Whether a full-time member or a guest, there was finally ample room for everyone. R’ Ushy Friedman, a Rebbi in a local cheder shares “When I was first introduced to Chabad Chasidus by a friend, I would just learn alone or B’Chavrusa, but I never attended a farbrengen or the like. After coming to a couple of farbrengens in Bais Menachem, I was completely taken over and made many changes in my life, including more לימוד החסידות and other פעולות in הפצת לימוד החסידות. There is no question in my mind that the effect that this shul has on לומדי חסידות in Boro Park is enormous.” continues Ushy with passion, “It takes חסידות to a whole new level. It makes it a part of our lives”.

R’ Y. Weiss has similar reflections “Coming from a כלל חסידי background, I never had the opportunity to taste the sweetness of Chassidus. This changed when I went to learn in Yerushalayim, where a friend started to learn ספרי חסידות with me. I can still feel the awe and surprise I felt, discovering this hidden light. But all of that faded when I got married and moved to Boro Park. The lack of a set Seder in לימוד החסידות was causing it to escape me. Not long after that, a friend who learned חסידות with me in Yerushalayim brought me to Bais Menachem. It took a farbrengen or two to reignite that flame” Weiss concludes, “but right now I can tell you that thanks to Bais Menachem, that flame is not only lit, but it is flaming. I have made strides in my לימוד החסידות and life in general, including הפצת המעינות and מבצעים. It would have all faded if not for this bastion. It is more than a shul. It is a home.”

Of late, the committee of the Kehilla gathered to discuss the need for an even bigger location, given the steady growth. Not only was the shul growing in membership count, it was also offering many more shiurim and farbrengen. This was in part because the committee had been trying to get the young crowd more involved in the leadership of the shul so that the leadership adequately represented the dynamic.

The original plan called for a very basic renovation, in which the tenant who rented office space above the shul would be sent out so that the עזרת נשים could be moved there as well as some work to move the coffee room and kitchen down to the basement, in this way they would have the full built out part of the lot.

R’ Moshe Perl, a מגיד שיעור in Boro Park and member of the Va’ad HaBinyan recounts, “When I joined the Va’ad HaBinyan, they had plans for a very basic renovation. Upon bringing it up to R’ Leibel Altien The Mashpia of the shul, he objected. R’ Leibel’s reasoning was as follows: “If you walk down the streets of Boro Park, you will find that most of the shuls are beautiful and welcoming places. It can’t be that Lubavitch is in a hole in the wall. It is a בחינה of ‘ועיר האלקים מושפלת עד שאול תחתיה’. Just as Shluchim set up their environment to be welcoming to their target audience, so too, must Bais Menachem be for the Boro Park community. ‘לפאר ולרומם את בית השם’’. We took R’ laibel’s words to heart” adds R’ Moshe “and we revised the entire plan, making it so that this shul would be spacious, comfortable, practical and most welcoming to the locals.

The project began last year, with demolition, deepening the shuls foundations and the basement as a whole, the installation of new plumbing, electricity, HVAC and everything in between, raising the ceiling, adding the עזרת נשים on the new upstairs floor as well as an apartment for the longtime shul Mashpia HaRav Leibel Altein who joins us for shabbosim. All of the costs being covered by the Balei Batim of the Kehilla who generously donated upwards of 2.5 Million dollars to complete the structure of the shul and bring it to where it is now – large and spacious, but looking more like a warehouse than a Shul.

Work to complete the job continues as the last dollars of the Balei Batims’ pledges start to dwindle, forcing them to reach out to you and the community as a whole for support.

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Get the opportunity to have a part in the Rebbe’s shlichus right in Boro Park! To make sure those from the non-Chabad frum community have a welcoming place in the hear of Boro Park where they can learn Chasiddus and become more Mekusher to the Rebbe is just enormous!

Help Bais Menachem make it to the finish line. They need another million dollars to complete this בית השם and מרכז לתורת החסידות in Boro Park. We will make sure the Rebbe’s shul in Boro Park is a welcome home to the masses.

Some of the things that were not done yet include completing the מקוה בור ע”ג בור (the only of its kind in Boro Park), making the חדר שני usable, completing the apartment for the משפיע, and then obviously, all of the finishing touches.

May you be gebentched with all of the Brachos and may the Zechus of supporting the Rebbe’s shul in Boro Park stand to your merit!

Click here to donate.

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