Author’s Note: The author acknowledges the tireless dedication of Rebbitzen Nechama Small to her family, shul and community and wishes to express his gratitude for her on-going support of his professional work. Please purchase all of your Judaica gifts at Gift-It Silver, 3349 Dumpster St., Skokie, IL
Although the Rebbitzen emphasized that she sought no ‘kavod’ for the research she conducted in preparation for Poalei Zedeck’s annual Melave Malka, in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary (1956-2016) of the shul’s congregational residence at 2801 W. Albion in Chicago, Illinois, this writer thought it best, given the community’s oft-cited need for more hakores hatov, that praise be given to whom it was due.
TWO EDITORIAL SELECTIONS from the ‘top’ Jewish news stories in 1956
From around the globe news agencies continue to report Israeli military forces are leading the invasion of the land of the pharaohs to dispossess Egyptian President Nassar of his unlawful seizure of the Suez Canal.
In a related story much closer to ‘home’, Rabbi Yechiel Michael Small, having received the mantle of rabbinic leadership from his father, Ha Rav Yitzchak Isaac Ha Levi Small, led the Jews of Poalei Zedeck into their new congregational home at 2801 W. Albion, Chicago, IL.
As the Jewish sojourn across Chicago’s west and north sides came to a long-awaited end, it left behind beautiful synagogues such as Ateret Zion, 1132 N. Spaulding Avenue, Shaare Zedek in Logan Square and Zemach Zedek on the Northwest Side again proving indisputably that wherever the Jews encamped, property values rose in conjunction with an overall improvement in general social conditions. However, when they left, social conditions declined as did the shuls left behind.
There was a short-lived ‘stop over’ in Albany Park that Rabbi Aron characterized as ‘transitional’ in nature, the proof being that the congregation rented only a store front at 3818 Lawrence Avenue as its temporary dwelling.
March 10, 2016
Some sixty years later in an interview arranged by Rebbitzen Nechama Small, this writer sat opposite Rabbi Aron Small and his mother, Rebbitzen Chaya Leah Small in the shul’s social hall that, in the words of Rebbitzen Small, with a ‘bit of makeup’ the ladies of the sisterhood transformed into an elegant dining room for the grand repast served at Saturday night’s Melave Malka.
With the valued input of Rebbitzen Chaya Leah Small, the three of us covered a broad range of historical and anecdotal material from an insider’s perspective. A thoroughly enjoyable but serious experience, it reminded me of Reb Moshe Soloveitchik’s Sunday morning shiurim at Rabbi Lazovsky’s shul in Skokie, IL.
When was the last time you used or heard someone else use the word ‘sagacity?’ Often understood as ‘wisdom’ it is, our sages teach, only acquirable upon reaching one’s sixtieth birthday, and even then it is not available to everyone.
‘Rabbi, our sages teach that one acquires wisdom at age sixty. Congregation Poalei Zedeck celebrates the 60th anniversary of its congregational residence at 2801 Albion, Chicago, IL.’
A young Jewish couple, unhappy with its current shul, is looking to enrich its Jewish familial experience. As the ‘rav’ of Rabbi Small’s shul, what sagacious counsel might you offer them?
‘Poalei Zedeck is an open and family-oriented shul. However, I do not mean to suggest we have no fences around our Torah. In other words, we adhere to Halacha.That is the bottom line. We recognize, however, that there have been changes in the shul’s membership; diversity now exists in ways which would have been difficult to imagine years ago. Differences, I feel, can usually be worked through without creating or furthering divisiveness.’*
“You ask how my response addresses your question. I would only add to the couple that if the parameters I’ve outlined seem reasonable, all that remains for me to say is ‘Bruchim Habayim!”*
*Note to readers: paragraphs ending with a * indicate that the preceding was a paraphrase of Rabbi Small-not a direct quotation. The author thanks the Small family for its kindness and hospitality.