Accountability and transparency within our institutions and leadership.
posted by jewishwhistleblower @ 4:04 PM
The July 3, 1987 article in the last post along with at least one false claim on Gafni's CV also contained a glaring false statement:"The Boca Raton Synagogue is welcoming its first rabbi today..."Actually no, Rabbi Mark Dratch was the 1st rabbi. But given Gafni's ego this type of revisionism is not unexpected.1)XJEWS LIVE DISCIPLINED LIFEMiami Herald, The (FL)June 22, 1984by PAT KINGCADE Herald WriterIt is Saturday morning, the Jewish sabbath, and Nora Kalish walks to the Orthodox synagogue to worship.She is not permitted to drive. She carries no money, only her prayer book. During the services, she and the other women worship behind a curtain, separated from the men in the congregation.On this day Kalish, 70, will not cook or shop. If she wants to use electricity, she will use a pre-set timer.Kalish keeps a kosher kitchen. She does not use the same pans, dishes and flatware to cook and serve meat dishes that she uses for dairy products."It is a disciplined religion," Kalish said. Its rules come both from the Bible and from rabbis' interpretations of biblical law throughout the ages.Kalish is a member of Anshei Emuna Congregation, one of the three Orthodox Jewish congregations in Palm Beach County.In two, Anshei Emuna and Aitz Chalom in West Palm Beach, both organized in 1974, the members are mostly retirees. Because they are not allowed to drive or ride on the Sabbath, both congregations meet in retirement villages, where members can walk to the temple.Aitz Chalom meets at the clubhouse in Century Village. Anshei Emuna's synagogue is at Kings Point.The third Orthodox congregation, Boca Raton Synagogue, was formed in September. Most of its members are young couples with children."We are very much a first in Boca Raton," said Riwella Bruk, who with her husband, Israel, helped organize the latest group."A group of us felt it was what we wanted," Bruk said. She and her family have worshiped at Anshei Emuna. "We wanted something with young families and young children."The group, which has 30 families, meets at the Community Day School in Boca Raton on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. They have bought land in Boca del Mar and have hired 26-year-old Rabbi Mark Dratch, from Stanford, Conn. He will begin conducting services July 28.As with the other orthodox congregations, members of Boca Raton Synagogue carefully selected the site for their shul."We chose Boca del Mar because a lot of people will be able to walk to the synagogue," Bruk said. "Some of our members will be buying homes there.""Orthodox Jews make sure they are within walking distance of the synagogue when they look for a home," Kalish said. "We get many calls from out-of-town people who are moving to our area and they want to know how far away the synagogue is."To younger Orthodox Jews, the segregation of men and women during services seems a greater concern than not being able to drive to temple."In modern times the no-mixed seating is the major obstacle," Bruk said. "But if you truly believe in the Orthodox, you overcome the obstacle. You accept it."Louis Sacks, rabbi at Anshei Emuna, agrees."Those who are Orthodox know there are different rules for men and women. They know there is separation."Dratch said that men, too, have become involved in the separation restriction."If a man and woman care, they find room in the system. The prayer service is only one aspect. Women find ways to get involved . . . in dual study programs, community activities and social action."Bruk, who has four children -- ages 11 to 20 -- has been in Boca Raton four years. She was brought up as an Orthodox Jew in South Africa. Bruk thinks membership in the new congregation will soon reach 300. She has received inquiries from New York, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.She believes there is a trend back to the Orthodox."It is on the rise. I think there is a trend not to compromise."Dratch also believes there is a trend to the Orthodox."Orthodox Judaism is back to the roots. It is traditional," he said.Kalish also has been an Orthodox Jew all her life."I feel very comfortable being Orthodox," she said."I like the idea of lighting the candles to usher in the Sabbath. I know when the Sabbath arrives I will be at peace. I will be serene. If I was anything else I'd be violating something." 2)THE FAITH KEEPERSMiami Herald, The (FL)February 22, 1985by Herald StaffNAME: Rabbi Mark Dratch.TEMPLE: Boca Raton Synagogue. Orthodox services at held on Saturday mornings at Verde Elementary School, 6590 Verde Trail, Boca Raton ... formed in 1984 ... 45 families.GOOD WORKS: Involved with the Task Force on Jewish Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties ... belongs to several rabbinical associations ... is involved in building a new Orthodox congregation in Boca Raton ... "We are the only Orthodox congregation servicing young families in this area."QUOTE:"Being a rabbi is a challenge. It is a challenge to teach and a challenge to become a community builder. This position in Boca (building a new Orthodox congregation) is especially appealing to me."PERSONAL: Came to Boca Raton Synagogue in July from Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Conn ... educated at Yeshiva University in New York City ... has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in education ... 26 years old ... married ... is an avid reader ... loves bicycling ... "I ride to meetings on my bike when I can"... spends time with his wife, "which is very important."We're looking for Faith Keepers. If you know of an outstanding person who is active in his or her religious life and would like to recommend that person to be featured in The Faith Keepers, please write The Faith Keepers, c/o Pat Kingcade, The Miami Herald, P.O. Box 3623, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33402.Caption:photo: Mark Dratch 3)KEEPING A KOSHER KITCHENMiami Herald, The (FL)November 22, 1985by PAT KINGCADE Herald Writer The congregational family at Temple Anshei Shalom keeps a kosher kitchen.When the Conservative congregation in Delray Beach designed its new temple, it included a dairy and a meat kitchen in theplans. And to complete the cooking centers, the congregation appointed Steve Greenseid as its exclusive kosher caterer. It is the only facility of its kind in Palm Beach County."People had to go to Fort Lauderdale or Miami (for this service) before," Greenseid said.All Orthodox and most Conservative Jews observe kosher dietary laws, said Jack Levine, the temple's publicity chairman. Foods served at weddings, bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs, circumcisions and other religious affairs are kosher.To keep a kosher kitchen means separating not only the meat and dairy foods but also the dishes and utensils used to prepare the foods. All the ingredients carry a kosher seal and only the forequarter of a cud-chewing animal with split hooves can be used, said Mark Dratch, the supervising rabbi. No shellfish is eaten. And at Anshei Shalom, the meat kitchen is locked and can only be opened by Greenseid or Dratch."This is to prevent anyone from bringing nonkosher food in," Greenseid said.Keeping kosher is important for reasons of cleanliness and tradition, said Dratch, who must oversee the preparation and serving of all the food.Ben Simon, the temple's building chairman, suggested putting in the kitchens to the congregation. A retired building contractor, Simon had built two similar kosher kitchens before. The kitchen opened hours before Passover this year and the caterer immediately started preparations for a a public seder for 200 people."There are four temples in our area. None of the others wanted to do it," Simon said.The kitchens, which cost about $125,000 to install, serve the 1,300 members of Anshei Shalom as well as other congregations and groups wanting or requiring kosher food, Simon said. For some events the food is prepared and served at Anshei Shalom, Dratch said. Other times Greenseid, supervised by Dratch, prepares the food at the temple and then serves it at a hotel or meeting place.When the meals are served out, Dratch, who spent a year at rabbinical school learning kosher procedures, must supervise purification of the hotel's kitchen."Boiling water is poured on all the counters, the dishes and dishes are immersed in boiling water and the ovens are scoured and burned," he said.As the demand for kosher-catered events increases, more and more hotels now set aside separate ovens and dishes for kosher events, Greenseid said.Dratch, who says he has to be "part cook and part chemist," is also involved in supervising a kosher bakery in Boca Raton.Because of the rise in the Jewish population "there is more of a demand now for kosher foods," he said. "There are also a lot of people who have been here a long time who had to go to Miami Beach for their kosher meats and breads."We want them to know that they can come to us and be guaranteed that all of the requirements are being met."Dratch is spiritual leader at Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation. He became involved in Anshei Shalom's facility because he had to, he said."I had no other choice," Dratch said, "There was a demandfrom my congregation."Caption:photo: Rabbi Mark Dratch with John Greenseid (s) 4)http://www.bocamag.com/index.php?src=news&prid=8Boca Raton's Orthodox Revolution As Palm Beach County’s Jewish population grows, a new core of Orthodox Judaism forms at its center Sunday, July 1, 2001 Photo: Roger and Lisa Gladstone bought an RV to honor dictates of the Orthodox Jewish faith Although their religious journey would take them less than five miles from their home in Horseshoe Acres to a parking lot south of Palmetto Park Road, the motor home was key. If they truly wanted to embrace an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, they couldn’t drive to services on Saturday.But instead of selling their house, uprooting their family and moving within walking distance of Boca Raton Synagogue, each Friday they loaded up their three youngest kids, some clothes and some food in the RV, and spent the weekend living in the synagogue’s asphalt parking lot off Montoya Circle in western Boca’s sprawling suburbia.“My 19-year-old thinks we’re off our rockers,” Lisa Gladstone says of the reaction of her eldest son who was away at college when his parents had their religious awakening early last year.But the scorn of her eldest child aside, Lisa Gladstone has one word for the experience: “It was wonderful.”Welcome to the world of Orthodox Judaism Boca-style.While other more established Orthodox communities are known for their rigid adherence to ancient conventions and lifestyles that seem to be throwbacks to a bygone age, the Boca Raton Orthodox community has gained a reputation nationwide for being on the cutting edge.And although Rabbi Kenneth Brander isn’t encouraging his members to spend their weekends in the synagogue parking lot, if they do so to follow religious dictates that prohibit driving on the Sabbath, so be it.The Dolly Parton-esque RV with the airbrushed dolphins adorning its sides and its whimsical SHABBUS license tag (a play on Shabbos, the Hebrew word for Sabbath) is symbolic of the way the synagogue has operated since it was founded 17 years ago. While other conservative religious groups often shun all but the most devout, the Boca Raton Synagogue welcomes all comers—no matter how they arrive or what level of religious training they have when they get there.And the formula, if that’s what you call it, works. After all, it wasn’t those nights sleeping on a dining table that doubles as a bed that sold Gladstone on the synagogue. It was the community that surrounded it.Because Orthodox Jews are also prohibited from cooking on the Sabbath and the RV was not equipped with warming trays or other necessities of modern-day Orthodox life, the Gladstones could have spent the entire Sabbath surviving solely on Fritos and other kosher snacks. Instead, even though they were newcomers, they were invited to people’s homes for every Sabbath meal. Likewise, her kids didn’t have to work to make friends. Youngsters from the synagogue embraced them—and their bus—wholeheartedly.“Everyone was gaga over the bus,” says Gladstone, who didn’t pay much heed to her Jewish roots until her husband got excited about Orthodoxy about two years ago. But, she says, it was more than the blush of the bus that turned strangers into friends. “They were just so genuinely warm and welcoming.”And those who live in the community say that’s why the synagogue is one of, if not the fastest-growing in the nation. It’s why housing prices in the neighborhoods off Montoya Circle have skyrocketed. And it’s why large chain stores, that once ignored pleas to stock more kosher goods, now call the synagogue asking what they have to do to be able to display the kosher symbol on their doors.In the last 17 years, the synagogue that began with four families meeting in each other’s living rooms has mushroomed into a congregation of nearly 500 families with more activities than any one of them could possibly attend. On most days, services, educational programs, classes and social events fill the synagogue from sun up to sundown and beyond.The growth of the synagogue, in a large part, is fueling the staggering growth of Palm Beach County’s Jewish population. Within the next decade, Palm Beach County will be home to more Jews than any other county in the state and will become one of the top five Jewish strongholds in the country, says Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami geography professor who has studied Jewish communities throughout the nation. With a population of 230,000, the county’s Jewish population already outstrips that of Miami-Dade County and, within the next several years, will eclipse Broward’s as well, he says.“Palm Beach County will be the No. 1 county in Florida for Jews,” he says. “There’s no question.”Those who have watched the congregation—both from up close and afar—say they aren’t completely surprised by the growth. “Everyone knew it would happen, the only question was when,” says Rabbi Mark Dratch, the synagogue’s first rabbi.Still, he says, the synagogue is a far cry from the one he led in the mid-1980s, when a dozen or so families met in restaurants, school cafeterias and the clubhouses of area golf courses.“Literally, we were the wandering Jews,” says Dratch, who left after two years to return to Connecticut where he is now senior rabbi of the synagogue where Sen. Joe Lieberman worships. Once the wandering stopped, the community took root and grew at an unprecedented rate.A lot of the allure is simply Boca—the landscaping, the manicured lawns, the sunshine, the upwardly mobile lifestyle—the stuff that has attracted thousands of well-heeled gentiles, atheists and agnostics to the area as well. Like other areas of Boca, “The Circle,” as the area around the synagogue is called, is filled with doctors, lawyers, investment bankers and other professionals. U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler calls the community home. And while not everyone who lives in one of about 750 homes on the circle are Orthodox Jews, the vast majority are. “If you didn’t want to live near the synagogue, you’d have to be crazy to buy here,” says Esther Gomolin, who moved onto the circle last year. “The prices are completely out of whack with what you can get four miles away.”But because she and her oncologist husband wanted to be within walking distance of the synagogue, they paid $400,000 for a house assessed at $222,888. Even at that inflated price, Gomolin figures she and her husband got a good deal. Months later, similar houses went for much more.Some Orthodox Jews are so intent on living near the temple that they are paying inflated prices for homes, only to tear them down and build even bigger ones. The most eye-popping example is an estimated $1.5 million, 8,000-square-foot house recently built in Boca Hamlet. “The guy basically paid $650,000 for the privilege of knocking the house down,” says Mitchell Stiel, a real estate agent and former president of the synagogue.But, those who live on the circle say people who pay inflated prices for houses near the synagogue are buying much more than a home. “They’re buying a lifestyle,” says Sue Andron, who followed Dratch to Boca and stayed after he headed back north.To those who spend Friday nights going to ball games, movies or concerts, and Saturdays cramming as many errands as possible into one day, the idea of an Orthodox lifestyle seems unthinkable.To Lorys Stiel, it’s nirvana. She scoffs when asked how she can give up her weekend to follow Orthodox tenets.“Give up?” she nearly screams. For Stiel and other Orthodox Jews, it’s not a matter of what they give up; it’s what they get. “We’re all so busy doing the laundry, car-pooling, going to work, going to meetings, cooking, even opening the mail takes time,” she says. “But every week you know that at 5 o’clock on Friday night, everything stops. You can’t do anything.”But before that magical hour, life can get somewhat chaotic.At Andron’s house, an hour before sundown, she and her husband, Rick, rattle through a checklist. “Let’s see… paper towels, liquid soap? Anything else we need before Shabbos?” Rick Andron asks before grabbing the car keys and darting out the door.Once back from a nearby Publix, he hands the roll of paper towels to the housekeepers who begin ripping the napkins apart and stacking them in piles. Religious law, Rick Andron explains, prohibits Orthodox Jews from ripping or cutting on the Sabbath. The liquid soap is needed because Jewish law prohibits the use of hard soap.“You can’t change the status of things,” Sue Andron explains. You can’t cook because you can’t turn raw meat into cooked beef. You can’t boil water because you can’t make something cool, warm. You can’t switch on lamps because you can’t turn darkness into light. While some Orthodox Jews unscrew the light bulbs in their refrigerator on the Sabbath, years ago Sue Andron just decided to do without.“I don’t even know what it’s like opening a refrigerator with a light on in it,” she says, opening her refrigerator, which is completely full and completely dark. Other lights in the house are set on timers. Just before the appointed time, Rick and Sue Andron make one last check. She turns off the ovens and plugs in the warming trays she will use on Saturday to warm up the family’s lunch.“Are all the lights set?” Rick asks.“I think so,” she answers.Then she turns to a long, narrow table in the living room, lights 15 candles—one for each of her four children, her husband and other important people in her life. She rocks gently back and forth, quietly saying a prayer. Then there’s silence.“That’s it,” she smiles. “The world’s gone.”It’s an unbelievable feeling, she says, knowing she has nothing to do for the next 24 hours other than talk with family and friends and go to shul.“It’s like a snow day up north,” says Gladstone. “You can’t do anything even if you wanted to.”Instead, Orthodox Jews spend Friday night and Saturday simply enjoying each other’s company. Meals can last two or three hours as people sit over their dinner plates and talk. Then, friends drop by and people chat some more. Kids play board games, do crossword puzzles, read, or shoot hoops.“It’s like living in the ’50s,” says Lorys Stiel. “I just love it.”But, the ritual that surrounds the Sabbath is only part of the allure of the Orthodox community. In many ways, the entire lifestyle has an Andy of Mayberry feel.Take childbirth. When Batsheva Goldfischer gave birth to her second child two years ago, she didn’t have to cook for two weeks. People she barely knew appeared bearing baskets of food, carrying gifts or just stopping by to see the new baby.Take sickness. When Leah Lauwick had open-heart surgery three years ago, meals were delivered to her house for weeks. Later, after she recovered and was called to Tennessee to care for an ill daughter, people called her husband to make sure he was OK and to invite him to Sabbath meals.If word somehow gets out that she’s sick, she says her phone will ring. “And I’m not talking your best friend either,” the retired schoolteacher says. “People will ask how you’re doing and it’s not gossipy. People will say, ‘Well, my sister had what it sounds like you’ve got and she took this. Maybe it will help you.’”Take hard times. When a family needs help simply putting food on the table, either because of job loss or some other crisis, help is provided—anonymously. Only a small committee of people knows the names of a family that receives help. Deliveries of food are made at night and simply left at the door to save the family the embarrassment of accepting charity. Giving and receiving help is just part of being members of the community. Still, even though Goldfischer and Lauwick lived in close-knit Orthodox communities in the Northeast, both say the outpouring of support from people on the circle is unusual. “My experience with other Orthodox communities is that they come together in times of crisis—in major happy times or sad times,” says Goldfischer, 28. “But Boca Raton happens to be extraordinary.”And most credit that extraordinary atmosphere to Rabbi Brander.“Everything that’s happened in Boca Raton is all because of Rabbi Brander,” Sue Andron says. “He took his dreams and made them reality. There’s absolutely nothing Rabbi Brander can’t do.”As if that isn’t praise enough, Lorys Stiel takes it a step further. “He changed the map for South Florida.” Nowhere is the result of Brander’s work more apparent than at shul on Saturday morning. By 9 a.m., three services are under way and three more will be held before the morning is over. The atmosphere at the main service, where people gather to hear Brander preach, is far different than at a Christian service where people file in, sing and pray in unison, listen and leave. For starters, men and women are separated. Men, wearing yarmulkes and prayer shawls, sit in the main part of the sanctuary, while women sit on either side behind Plexiglas walls. The separation is so people devote all of their attention to God without having anything, sexual or otherwise, to distract them.Further, the service begins slowly, almost haphazardly. A man sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the sanctuary leads the prayers. But rather than recite them in unison, the men around him say the prayers at their own pace. There is a constant rumbling of voices as prayers begin, end and continue without any noticeable breaks. There is a constant flow of men coming into the sanctuary and a quiet rustling as they put on their prayer shawls and take their seats.Behind the Plexiglas walls, women follow along in their prayer books. All married women wear hats. All women, even young girls, wear dresses or skirts. None carry purses. They have no business to do. Since no money will change hands, no purses are needed.By 10 a.m., the temple is full and the main part of the service begins.Brander says he is as surprised as anyone by the staggering growth of the synagogue. When he arrived nine years ago, long before the main sanctuary was built, there were barely enough people to fill one small room—much less support six separate services. He was 28 years old, acting rabbi of a 1,600-member synagogue in New York City and ready to enter a doctoral program at New York University when he was asked to lead the synagogue that was then home to 60 families.“I figured I’d come down, do some reading and writing I’d been wanting to do, spend two years here and then go back and get my Ph.D,” he says.Today, he has no plans of moving anywhere, except possibly Israel. “I’m not interested in moving into any other pulpit within the American Jewish community,” he says. Once on the job, he was swept up with all that needed to be done to create a vibrant Jewish community. There was a temple to be built, classes to schedule, kosher businesses to attract, schools to organize and members to seek.Rather than establish just another South Florida Jewish retirement community, he wanted to create one that would attract young families as well as older people. “I decided I wanted to create an institution that would create gateways for people to relate with God whether they were 9 or 90,” he says.To that end, his first priority was building a mikva, a ritual bath for women that is a cornerstone of the Orthodox faith. “The first day I was here, I hadn’t even unpacked my boxes, and I called a meeting to discuss building the mikva.”Before resuming sexual relations with their husbands after their menstrual cycles, Orthodox women must take a bath in natural water. According to religious teachings, a couple is to abstain from sex during the week a woman is having her period and for a week after.“The epicenter of the Jewish home is not the synagogue or the Jewish community center. It’s the home,” Brander says, explaining the importance of the mikva ritual. “We’re very committed to making sure the home is protected.”Forcing couples to abstain from sex and talk to each other for two weeks a month is believed to strengthen marriages, he says. Studies have shown that the divorce rate is lower in homes where couples observe traditional mikva customs, he says.Recognizing that devout Orthodox women in Boca had to travel to Miami or take dips in the ocean, Brander was committed to making a mikva reality. It took three years before the $300,000 bath, fed by rainwater, was complete.Brander was equally committed to the establishment of Jewish schools in the area. When he arrived, the closest Hebrew school was in North Miami and the next closest one was in Atlanta. Yeshiva High School opened in September 1998 on the grounds of the synagogue. Torah Academy, which is for preschool through sixth grade, opened last year on the grounds of Young Israel Synagogue, another, much smaller, Orthodox synagogue just north of Palmetto Park Road on Palmetto Circle.The opening of the schools fueled the area’s popularity among young families. Some families, including the Androns, still send their children to the long-established Hebrew schools in North Miami Beach. Eventually, however, Brander is hoping children won’t have to make the hour-long trek. In fact, less than three years after Yeshiva High School opened, school officials are already planning to add a second floor and eventually increase the student population from 100 to 170.But Brander has made sure education isn’t the sole province of the young. He established what is known as a kollel, a group of young rabbis who conduct classes for members of the synagogue and for the Jewish community in general. In the meantime, Brander works with a committee to make sure kosher establishments are abiding by the strict standards and reviews applications from businesses that want to begin offering kosher food.The entire package—from the synagogue, to the mikva, to the schools, to the religious education, to the availability of kosher food—is interrelated, Brander says. For an Orthodox community to thrive, all of the various components must be in place.In some respects, it’s a matter of timing. During the years Dratch was rabbi at the synagogue, there weren’t enough people to support all the services that were needed. The lack of services, in turn, prevented more people from moving in. “Without the critical mass, it was difficult to provide all the services,” he says. “It was a Catch 22 for a good number of years.”And Brander doesn’t kid himself. He understands critical mass. For instance, he knows the reason an ever-increasing number of businesses are offering kosher foods has nothing to do with some altruistic feeling toward the Orthodox Jewish community. “They do it because it increases their gross profits,” he says.But he is pragmatic. What benefits the businesses helps the Orthodox community and vice versa. Take Albertson’s on State Road 7, which became the first supermarket in Boca to go kosher. Finally, Orthodox Jews can do the majority of their shopping at one store. And Albertson’s officials are equally pleased. “I inherited the goldmine,” says Newton Beaver, who became manager of the store after the home office decided it would go kosher.While not surprised by the growth, Andron says she sometimes is surprised by how far the community has come. Recently, a colleague at the North Miami Hebrew school where she works asked her to stop by Albertson’s and pick up some baked goods for her. After spending years schlepping to Miami to buy kosher food, the significance of the request wasn’t lost on Andron. “The tables have really turned,” she says with a laugh.As for the Gladstones and their RV, times have also changed. The SHABBUS is now one of the many pieces of the Boca Raton Synagogue’s already storied past.Late last year, the Gladstones parked the bus in their driveway and bought a house within walking distance of the synagogue. The time had come to make the commitment, Gladstone says.But the family doesn’t live on the circle full-time. They only use their new house for the Sabbath, and spend the week in their house in Horseshoe Acres.And as unusual as it might be to have one house for Saturday and one for regular wear, the Gladstones aren’t unique. They are among a half-dozen or so families that own what members of the congregation call “Shabbos houses”—ones that are for Friday evenings and Saturdays.Two houses? Five miles away from each other?Don’t forget, it’s still Boca, where even the Orthodox are unorthodox.
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