Thursday, January 27, 2005

Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Series Part 14: New Outreach Organization

2 Comments:

At 9:34 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1)
REVOLUTIONARY RABBI STRIKES AGAIN POPULAR 'CENTER FOR JEWISH LIVING' PROGRAM DRAWS STANDING-ROOM-ONLY CROWDS
Sun-Sentinel
January 20, 1989
By CAROL BRZOZOWSKI, Staff Writer

BOCA RATON -- Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz may be a man without a pulpit right now, but he's rarely a man without a plan.

Buoyed by the success of the opening lecture of the ''Center for Jewish Living'' program he founded, Winyarz said the educational series will continue.

''This is a grassroots response to what we perceive to be a Jewish crisis in Palm Beach County,'' Winyarz said.

That ''crisis'' comes from the low synagogue-affiliation rate among Jews in Palm Beach County, the 28-year-old rabbi said.

''Most people who don't affiliate have a perception that the synagogue is basically only interested in another set of dues,'' Winyarz said, adding that he has heard stories of people having to show their tax returns to a congregation before being allowed to join.

The first lecture of Winyarz's Center for Jewish Living two weeks ago drew 350 people in a standing-room-only crowd at Spanish River High School.

''You should see the letters we're getting. They're saying 'Thank God there's a place we can go to.' The phone's been ringing off the hook,'' Winyarz said.

By contract with the Boca Raton Synagogue, where he had been the spiritual leader for a little more than a year before resigning in the fall, Winyarz cannot start another synagogue until after June 30.

But he doesn't know what he'll be doing mid-year.

''I could continue with the Center for Jewish Living and look at creating a retreat center, television broadcasts...'' Winyarz said. ''Or I could go up North and take a pulpit. I've been offered three.''

Dr. Hilton Becker, a member of the board of directors for both the Center for Jewish Living and the Boca Raton Synagogue, praised Winyarz for being a ''great teacher'' and ''broad-minded.''

''He's young, he's got modern ideas, and I think he realizes the problem in Judaism is that there is a large number of people who are not affiliating,'' Becker said. ''He's asking them, 'What do you have against organized religion? Is there something we can do to suit your needs?' Other organizations are saying, 'This is what we have to offer -- take it or leave it.'''

Rabbi Louis Sacks, president of the South County Rabbinical Association, declined to comment on the Center for Jewish Living. He did say, however, that in the span of two months, his Congregation Anshei Emuna has taken in 86 new members into its Orthodox fold.

In the time he has been here, Winyarz has made many plans -- some a
success, others not.

He did ''shake up the bushes'' like the founders of the Boca Raton
Synagogue had wanted of their rabbi. But for some, he shook a bit too hard.

He did want to work with the community when he arrived -- but he also wanted to challenge. Many -- including some fellow rabbis -- didn't appreciate that challenge.

He staged a protest during the papal visit of 1987. It received media coverage -- and criticism from those involved in interfaith work between Catholics and Jews.

He recorded a Jewish rap song that he said would ''revolutionize'' Jewish music. It has yet to do so.

Now it's on to the Center for Jewish Living.

Privately financed, the organization has a board of directors comprised of former and current members of the Boca Raton Synagogue.

The Center for Jewish Living program will involve three six-week semesters of seven courses on such topics as ''Thinking Jewish,'' ''In Pursuit of Pleasure,'' ''Jewish Wisdom,'' ''The Art of Jewish Living,'' ''Beginners' Hebrew'' and ''Discovery of Judaism.''

Although the program is set up like school courses, participants will not earn academic credits.

''We're not actually looking for accreditation,'' Winyarz said.

Winyarz will, however, be teaching a continuing education class at Florida Atlantic University from Feb. 2 to 23, titled ''Jewish Wisdom.''

Caption: PHOTO (1, mug of Winyarz)

2)
JUDAISM PROGRAM SET
Sun-Sentinel
January 5, 1989

BOCA RATON -- ''Jews in Crisis'' is the topic of a presentation to be given at 7:30 tonight by Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz, who has established an organization called the Center for Jewish Living.

Winyarz, who has said he plans to quit his post as spiritual director of the Boca Raton Synagogue in the summer, said he has formed a board of directors for the Center for Jewish Living and wants to establish ''a grass-roots movement for revolution in Jewish values.''

Citing the 14 percent synagogue-affiliation rate of local Jews, which is below the national rate, Winyarz said he thinks the educational program will appeal especially to those Jews who are disenchanted with organized religion.

He also said he hopes participants will learn to turn to Judaism for help in bettering their marriages, jobs and other aspects of life.

The seminar will be at Spanish River High School. Participants may give financial contributions to cover the cost.

3)
CONTROVERSIAL RABBI STARTS JEWISH OUTREACH ORGANIZATION
The Palm Beach Post
January 5, 1989
by KEN PELLIS, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

An Orthodox rabbi whose activist style has sometimes made him the center of controversy is starting a Jewish outreach organization with classes and other programs designed to draw more people into Jewish life.

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz will kick off the new enterprise, called the Center for Jewish Living, with a lecture at 7:30 tonight at Spanish River High School, 5100 Jog Road, in Boca Raton.

"What we're offering is real Jewish exposure to real Jewish ideas which make a difference in the way you live your life," Winyarz said Wednesday.

The center, which is not affiliated with any branch of Judaism, has
scheduled several evening courses beginning Jan. 17 through Jan. 19 and continuing for six weeks at the high school.

The course titles are Thinking Jewish, the Art of Jewish Living, Beginning Hebrew, Jewish Wisdom, Discovery of Judaism and In Pursuit of Pleasure. Winyarz said he will teach some of the courses. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.

Winyarz, 28, left the pulpit of Boca Raton Synagogue in November amid differences with some in the congregation.

Under terms of an agreement with the synagogue, Winyarz said he is
prevented from beginning another synagogue until after June 30. The center, he said, is in "no sense, shape or form a synagogue. We are not having services." Winyarz, however, left open his and the center's plans after June 30.

Overseeing the center is a seven-member board of directors, most of whom have former or continuing links to the Boca Raton Synagogue. One of these is center president Lynn Kesselman, a West Palm Beach finance and legal consultant.

Kesselman said Wednesday he thinks there is concern at Boca Raton Synagogue that the Center for Jewish Living will compete with the synagogue for members.

But Kesselman and Winyarz said the intent is not to draw away members from synagogues.

Boca Raton Synagogue president Dr. Aaron Kaweblum declined comment
Wednesday night, saying all press statements had to be cleared first with the synagogue's board of directors.

Winyarz's opening talk tonight is titled "South County Jews in Crisis," a reference to the low percentage of southern Palm Beach County Jews who belong to synagogues.

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1)
RABBI URGES `REVOLUTION' IN VALUES
WINYARZ'S CONTROVERSIAL SPEECH PART OF CLASSES
The Palm Beach Post
January 6, 1989
by LOIS KAPLAN, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Nothing less than a "revolution" will stir south county Jewry out of complacency and into a life devoted to Judaism, Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz said Thursday night.

Speaking to about 250 people at Spanish River High School, Winyarz said:
"To my mind, there is no greater tragedy than South Florida. . . . We'd like to start a revolution of Torah values."

Winyarz, who left the pulpit of the Orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue last year amid differences with congregation members, asked the standing-room-only crowd to close their eyes and repeat after him, "God, I'd like to be a better Jew."

The talk was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Living, which has scheduled six evening courses, a monthly community lecture and community Sabbath dinner to lure Jews back to Judaism. About 260 people are members, Winyarz said. Classes are free.

Winyarz, 28, is billed in the center's brochures as "the rabbi you've been hearing about." Although several people said Thursday they had heard about Winyarz's convincing speaking style, others said they had heard about his problems with the Boca Raton Synagogue, which he left in November.

As the temple's rabbi, Winyarz protested Pope John Paul II's visit to Miami last year. In May, he was censured by the local rabbinical association for denigrating other rabbis. In August, his congregants persuaded him to drop plans to stage a mock funeral to illustrate what he perceived to be the
death of the Democratic party.

"He's a young kid who likes to talk," Stan Kane of Coral Springs said after hearing the rabbi's speech. "He's an egomaniac to think he can give the solution to intermarriage in an hour and a half speech."

But a Delray Beach woman said she loves to listen to Winyarz. "We follow this rabbi wherever he goes," Edith Kancigor said.

Winyarz said less than a fifth of the 75,000 Jews who live in Delray Beach and Boca Raton affiliate with a synagogue. The reason is a crisis in leadership, morality, Jewish pride and relationships among different age groups, he said.

The number of Jewish people in the United States is decreasing annually, Winyarz said. The key to maintaining Jewish numbers is devotion to Judaism through schools, synagogues and families, he said.

"If we produce Jewish grandchildren, then we're good Jews," said Winyarz.

2)
CONTROVERSIAL RABBI STARTS JEWISH OUTREACH ORGANIZATION
The Palm Beach Post
January 5, 1989
by KEN PELLIS, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

An Orthodox rabbi whose activist style has sometimes made him the center of controversy is starting a Jewish outreach organization with classes and other programs designed to draw more people into Jewish life.

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz will kick off the new enterprise, called the Center for Jewish Living, with a lecture at 7:30 tonight at Spanish River High School, 5100 Jog Road, in Boca Raton.

"What we're offering is real Jewish exposure to real Jewish ideas which make a difference in the way you live your life," Winyarz said Wednesday.

The center, which is not affiliated with any branch of Judaism, has
scheduled several evening courses beginning Jan. 17 through Jan. 19 and continuing for six weeks at the high school.

The course titles are Thinking Jewish, the Art of Jewish Living, Beginning Hebrew, Jewish Wisdom, Discovery of Judaism and In Pursuit of Pleasure. Winyarz said he will teach some of the courses. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.

Winyarz, 28, left the pulpit of Boca Raton Synagogue in November amid differences with some in the congregation.

Under terms of an agreement with the synagogue, Winyarz said he is
prevented from beginning another synagogue until after June 30. The center, he said, is in "no sense, shape or form a synagogue. We are not having services." Winyarz, however, left open his and the center's plans after June 30.

Overseeing the center is a seven-member board of directors, most of whom have former or continuing links to the Boca Raton Synagogue. One of these is center president Lynn Kesselman, a West Palm Beach finance and legal consultant.

Kesselman said Wednesday he thinks there is concern at Boca Raton Synagogue that the Center for Jewish Living will compete with the synagogue for members.

But Kesselman and Winyarz said the intent is not to draw away members from synagogues.

Boca Raton Synagogue president Dr. Aaron Kaweblum declined comment
Wednesday night, saying all press statements had to be cleared first with the synagogue's board of directors.

Winyarz's opening talk tonight is titled "South County Jews in Crisis," a reference to the low percentage of southern Palm Beach County Jews who belong to synagogues.

 

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