Thursday, January 27, 2005

Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Series Part 15: Becoming a settler


At 9:41 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

July 28, 1989

BOCA RATON -- Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz has often stood in the eye of a storm: calm and unshakable while torrential activity that he frequently initiates whirls about him.

''(My) interest was to shake up the status quo, to make people think,'' Winyarz said of his last two years at the Boca Raton Synagogue, from which he resigned as spiritual leader late last year. ''I'm very pleased that we did that.''

The latest news about Winyarz, which should come as no surprise to those acquainted with the young, often-controversial ''new-Orthodox'' rabbi: His next career stop will be in Israeli-occupied territory. He told a Jewish newspaper he just may have to be armed for protection at the suggestion of the Israeli Army.

Winyarz will join other Jews in the development of a new city, Zurim. Already occupied by 10 families, the land near Tel Aviv has the potential to provide a home for 3,000 families.

Meanwhile, the Boca Raton Synagogue -- where Winyarz had served as
spiritual leader for two years -- has named Rabbi Mordechai Neuman as its spiritual leader.

Winyarz said he does hold any grudges regarding the experience he has had here.

''Not at all; Boca was fantastic,'' he said. ''My only regret is that the (Boca Raton) synagogue has become ... a very closed place.''

Synagogue officials, including its president, Dr. Aaron Kaweblum, and its new rabbi, were unavailable for comment this week. Linda Marcus, who writes the synagogue's press releases, said she was not ''authorized to give out any information,'' including information on the new rabbi.

The mood at the synagogue has been low-key since Winyarz resigned late last year, a contrast to two years ago, when he was hired to ''shake up the bushes.''

Although he did that, it was to the eventual dismay of many of the
congregants, who reportedly left the synagogue (Winyarz says his followers left after he left), and to his fellow rabbis.

Other highlights of Winyarz's career in the past two years include:

-- A protest during the 1987 papal visit, when Winyarz wore Holocaust-style clothes. Fellow Jews in interfaith efforts were angered.

-- A censure by the South County Rabbinical Association, which was lifted two weeks after it was issued. The rabbis felt Winyarz was being ''denigrating.''

-- A planned mock funeral for the Democratic Party during the national elections, which synagogue members aborted in fear of losing the synagogue's tax-exempt status. He later took out a full-page advertisement in a Jewish newspaper.

After his resignation, it became unclear what Winyarz's next career move would be. He once said he intended to start a ''political action center'' and run for an unspecified local political office, but he never did so.

Although he declared a success of the Center for Jewish Living, an
education program he sponsored for standing-room crowds, it apparently was not attractive enough to warrant his staying here to run it.

He considers his present opportunity ''too good to pass up.''

After the Center for Jewish Living courses concluded, Winyarz and his wife, Lisa, decided ''in order for us to stay at this point, I'd have to open a synagogue. But in order to start a synagogue, you have to be there on a long- term basis; you can't just start it and leave.''

They don't believe there is ''good'' Jewish education for their two
children here, he added. Although he said he was offered other pulpits elsewhere in the country, he declined.

Looking for something ''more exciting,'' he decided to join the development of Zurim. He has been informally involved in its planning stages over the past several years, he said.

Winyarz said he will be leaving for Zurim in six to eight weeks.

He plans to try his new experience for about two years, while maintaining some type of base in South Florida. While serving as a rabbi, Winyarz also intends to lecture at Israeli universities.

In speaking of his accomplishments, Winyarz paints a broad picture, with no specific data. He said he and others raised ''a significant amount of funds'' through the Center for Jewish Living for future classes. Regarding Jewish rap music he had recorded on cassette tapes -- which became a national story -- he said
''several thousand'' copies of the tape were sold.

Winyarz said he found the Center for Jewish Living Courses to be the most important work he had done here in the last two years because it fulfilled his desire to reach out to non-practicing Jews.

''CJL was in the end a more powerful vehicle (than the synagogue),'' Winyarz said.

While taking credit for the ups, Winyarz does not blame himself for the downs at the Boca Raton Synagogue.

Rather, he points out that the new rabbi will be the third for the
synagogue since its inception more than fours years ago, and through what he calls a failure to do outreach, the synagogue is now joined by another Orthodox congregation and two Lubavitch centers that have been established in south Palm Beach County.

''Boca Raton Synagogue could have owned Boca Raton,'' Winyarz said.
''Synagogues don't die, but that place will never be what it could have been.''

Caption: PHOTO (1 mug of Winyarz)

At 9:56 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

The Palm Beach Post
July 22, 1989
KEN PELLIS, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

An Orthodox rabbi whose activist style won both friends and enemies among local Jews has accepted a religious post in the Middle East.

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz, 28, said he will leave in September or October for a two-year post as rabbi of Zufim, a Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

The new community is on the western edge of the occupied territory, about 2 miles east of the Israeli city of Kefar Sava. Winyarz said the community has only 10 families now, but has plans for about 3,000.

Winyarz also plans to teach at colleges on the West Bank and serve as one of a number of spokesmen for the Israeli settlement movement, which is committed to settling Jews in the occupied territories.

Winyarz called the move "a wonderful opportunity . . . to participate in the development of Israel. Right now, this is the center of Jewish history."

Winyarz came to Boca Raton in July 1987 to serve as rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue. He left in November 1988 because of disagreements with some members of the synagogue. In January, he helped found the Center for Jewish Living, an organization with classes and other programs designed to draw more people into Jewish life.

Winyarz said he plans to return to the United States after two years, possibly to Boca Raton. The rabbi, his wife, Lisa, and their two boys, will live in a trailer until permanent settlement homes are completed around the end of the year, he said.

Winyarz said he's not overly concerned about violence on the West Bank, Winyarz said, "Zufim is considered the safest place on the West Bank." Nevertheless, he planned to carry a gun-- a standard practice for self-defense in that area, he said.


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