Beyond the Pews: Linas Hatzedek and its Renaissance
On the outer edge of Boro Park’s northern tip stands a nearly 100 year old shul. Congregation Linas Hatzedek, at 109 Clara Street, was first occupied in 1927–and has been serving the Orthodox Jews of Boro Park consecutively ever since. It has boasted extremely distinguished Rabbonim in its close to one century of existence.
But, in this corner on the outskirts of Boro Park which is less densely populated with heimishe Yidden than other areas in the heart of Boro park, a miracle has occurred. In the last few years, Rav Tzvi Ortner, shlit”a, OU’s posek for technology matters, arrived at the shul… and singlehandedly transformed a dwindling congregation into a thriving center for Torah and Avodah.
The resurgence of the kehillah, and the ensuing renovation of the shul, as well as the installation of a modern, state-of-the-art Mikvah, are miraculous indeed.
For the last fifteen years, the shul has not really have an official rov, and then Reb Yisroel Spiegel, the longtime president of the Shul (and an active member of the congregation for forty years), looked around and saw the need for new leadership… before it would be too late. Together with Reb Shlomo Shamir, another longtime member who knew Rav Ortner’s father—the chief Rabbi of Lod for close to fifty years—into their childhood in Aviv, invited Rav Ortner to serve as their rov.
Rav Ortner points to a piece of the unknown history of the shul: its full name being Linas Hatzedek d’Chidushei Harim (today; Linas Hatzedek Hachodosh). “The reason for calling it ‘chidushei Harim’ is unknown—but Shlomo Shamir is the oldest living descendant of the Chidushei Harim, bringing history full circle at 109 Clara Street (near 13th Avenue).
“When my father, z”l, became the rov of Lod fifty years ago, he understood the need to renovate the central synagogue, so it should attract people… they should feel comfortable coming in and making it their place for Torah and tefillah,” explains Rabbi Ortner. “I understood this need here as well, and with the tireless help of Mr. Spiegel, the shul underwent a complete renovation—bringing a new life into the shul.
The Covid-19 pandemic put this incredible progress at Linas Hatzedek on hold, as the shul was closed for a while. But this time also brought a new edition to the shul; a beautiful new mikvah that is already in use. “Reb Mordechai Stutman, a beloved member of the shul, was niftar last year at the age of 87,” relates Rabbi Ortner. “But before his passing, he allocated the funds for the Mikva—which has been dedicated in his memory.”
Without a doubt the shul’s defining feature is the achdus. Every stripe of Yid is welcome there, and the camaraderie and acceptance between the mispalelim is incredible.
“The tefillos and the shiurim (a nightly daf Yomi shiur is delivered by the rov every evening after Mincha/ma’ariv) are overflowing with warmth and geshmak. There is a (hot) kiddush every Shabbos, and for the first time in the shul’s history, a full course Shalosh Seudos every single week, which brings the mispalelim together through the warm zemiros,” says Rabbi Ortner. In addition, there is a daily shachris, a full-time coffee room, and other highlights.
There are constantly new faces coming into the shul, and it seems the word has gotten out that there is a warm corner of learning, davening, and ahavas Yisroel at the nearly-100-year-old congregation.
It is the fulfillment of the Chazal who say “everything needs mazel; even a Sefer Torah in the Aron kodesh.” Many old shuls were not so fortunate to have been revitalized in this way, but the residents of the Clara Street area surely are grateful that Linas Hatzedek has.
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