Mincha x2: My afternoon adventure

There’s a bunch of photos in this post. If you’re viewing in a reader, I recommend going out to the post to see it properly.

I’m currently staying with some friends in Astoria, Queens. They go to work all day. So I went on an adventure today. And ended up hitting to different minyans for mincha!

You can’t see it here, but if you look up, you can see the spire of the Empire State Building above J. Levine.

My first stop was J. Levine. The store has been family-operated for five generations and has thrived in recent years by diversifying its offerings. The siddur shelves–which I’m know kicking myself for not taking pictures of today–have everything from multiple editions of Mishkan Tefilah to a full line of ArtScroll siddurim.

I happen to know the current Levine-in-Chief, Danny, who acts as conference bookseller during Limmud NY every year.

I was there to get a klaf for my current hosts’ mezuzah, which they hadn’t hung yet–call it a housewarming gift. But while I was there, I couldn’t resist wandering back through the narrow, cluttered store to the siddur shelves. And it took everything I had to resist the urge to buy any.

I noticed one woman–behind the counter–and maybe five or so men scattered throughout the store. I heard one of them walk past me muttering something about starting mincha soon.

Next thing I knew, one guy chant/calls out: “Ashrei! Yoshvei veite… mumble mumble selah mumble mumble mumble.” Ashrei had begun.

Oddly, when I looked up, I saw at least a dozen Orthodox men had materialized. One was shopping, flipping through a children’s book while muttering the words of the prayers to himself! Several of the new arrivals were full-on black hatters.

I got my klaf–the woman behind the counter had not stopped to daven–and got out before they were halfway through the Amidah.

I next made my way up to the Upper West Side to meet up with the Soferet, Jen Taylor-Friedman. Jen has a fun thing lying about that we’ve been to meet up so she can give me for ages. She said she’d be hanging around at Yeshivat Hadar this afternoon so I decided to meet her there. In the end, she couldn’t find the thing to bring it to me.

I arrived a little before she did, just as Mincha was starting! Ethan Tucker, one of the roshei yeshiva, was on his way and said hi to me. I told him I was looking for Jen and he said she hadn’t been in, but that one of the Hadar fellow was about to give a devar and that after that, the yeshiva becomes and open study space and that I was welcome to hang around.

So I decided to hang around for the devar, which, it turned out, was being given by a friend of mine, ASB. Here he is giving the devar:

ASB is the one in the middle, perched on the chair. One of the little heads to ASB’s left is my number one fan, Alex.

Anyway, Jen arrived just as ASB had finished up. Despite not being to find the thing she was gonna bring me, I had a good time checking out her latest project:

In a play on the tradition of a megilah where each column of text begins with hamelech, the king, Jen is creating a megilat Ester where each column begins with the word  hamalkah, the queen!

And now, a few words on the beautiful space that Yeshivat Hadar learns in. They study at the West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist shul, (though Hadar itself is far from Recon!).

In the photo of ASB giving his devar above, you can see their sanctuary. Apparently, WES used to be a public library, so there are still bookshelves all around, which makes for a nice atmosphere for the yeshiva. There are many more chairs stack at the back, which I assume the yeshiva unstacks at the end of the week when WES is preparing for Shabbat services. The funny thing is seeing the yeshiva fellows sitting around in these chairs, which all have pockets on the back with copies of Kol Haneshama, the Recon. siddur!

There is some great not-stained-but-textured glass at the back of the sanctuary:

The doorway at the far right is at the top of the stair that lead into the sanctuary/yeshiva. I think it’s a really nice space. I’m considering adding WES to my list of places to pop into one week for services.

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18 responses to “Mincha x2: My afternoon adventure

  1. (though Hadar itself is far from Recon!)

    As they say, everyone’s a little bit Recon.

  2. Next thing I knew, one guy chant/calls out: “Ashrei! Yoshvei veite… mumble mumble selah mumble mumble mumble.” Ashrei had begun.

    Oddly, when I looked up, I saw at least a dozen Orthodox men had materialized. One was shopping, flipping through a children’s book while muttering the words of the prayers to himself! Several of the new arrivals were full-on black hatters

    If this is really what happens in New York, I’m frightened. Also, what makes them think they can do that with a woman present?!?!

  3. Pingback: I totally just emailed my rabbi “This is Laura. The one who sits huddled in a corner.” | ⒜ Ⅎℜℹ℮ℕ∂ﬥⓎ ⓓⓞⓢⓔ ◕∫ ✡

  4. an occasional bookstore davener

    Laura — Why are you frightened by people who daven Minchah in a store that sells seforim and Judaica? I can’t for the life of me see what is so strange about this.

    There’s nothing odd about davening Minchah in this manner, nor is it unique to J. Levine. People daven in this manner at Midtown Judaica and other places as well. It makes perfect sense and is convenient for those of us who need to daven Minchah during lunchbreak and are not near a bais midrash or shul.

    For the record, I have never seen or heard women told what to do or where to go when the davening starts.

    • It’s not that I’m against it in itself, and in fact I would probably do that myself if I didn’t have the grave fear of being told to get behind a bookcase, or worse, glared at. Do you mind if ask whether women ever do join? (I think my only problem is thinking I’d be the first woman to ever join in…(whether or not I’m correct in that belief, I have no idea.)

  5. an occasional bookstore davener

    I doubt you would be told to get behind a book case or be glared at, but who can say.

    As to whether women join in, I don’t know. My guess is few if any. I try to focus on davening and don’t tend to look around much during the few minutes that Minchah takes, so I couldn’t tell you.

    • Right. Ah, I just have a sore spot. I think I would get exasperated by the fact that I wouldn’t be expected to join even though I consider myself as obligated as they are.

      I should just get used to New York having awkward moments, I guess.

  6. an occasional bookstore davener

    Laura you sound really dedicated to Yidishkeit, and genuinely curious about the more frum end of the spectrum.

    My experience is that while a lot of Jews view frumkeit with a combination of suspicion and hostility – a prevalent attitude in the blogosphere—people who actually engage with frumkeit are surprised and inspired by it.

    • Thanks! I was actually just driving in my car, thinking about how judgmental I must have sounded.

      You’re probably right; I’m sure I will feel less sullen when I actually have more experiences of it outside of this angry internet world.

    • Bookstore davener, everything you’re saying sounds lovely. And I certainly know that those who choose to become frum are happy with it–after all, they chose it for themselves!

      However, considering the crowd I saw gathered at J. Levine last week, I doubt very much that there would not have at least been some very uncomfortable stares.

  7. an occasional bookstore davener

    David — next time you’re at J. Levine during Minchah (or anywhere else you might encounter frum Jews), I encourage you to interact with them. Or pop into one of the kosher places around the Empire State building and chat with someone sitting next to you.

    You express a lot of strong opinions about frumkeit, yet appear to have very little actual experience with it. What I see is generalizations and stereotypes based on people’s physical appearance, which seems strange in light of your indignation at being judged for things like not wearing a yami, etc.

    • I do interact with a diverse set of Jews. You seem to make a lot of judgments about what I know and don’t know based on conclusions I’ve reached that you don’t like. Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  8. an occasional bookstore davener

    I have no idea what your actual interactions are; I’m only reacting to what you write, which seems unnecessarily negative when it relates to frumkeit.

    My point is that your conclusions about frumkeit appear to be based on conjecture, stereotyping, and preconceived notions, as opposed to actual interactions and personal experience.

    Which seems different than saying, “I don’t like to daven at shul x, because they told me to put on a kipa and stop writing.”

    But for all I know, you may be basing your opinions on a myriad of terrible experiences with frum Jews.

    You seem pretty wide open to experiencing the whole spectrum of Yidishkeit, which is awesome. Enjoy! There’s so much out there. I just think you’re limiting yourself by excluding frumkeit. Who knows, you might really have dug davening at the bookstore with the black hatters :)

  9. West End Synagogue is a special place. Take your own suggestion and visit us. I’ll make two recommendations for especially good experiences: Every Shabbos morning, at 9:00 AM, the Rabbi leads Torah study (services begin at 10). The teaching, discussion and comaraderie are unique. Once a month, our normal Kabbalat Shabbat is given the title of Shirat HaLev (song of the heart). We do a more musical version of the service than normal, and our Chazzan, Ayelet Piatigorsky, goes into overdrive. This month the date is February 11. Join us!

  10. I will consider going on the 11th. Thanks for the suggestion.

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