By Avraham Lobock for COLlive.com
Finding a child saying Tehillim on Shabbos Mevorchim is always an impressive sight. 100 children participating in Shabbos Mevorchim Tehillim while quarantined in their homes during the darkest months of the Covid-19 pandemic sounds like the stuff of miracles. For the members of Ohel Nosson Shul, however, this is just par for the course.
Everything done at this shul evinces a strong sense of personal direction. In the beginning, this manifested itself in setting up a small minyan in a classroom on Eastern Parkway. Today, it is a value that is evident in everything this incredible community does.
Ohel Nosson began with a group of bochurim that found themselves gathering in 770 each Shabbos after the main minyan finished. After weeks of spending this time together, the idea of starting their own Shul began to blossom.
“We realized that we were in charge of our own Jewish destiny,” gabbai Avi Webb shares. “So we said we might as well make it official.”
The group was not necessarily from the same class. They were tied together by being in similar stages of life, but more importantly, they shared one significant character trait. They were self-starters; the type of people that did not sit back and let life happen to them.
In 2008, they were a group of 20 or so, and together they mapped out all of the things that were needed to make a Shul run; a Sefer Torah, a Ba’al Koreh, the logistics of the Shul, the Kiddush. One by one, each of them volunteered for one or more of the responsibilities.
Among their early supporters was R’ Mordechai Nagel, whose sponsorship included two Sifrei Torah, and the naming of the Shul in loving memory of his father, R’ Nosson Nagel OBM.
They quickly outgrew the Eastern Parkway location and started searching for a bigger space. In early 2010, less than two years after opening, they took the leap in signing a lease at the newly opened Crown Condos. “This was a bold move for the size we were,” Webb reflects, “we were still young, most not married. But we knew that we wanted a space for the future.”
This philosophy proved prescient, as Ohel Nosson now offers a home to about 100 members on an average Shabbos and a Yom Tov crowd of about 200. People are drawn to the Shul, largely based on the sense of freedom to take ownership of their Yiddishkeit.
“Crown Heights is a good town,” Webb says, “but there can be a lot of disparity and isolation here. What you want to have – whether a shul or inspiration of any kind – you have to build it yourself. We are welcoming to anyone that wants to be part of that.”
As the Shul grows they find that people of all types heed that call.
“In a big haystack you can get lost,” founder and board member Yoni Raskin says. “We were a group of people trying to find ourselves and to be supportive of each other.” Now, he says, people from all walks of life can find themselves in the Shul.
“There are many tables in the Shul, and every one of them is a safe haven. There were 12 Shevatim in the desert but they were all family. We are all one family.”
The sense of ownership exists in every person in the Shul, from the adults to the children. Instead of a speech between Shachris and Musaf, the community enjoys ‘Five Minutes of Fire’. Each week, a community member shares an idea that he finds personally meaningful and relevant.
During the week, as well, the community Shiurim are delivered in large part by community members.
The core values of the Shul were brought to the fore with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The community stepped into high gear, delivering care packages to families. The ‘Five Minutes of Fire’, formerly reserved for Shabbos, was delivered daily over Whatsapp by more than 40 individual members, providing much-needed inspiration to the community at large.
The children’s Tehillim were of particular note. The Shul hosts a monthly Shabbos Mevorchim program, during which 60 to 80 children recite Tehillim while enjoying snacks and earning tickets for a raffle. With the Shul shutdown, the monthly snacks were delivered to each home, along with iced coffee, mashke, and herring for adults to Farbreng. The children rose to the challenge, taking part in reciting Tehillim at home during those difficult months.
With its reopening, Ohel Nosson is bringing back all of their Shiurim and Shabbos davening. In everything they do, the remarkable congregation of Ohel Nosson continues to blaze a path forward with their fearless drive towards growth.
580 Crown Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11213
Sunday: Shachris – 8:15 AM and Chassidus Shiur by Rabbi Mendel Jacobson (breakfast served)
Monday-Friday: Shachris – 7:15 AM (Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 AM)
Gemara Shiur by Rabbi Levi Feldman – 8:30
Sicha Shiur by Rabbi Levy Djian at Chevra Shas Shul – 8:30
Friday night: Mincha at candle lighting and Maariv
Chassidus – 9:00 AM
Shachris – 10:00 AM
Mincha – Bizmana
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