by Erica Morris, Totally Jewish
A Stamford Hill shul has promised to launch an investigation into how leaflets appeared in the building warning worshippers that their children would die if they spoke during services.
Congregants at the Jacob Benjamin Elias Synagogue were shocked to see a pile of the “outrageous” flyers at the site over the High Holy Days, with at least one actually stuck up on a door.
The leaflets, attributed to New York-based Project Shul, feature a number of grim cautions, among them ‘If one does not teach his children how to act in shul, he is punished and his children die’, ‘To save yourself from war and your children from dying do not talk in shul’, ‘It is a mitzvah to embarrass one who engages in idle conversation’, ‘it is proper for every community to appoint people to supervise with threats to those who talk during davening’ and ‘Woe is to the people who talk in shul for we saw how many congregations were destroyed because of this’.
Many of the quotations are taken from the Torah or from rabbinical commentaries.
Brandishing the leaflets a “disgrace”, one distraught congregant, who has been a member of the shul for several decades, told TJ: “To say somebody’s child is going to die for talking in shul is outrageous.”
And condemning the synagogue for allowing the flyers into the building, he added: “I don’t believe that nobody knew where it came from, that doesn’t make sense. It was taped up on the door. It just doesn’t sit right with me.”
The synagogue’s Vice Secretary Saul Einy told the Jewish News that a meeting would be held to review the shul’s security video to try and discover who was responsible. He said: “The fact is, either someone came in without our permission or someone from the synagogue brought them in. Either answer I’m not happy with.”
He added: “The committee will meet up in a week and there are several avenues we are looking at to get to the bottom of this.”
Sharing his thoughts on the leaflet, Bushey Synagogue’s Rabbi Meir Salasnik said: “The literature of Judaism through thousands of years is immense, and it includes strong statements, sometimes promising great benefits for simple actions and at other times warning of horrendous punishments for what may seem to most people as trivial sins.
“Many Jews respond to logical reasons given for concentration in prayer. At the same time, there are Jews who respond to the sort of threat of punishment that a number of the quoted statements warn of. The ideal is to do good for its own sake and not to escape punishment.”
Chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet said: “Decorum in synagogue is of paramount importance. It is a place of divine worship which has to be upheld with the highest respect and regard.
The Jewish News columnist added: “If they could sit quietly and maintain a proper dress code in churches and mosques why not in synagogues? However, there is a way in which to convey that message and the threatening tone and quotes used, especially where it goes to the core of one’s mortality and that of their children, is frankly pathetic and wholly inappropriate.”