By COLlive staff
Is there a Shul where a former Democratic Congressional candidate can daven alongside a group of Biyaler Chassidim? Can a Shliach feel comfortable sending a community member to the same Shul that a group of visiting bochurim from Lakewood attend? Is it possible for a Chossid battling through a Shachris to share a table with folks attending Shul for the first time?
The Besht might just be that place.
On an average Shabbos, you will find a diverse group of Jews gathered at the Shul. There will be some that come for the inspiring davening, others for Rabbi Shmuel Kuperman’s fascinating speeches, and a fair few for Yossi Lifshitz’s herring and Shmuel Hahn’s cholent. The Besht offers something for everyone.
Beis Shmuel Tanchum, or “the Besht”, has earned a unique place in the diverse tapestry of the Crown Heights community. In a little more than a decade, it went from a weekly shiur to become a welcoming home for hundreds of Jews.
The shul was originally founded in 2009 by Rabbi Yehoshua Werde in an attempt to engage friends that had wandered from the derech with chavrusa learning. The address was 510 Empire Blvd., which is now home to Werde’s current organization Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs (CHYE).
Sruly Clapman, a friend of Werde, was recruited to help with its operation. With time, Clapman has taken over full responsibility as President of the Besht. It has since moved down the block to its current location at 563 Empire Blvd where it has an active shul on Shabbos and yomim tovim.
Clapman says they help cover the rent by renting the hall that can seat 100 people for events and simches. “The most common simches by us are Bas Mitzvahs and Brissim,” he says. “We also had interesting rental requests such as for a wedding, a Shloshim, a parent-teacher meeting and pop-up shops.”
The shul’s first Rov Rabbi Mendel Kalmanson moved on Shlichus to England in Elul of 2011, leaving the young Shul with the daunting task of finding a Rav. “We brought in big names,” Clapman recounts. “The community asked for Rabbi Kuperman.” Rabbi Kuperman was giving a weekly Gemara Shiur at the time, and at the community’s behest, he accepted the role of Rabbi.
It has been 9 years, and the Shul has grown exponentially. With the help of Director Yitzi Shollar and Gabbai Yisroel Pekar, the Besht has become a mainstay of the Crown Heights community. The Shul hosts a lecture series between Mincha and Maariv on Shabbos day, bringing in guest lecturers to speak on a variety of topics.
During the week, Rabbi Kuperman continues to give his weekly Gemara Shiur every Tuesday night. Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Besht also boasted an extremely popular Thursday night Kollel. They hope to bring the Kollel back soon, they told COLlive.com.
The Besht is a warm and vital place for anyone in search of a community. It provides a home and a sense of community for hundreds of people who could not find that anywhere else.
“I started attending the Besht as a single bochur,” a community member relates. “I was looking for a place that I could be a part of. I have been part of that community through my engagement, marriage, everything. This is a place that thousands of people have filtered in and out of, but they all think of it as home.”
What is the magic formula?
“First,” says Clapman, “it’s a non-talking Shul.” The Shul’s no talking policy provides a sense of sanctity to the davening and a space for authentic growth, he says. “Rabbi Kuperman didn’t want the Besht to be another schmoozing shul, that once you have children, you find a different shul where you can actually daven.” About the policy, Clapman admits, “I can’t say it’s totally silent but it’s quite effective.”
Second, “There is a Rov,” Clapman points out. Rabbi Kuperman’s speeches draw many. With his trademark mix of humor, passion, and impressive scholarship, Rabbi Kuperman holds his congregants spellbound as he weaves a powerful and practical lesson from the Parsha.
“And there is a huge Kiddush,” Clapman explains the third reason. At the Kiddush, the community connects over delicious salads and cholent, Farbrenging together and drawing inspiration for the coming week.
The Besht is planning to have davening for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and seating reservation for Tishrei will soon be available. There will be plenty of seating for women and a children’s program.
563 Empire Blvd, Brooklyn, NY, 11213
Schedule for the Besht:
Tuesday: Gemara Shiur – 9:00 PM
Thursday: Chassidus Kollel – 8:15-9:19 (Reopening soon)
Mincha – 15 minutes prior to candle lighting
Shiur by Rabbi Kuperman – Halacha in the Parsha
Chassidus with Rabbi Mendy Wolff – 9:00 am
Shachris – 10:00 am
Drasha by Rabbi Kuperman – Hashkafah in the Parsha
Weekly Lecture Series
For hall rentals, contact Yosef Helfand 562-833-3351
Our Shuls – profiles of the shuls of Crown Heights on COLlive.com: