≡ Menu

The friendliest shul in New York City

I had a lot of things on my mind as I ran out the door of my friends house in Jamaica Estates. I had just been informed by my bank that my checking account was drained by someone in Florida who had gotten a hold of my debit card somehow, I had just spent over an hour in traffic to get from Manhattan to Queens and I wasn’t looking forward to the rain it was supposed to be doing over yuntiff, not really the way to start a such a joyous holiday as Simchas Torah, the freaking name of the holiday is joy.

I walked down the street looking for this mythical shteebl that my friend said was in the house on the corner, there were four corners and no signs of a shteeble, I approached a man walking down the street and he turned me around and introduced himself at the same time, I was taken aback by his courteous handshake and welcome to the neighborhood. I walked into a narrow room full of people and no one stared like the regular shteeble. Immediately someone told me to sit next to him and another 3 people came out of nowhere welcoming me to the shul and introducing themselves. I really wasn’t ready for this kind of niceness.

I looked around at the shul and was pretty shocked to see that there were 4 men wearing streimels, those tall fancy one’s that have been making the waves lately, I also noted a guy who looked very familiar wearing an up hat and long peyos. There were also a bunch of guys wearing regular outfits, black hats and gartels, I feel like we call them heimishe, not chassidishe not litvish or some other variety of folks – the lines between chassidim and misnagdim don’t really exist anymore. It’s like the days of yore, when you had name calling and book burnings, the two sects (save for chabad) really get along and have similar looks in many cases.

I wondered what I stumbled onto as I started to daven, it really changed my dreary mood to have stumbled upon this hidden shteeble in Jamaica Estates, I had never been to this side of town in my life, but from my basic knowledge – I had thought it was a bastion of wealthy snobbish modern orthodoxy with a few ostentatious Bucharians thrown in the mix, I didn’t know you had a bunch of seemingly erliche yidden thrown in as well and I sure wasn’t expecting such warmth anywhere in New York, this seemed a lot more like a shteeble in St Louis or Minneapolis, not Queens.

Of course my stereotypes about the neighborhood were realized the next day I went to Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, a bastion of modern orthodox by association, full of cleavage showing ladies with white lacy doilies on their heads, men with suede yarmulkes covering their bald spots and everyone else talking about business, sports and politics during the down times (times when they weren’t singing) I was one of 3 non-talis wearing folks in the shul.

I was also disappointed because there were no cute single girls as my friend had assured me there were, I knew they existed within the confines of Jamaica Estates because almost every girl I had ever met from the hood was cute, but alas the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates is filled with rapidly aging middle aged men who work their butts off all year in order to afford the kitchen upgrade, pesach in Florida and their children’s college tuition. It was a shul full of the type of folks that don’t exist in the Bay Area, 45 – 60 year old’s with amazingly thick New York accents.

The friendliest shul in New York City is located on the corner of Midland and Surrey in Jamaica Estates, Queens. The rabbis name is Dovid Weinberger and you all should check it out.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Julie October 3, 2010, 11:39 AM

    Funny you mentioned Minneapolis, because I was going to say that it sounded like one of the shuls here.

  • same here October 3, 2010, 12:49 PM
  • Yechiel October 3, 2010, 12:59 PM

    I have never found any shuls warmer than those in the Twin Cities.

  • Julia October 3, 2010, 3:35 PM

    I spent sukkos at the YI of Jamaica Estates one year, and for a minute I thought you were going to talk about that. It was fine for me because I was there with family friends who introduced me to the people (old men) with the best alcohol, but, yeah, it wasn’t anything special.

  • a October 3, 2010, 6:43 PM

    did you daven by chofetz chaim on simchas torah morning? i thought i recognized you, but wasn’t sure.

    • Heshy Fried October 3, 2010, 10:50 PM

      I did daven at Chofetz Chaim for simchas torah and did hakafos there in the eve – I even slept in the dorm

      • Shekina5771 October 4, 2010, 1:08 AM

        Thank you thank you thank you, Heshy. Thank you for refraining from using “a’s” bad grammar, the bad grammar that ALL frummies seem to use–that being the word “by” instead of “at” or “in”, as in “by chofetz chaim”. You opted out of that insiderist gaff, by responding, “I did daven AT (caps are mine, for emphasis) Chofetz Chaim for….”.

        Time to start training these frummie grommets while they’re still young and impressionable!!

      • OfftheDwannaB October 4, 2010, 4:43 AM

        The dorms, eh? Get any action?

  • Anonymous October 3, 2010, 7:59 PM

    young israel of holliswood (one neighborhood over from Jamaica Estates) is also ridiculously friendly

  • Batsheva October 3, 2010, 9:27 PM

    “I was one of 3 non-talis wearing folks in the shul.” Pardon my ignorance, but why weren’t you wearing a talis? Oh, wait! Is it because you’re single?–I know that’s a minhag some places. Where I grew up you started wearing one when you were bar mitzvah. But I guess it does make it easier for people to spot the single guys.

    • Dovybear October 4, 2010, 4:47 AM

      I’ve worn a tallis since I was 7, but despite the fact that it’s my family’s minhag my younger brother refuses to wear one unless he has an aliyah or something. Youngsters today, eh?

  • zach October 4, 2010, 9:33 AM

    You won’t be doing a post about your thoughts of chofetz chaim?

    • Heshy Fried October 5, 2010, 12:15 PM

      I didn’t really have any funny thoughts – it was a good time

  • sheldon steiner October 4, 2010, 11:02 AM

    Heshy, with spy reports like yours it is no wonder that we spent 40 years wandering before entering Israel. If you took your eyes off the busoms of the women, you might have noticed that many of the same men go to both shuls.

    Your perception carries with it your preconceptions.

    I hope that some day you will be 45 to 60 years old with whatever accent you wish to have and that you continue to enjoy the Bay area. I’m curious; what becomes of your congregants when they reach 45?

  • Michael October 4, 2010, 1:08 PM

    I have always found the peoplew in the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates to be very friendly. And, BTW, the shteebel is also full of the same type of middle aged men and believe me, they are working their butts off at thge same pace for the same kitchens and tuitions. If you had taken the time to actually find outabout the people in the Young Israel, you would have found that in addition to what you think they spend their money on, they are also very big Baalei Tzedakah! And Heshy, why should we not work hard and enjoy ouselves? As Shelly points out…keep enjoying the Bay area.

    • Heshy Fried October 5, 2010, 12:17 PM

      You can do whatever you wish – but it seems like everyone works hard at jobs they don’t like for stuff more and more stuff – but to each their own.

      “I have always found the peoplew in the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates to be very friendly.”

      I have never found any shul in NY to be very friendly, but when not one person in my full row said good yuntiff – that doesn’t strike me as friendly. Friendly towards people they know – sure!

  • OfftheDwannaB October 4, 2010, 4:26 PM

    Both Sheldon and Michael just don’t even understand what’s wrong with their shul. Allow me.

    It has nothing to do with age per se, your shul just typifies a certain type of synagogue. Namely, cold and stratified by money and age. The other shul sounds more like a warm, inviting place to daven, hence Heshy’s calling of it a shteeble. That’s why he mentioned the ages, discussion topics, and material pursuits of the members. That 45-60 yr old age group, especially MO, is so common it has become a stereotype.

    This reminds me of an article I read in the OU magazine, from a Dr. Hillel Goldman, complaining of the new development of shuls made up of mostly younger people. He lists a few problems with the age segregation which I think are legitimate. What he fails to realize is that his generation caused this! His generation created a caste system in shul based on money and power, these naturally being centered around a certain select age group. Is it any wonder that the younger generation has left these oppressive shuls once they got the chance, and established shuls that were actually comfortable to gather and daven in?

    As to Michael’s point of them being Baalei Tzedaka, that’s nice, but the ends doesn’t justify the means, like laundering money through a yeshivah, nor does it make your shul any warmer of a place to daven. You also said, “And Heshy, why should we not work hard and enjoy ouselves?” That’s fine, but he’s pointing out that that most of you seem obsessed by materiality, and that atmosphere contaminates your shul’s social and spiritual environment.

    • Michael October 4, 2010, 5:19 PM

      Actually, our shul is anything but stratified…money and age is not a factor. As a matter of fact, you would be hard pressed to see opulance in our shul or friendships based on money, profession or age. With regard to your comment about younger people leaving to set up their own shuls, it is quite the opposite in Jamaica Estaes. The younger generation has actually taken over much of the running of the shul and all ages work very harmoniously. Furthermore..you should not imply that there is any iullegal activities, i.e. “money laundering” in our midst. It seems to me that the so caleed Rabbis with the long white beards and big black hats that would never associate with “Modern Orthodoxy” are more involved in those activities. I think it fair to say, that you and Heshy are just generalizing without having the slightest idea what our shul is about. Please don’t tell me that I “don’t beven understand what is wrong” with our shul. Believe me, I know our problems but they are not even close to what you have dreamed up.

      • OfftheDwannaB October 4, 2010, 7:21 PM

        I don’t know anything about your shul in particular. I was explaining Heshy’s unease and dislike towards your shul, and his attraction to what he terms “the friendliest shul in NYC” totally based on his observations. He could be totally prejudging your shul. But I’ve also experienced the same feelings he’s talking about in other shuls.
        It’s also possible that there is no age-segregation in your shul. It is a new phenomena that myself and others (like the above-mentioned Hillel Goldman)have witnessed personally though.
        Lastly, I did not imply that your shul or modern orthodoxy in general engages in money laundering. I was using that example to illustrate the moral parallels, i.e. with regard to the ends justifying the means, between giving the yeshivah a cut in your money laundering to justify your illicit activity, and living a material-obsessed life and justifying it by also giving tzedakah with the money you make. In my opinion, that is similar to paying penance for your sins, or as the Rambam says ‘tovel vesheretz beyado’.

        • Heshy Fried October 5, 2010, 12:19 PM

          Trust me, if their shul was friendly I would have pointed it out – it’s not any different from the other Queens YI’s – Hillcrest, Forest Hills and KGH are just as unfriendly – all shuls in NY are unfriendly until proven to be friendly – when I say friendly – I mean people come up and welcome you, say good shabbos and ask you if you have a place to eat.

          • Anonymous October 8, 2010, 11:07 AM

            I am a member if YIJE and have been for many years. I grew up in the neighborhood and after getting married, my husband and I moved back to the neighborhood because we felt it is such a friendly community. I am sorry that you did not get that feeling, but I am also surprised that you can make such a harsh judgement on a community after only spending a few hours there.(if that long even!) Jamaica Estates is known for going above and beyond to help families in times of need and in times of simcha. Having received help and support after the passing of a parent, and having friends join in our simcha when our 2nd child was born, I can tell you first hand what a wonderful and friendly community Jamaica Estates truly is. When someone has a baby, within hours, meals are organized for the family, so the new parents can focus on their child rather than worrying about getting dinner together.
            Regarding the men “working their butts off to pay for the kitchen upgrade ,Pesach in Fl. or college tuition” yes it is true. We do work very hard, but why is it a problem if we enjoy our hard earned money? And I do not think saving for our children’s college education can ever be considered a bad thing!!
            Regarding the issue of there not being any “cute girls” in the neighborhood- maybe you should concentrate more on your davening and not treating shul as a lookout for your next date!
            I wold say I welcome you to come back and see what Jamaica Estates is really like, but I don’t think we need people like you in our community!!

            • Jake from Jamaica October 27, 2010, 4:54 PM

              You go Girl !!!!!!

  • H.E. Pennypacker October 5, 2010, 4:53 PM

    u walked from JE to KGH just for chofetz chaim? that place is cold as ice. i hope u stopped off in hillcrest on the way to pick up a candy bag. as friendly as it is they hardly ever have a minyan

  • Ruth October 5, 2010, 9:57 PM

    I am member of YIJE and I also go to the Shteibel on Surrey, but I have lived in Jamaica Estates all my life. Let me tell you about our extraordinary neighborhood. We live in a place where there is a community created by at least 5 Rabbi’s and their wives. They are all friends and with each other, they learn together, consult with one another and we have Shalom Bias among them. As a result, all of the yidden in the community are comfortable going to daven wherever they choose, and are welcome in any shul that they walk into, and may go to shiurim given by these any one of these learned people. It is a community of open hearts and arms. Some of us are good looking, some not, some are young, some middle aged and older, some dress well and others not so well, but believe me, ALL who live here have a place daven and learn where the welcome is from the heart.

  • Jake from Jamaica October 8, 2010, 12:45 PM

    Hey Hesh-

    Glad you enjoyed your chag (“yuntiff” as you called it) in Jamaica Estates. I plan to be in the Bay area soon – could you recommend a friendly shul without anyone between 45 – 60 years old. I agree, those folks are such a drag. Especially the ones who “work their butts off” and through their tzedakah support worthwhile causes in the area and Israel. Also, know any shuls where the cute girls show some cleavage? Isn’t that really why we go to shul, not for any of that singing that goes on in Jamaica Estates. That’s what I ‘d like you to find – a shul with no singing on Simchat Torah, and full of cute, cleavage-showing girls. I’d move to San Francisco for that. OK, a little davening won’t hurt. Sounds like your kind of place. Just make sure the 45 year olds go somewhere else.

    – Jake

  • Schreiber October 27, 2010, 1:32 PM


    I live in Holliswood and daven at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. I’d like to invite you to my house for shabbos. Just email me and let me know when you’d like to come.

    -Michael Schreiber

Leave a Comment