Friday night adventures at the Young Israel of Hillcrest (Queens)

young israel of hillcrestIf the man didn’t hand me a siddur I don’t think I would have found them, I asked him where they were and without speaking to me, or even acknowledging me he handed me a maroon artscroll siddur, of the thin non-translated variety that seem to be the most prone to binding trouble, yet never seem to make it to the stage where duct tape is needed (for the record I abhor siddurs with duct tape on them because they are always sticky and missing the most needed pages) Rather these thin maroon artscroll siddurim are always missing pages and a bit crooked when you open them up.

I walked into shul and as is always the case when I enter a shul I have never been to before, I walked toward the rear so I could have a seat with lots of room and a good view of the sanctuary. I need a good view just in case I have something I think I can make into a good post, and so I can scope out the ladies section, which in this case was filled with what I could only guess was some some sort of college shabbaton judging by the presence of white plastic yarmulkes, long hair and cohesion of maneuvers (one kid sits down they all sit down)

Just my luck to take a seat right next to the shul talkers club. In this case it was 5 guys seated in a row that just couldn’t stop talking, one of the men was designated as Silent Bob, he wouldn’t say a word, he just sat there nodding, gesticulating with his hands and every once in a while telling the crew that he couldn’t listen to them because he was actually davening. Of course, if this Silent Bob of the shul talking club was actually davening he would have sat in a different area, or maybe he needed the back round news in a similar way that people need the TV on all the time.

The shul talkers club was pretty interesting and really portrayed the middle aged modern orthodox – slightly graying man quite well. Talk was centered around car leases, world series issues and bad backs, I couldn’t really hear what they were saying but I assume it was mostly the above things with some smatterings of community gossip intertwined within questions about the whole Lipitor and Grapefruit juice thing.

I was seated in the rear of the shul and looked around, the shil was quite nice, it had some chandeliers, nice simple walls and the American and Israeli flags on opposites sides of the Ark. In modern orthodox shuls, the Rabbi, president and other wealthy members of the shul that bought positions like VP, treasurer and president of the board all sit up front, and the flags are usually placed near them. This night there was only one man seated up front and I assumed he was either the Rabbi or President, although his lack of beard made me think he couldn’t have been the Rabbi – stereotypes stuck in my head.

Most of the shul was made up of dark suit wearing 40-55 year old men, these men predominantly wore dark suede yarmulkes on the middle of their heads fastened with clips, I guess the amount of clips per bobby pin ratio gave me the idea that the shul must have been a bit more left wing modern orthodox than other so-called modern shuls I have been to in Queens. I did notice 2 black hats and several old men wearing old man hats of the gray and straw variety. One YU looking type of dude with his black knitted yarmulke perfectly matted down on the front of his head stood of to the side, practicing his “I’m going to be a modern orthodox Rabbi one day” shuckel and rarely sat down so the shul would think he was extra frum because he stood the entire davening – he did sit down for the devar torah at the end of shul, but that may be because it was given by a woman.

The shul talking club was still in full force as they sang some lame lecha dodi tunes, half the shul it seemed was completely spaced out, possibly because half the shul was over 75 years old. I didn’t notice too many children or teenagers present. The college shabbaton turned out to be the Yeshiva College basketball team, and for once there were fellow long hair fellows in shul. As we bowed for lecha dodi, I felt kind of scammed because the whole coolness of lecha dodi was lost due to the weird placement of the women’s section. One of the many reasons of I love lecha dodi besides for the great dying cow chazzanus that plagues many shuls is the Lecha Dodi Lookback, one of the only legitimate times that you can get a good look over the mechitza, and if you time it correctly you can let the ladies turn around and pretend to have extra kavannah to get a full frontal view. In the Young Israel of Hillcrest, the women’s section is perpendicular to the main sanctuary, and hence I didn’t even notice the women until I got a closer seat for the devar torah.

My heart leaped for joy when the man sitting up front announced that a woman would give a devar torah after yigdal, I was kind of shocked to tell the truth, because I never thought of Young Israel’s as a progressive shul, sure you have the whole “young Israel type of guy” which means nothing because half the young Israel’s seem to have gone black hat betraying their modern orthodox roots. I was also curious, since the only times I had seen women give devar torahs in orthodox shul have all been at really small progressive atypical type of shuls, this was going to be interesting.

After shul this beautiful young girl with half of her covered underneath a hat got up to give her devar torah. I was marveling at how hot she was, I wasn’t wearing glasses so I could be wrong, but her white button down shirt coupled with her knee high boots and black skirt and tights were kind of sexy, or maybe it was just due to the fact that she sounded like a 3rd grade teacher. She spoke about everyone having their own Mitzayims, it was really cheesy and I felt like a little kid – my girlfriend readily agreed about the cheesy 3rd grade class stuff – even though she didn’t think she was so hot, I think she did get the attention of all the old men wondering how on earth the Rabbi got so hot and whether they had been transplanted into a conservative shul sans microphone.

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