Upstate New York is a weird place, And the little town of Androgen, NY is one of the most confusing places of them all. I’m not the only one to think so. The National Council of Young Orthodox Shuls (NCYOS) is more than confused about this town too. They are trying to kick them out of the organization. So I took a road-trip to investigate what’s going on.
I spoke with Terry Mann, the past president of the Young Orthodox Shul (YOS) there. We had a great conversation over some tea and powdered scones. Terry told me that the NCYOS is apparently very upset with the shul, and no one understands why. “We are a quiet and simple shul” Terry tells me “and I helped build the community myslef. I feel like I raised many of the young members myself, giving them the kind of love that you would only get from your mother.” Terry continued, tearing a bit. “And people respected me. We did face a problem with getting a daily minyan — and despite all my best efforts, I could not help make the numbers add to 10 men. But we were a small shul. Now that we grew up and blossomed, we don’t know why we are being attacked by the NCYOS.” Terry relayed to me the shul’s history — telling me about the recent import of many European families.
Terry told me about their new president, Dr. Leslie Magyar. “Leslie is doing a great job — introducing all sorts of family-oriented programs for the shul, like babysitting programs, Torah calligraphy and a new Tehilim group. Bringing some family traditions from the old country, Leslie also cooks a wonderful Hungarian style cholent for the kiddush every week. And Leslie also had a very good relationship with our new young Rabbi who hails from the UK: Rabbi Robin Brown. Everyone loves Rabbi Robin, and the members are particularly impressed with the new melodies introduced in the davenning. Having a British accent makes Rabbi Robin’s voice particularly sweet.”
The truth is after visiting this place and davenning there, I could not figure out what NCYOS’s problem was with this shul. So I called the head of the organization to learn more. My conversation with Rabbi Sukkos Melamed was just as confusing.
Rabbi Sukki was clear about his position. “We’re gonna kick them out of the organization. The chuztpa of these people to think they belong to our organization is beyond me!” I was still puzzled, I asked — “did you have a problem with president? or the rabbi?” “All of them!!” R’ Sukki tells me. “Can you imagine a Rabbi named Robin!?”, Well, sure Robin is not the most Jewish sounding name, but it’s not an uncommon name in the UK. R’ Sukki interrupted… “And the president — Leslie!” — well I said, “Leslie is from Hungary” — “I don’t care where they are from!” So I came to their defense: ” Terry did a great job of bringing the British and Hungarian shul members together. The members were fighting like little girls.” I told R’ Sukki. “And the shul was full of Israelis who never got along with anyone. I know that Rabbi Simcha Darom and President Sharon Gallil were on two sides of every issue. Rabbi Ellie Melech and President Jordan Rivers also could not get along either. Now that Robin and Leslie are sunning the show — what could be so bad? It’s not like the shul hires Rabbis from some liberal Yeshiva that promotes lesbianism or something.”
Rabbi Sukki told me that he doesn’t care what countries these people come from. The fact is that NCYOS has a recognized brand that cannot be tarnished by a rouge bunch of progressives. The problem R’ Sukki faces is that he is currently unable to kick the YOS of Androgen, NY out of the organization since the NCYOS adopted new amendments to their constitution that prevents him from kicking out a shul and seizing their assets without getting approval from other branch shuls. “So far, no one else in the organization sees the problems that I see — and it frustrates me.”