A Little Slice of History by Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman
On Simchat Torah the neighborhood’s Sefardic Rabbi & three of his students broke into the sports hall in the middle of our hakafot. When they saw women dancing with the Torah they began to curse and tried to “save” the Scrolls (to fulfill the mitzvah of liberating captives). We successfully defended our Torah scrolls & honor and managed to expel our interlopers without violence whilst singing songs of peace & love.
When Teddy Kollek (z”l), the then Mayor of Jerusalem, heard of the events that took place, he promised to find us a place where we could build our own house of worship. We found a small and abandoned stone structure at the corner of Harakevet Street & Asher Street, in the middle of a large field that served as a quarry. The city gave us the land and we renovated the small building. On Shabbatot & holidays we used the building for prayer and during the week it became a nursery school & a center for communal activities.
Due to our unique style of prayer we began to draw a large crowd from Jerusalem & all around the world. It became clear to us that the community’s growth necessitated a larger building and after much effort we were able to build our present home, which we have now exceeded in capacity. Thus our congregation has developed from a small prayer Minyan to a large center of community & spiritual activity. In the first years of life a part-time secretary & I were the only professional staff. Today we are blessed with a large and dedicated staff of workers that allow for the wide range of activities.
The congregation was “born” in the living room of my house in the Spring of 1984.
Its beginning looked promising – over 100 worshipers participated in our first Kol Nidre service that was held in the Labor Party club on Mordechai haYehudi Street.
However, it soon became clear that to be a Reform congregation in Jerusalem was no easy matter. The local Rabbinate pressured the members of the Labor Party who ejected us from their center.
The Baka community center invited us to move into their quarters at Yissachar Street where we flourished and grew. But even there we were not left alone to pray.