About Beachwood Kehilla

The wheel on the stroller came off and as a result a shul came into existence. Sounds like a Medrash and it might be…

…It's the summer of 1987. Rachel Kessler and Sue Schmelzer and their families were walking nearly four miles each way from their homes in Beachwood to Taylor Road Synagogue in Cleveland Heights. Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor hail could keep them from their appointed Shabbat walk to shul. As it is so often when one undertakes a difficult mitzvah, the Kessler family discovered unintended benefits to their extra effort. Their children seemed to thrive because of the extra time they spent together with their parents on those walks. Beyond talking about school projects, they even created a parsha play complete with songs. They learned that you shouldn't pick flowers on Shabbat and reviewed many other useful Halachot. The downside of the walks was usually the weather; they often would seek shelter from the rain under the trees on treelawns, and run to the next tree when they thought the rain was letting up.

Sue had grown up at TRS and held the shul as a special place. But she agreed with Rachel that they needed a special shul in their neighborhood, for the sake of their feet and even their children.

It was summer in Cleveland and the days were pleasant. But they remembered the previous Yom Kippur and the torrential rains that they walked through on Kol Nidre night.

Never again!

So it was Bashert that Rachel approached Rabbi Zlatin to help organize a branch of the shul much nearer to their homes. Rachel contacted current and former TRS members who lived in Beachwood and who were no longer davening regularly at TRS. She found there was great interest in a branch minyan being formed.

The issues were many – where could they meet; who would lead davening; who would read the Torah. But Rachel and Sue found a willingness to get involved from Howard Braun and Sam Lewis,and Ezra Smayo. In the first few weeks of Shabbat services, Howard would call across the Mechitza to Rachel – "Who is supposed to lead Mussaf?" But after a month or so, Howard took on the role of Gabbai – a position he held for nearly twenty years until his retirement to Florida. Rachel and Sue found that the Cleveland Hebrew Schools auditorium was available for regular Shabbat and Yom Tov services. The public school, while available for Shabbat, would not work for the Chagim, so TRS negotiated a lease with CHS.

The first Shabbat was to be Labor Day weekend 1987. And on the last Shabbat of August, as Rachel was walking on "The Walk" to TRS, for the last time, the wheel on the stroller came off. That was it – no more 8 mile Shabbat hikes for her. She was definitely not buying a new stroller for her then three year old son. And the following Shabbat, the branch minyan of TRS began with a bare minyan.

Rabbi Zlatin found willing Rabbinic help in the Rabbis of Fuchs Mizrachi School (Rabbi Shmuel Levine) and the Hebrew Academy Mesivta High School (Rabbi Yossi Abrams). After a year or two or rotational rabbis, Rabbi Steven Ettinger moved to Cleveland. He became the assistant rabbi to Rabbi Zlatin and the two of them would rotate weekly, officiating either in Cleveland Heights or in Beachwood. This continued for nearly five years unti Rabbi Ettinger moved to Detroit and subsequently made Aliyah. Rabbi Zlatin understood that Fuchs Mizrachi School offered a great wealth of Rabbinic leadership and talent to the community. He invited Rabbi Adin Krohn to join him on the Rabbinic staff as the Assistant Rabbi of the Beachwood Kehilla.

For five years the two Rabbis shared the pulpit on alternating Shabbat mornings, the shiurim, major drashot and other rabbinic functions. The shul benefitted from different perspectives and the role model of a rabbinic leadership team. When Rabbi Krohn made aliyah in 2008, he was succeeded by his brother-in-law Rabbi Noam Shapiro. With Rabbi Shapiro's aliyah, the congregation has recently invited Rabbi Ari Spiegler to join the rabbinic team.

What was the common element of the members? Many were Baalei tshvot. All, even those FFB (frum from birth) were on a life path to grow in their knowledge of Torah, their commitment to Mitzvot, a love of Eretz Yisroel and to raise their children in a warm nurturing shul. And with everyone there was a realization that this was a very special shul - where everyone made a difference. Pearl Harris took charge of the Shabbat kiddushes and continues to do so for more than 23 Years. Paul Stein offered to set up the Shalosh Seudot and our Chef Paul continued to do so for 23 years.

Others helped out leading davening. In 2009 the shul celebrated the Yamim Noraim with a new first. All the Balei Tefilah were from the membership of the shul. For many years Dr. David Weiner led Shacharit, but he made time in his impossible schedule to learn Mussaf. That made the difference. The Beachwood Kehilla had grown up and became even more self-sufficient. The shul continues to be a place where the volunteerism of the members make all the difference.

For 7 years the shul remained a branch of TRS. The population grew to around 35 families. In the spring of 1995, the TRS branch became the Beachwood Kehilla. There had been a growing rift between the Beachwood residents and those running TRS over the future direction of the congregation. The rift was not able to heal and the Beachwood Kehilla took over the operations as an independent congregation. Rabbi Zlatin remained the Rav of the Beachwood Kehilla. He continued to help families find their path of growth as Jews, one mitzvah at a time.

The wheel came off the stroller and a shul was established. It is not a Medrash, it is a Maaseh Shehaya, a true story. Our shul family continues to grow in numbers and in knowledge and commitment. We number close to 100 families, but the tolerance, openness and caring that Rachel and Sue brought to the shul in 1987, continues to this day. Rachel and Sue now live in Efrat and they talk how they will establish the Gush Etzion branch of the Beachwood Kehilla.

Stay tuned as our story unfolds…