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Belzer Chassidim Celebrate Dallas Shul’s Chanukas Habayis

belz cover.jpgWhat images do you associate with the state of Texas?

Cowboys in their 10-gallon hats, their lassos at the ready, galloping across the plains as they round up cattle? Rodeos and oil wells? Or maybe the NASA Space Center in Houston? If you’re a history buff, perhaps you’re thinking of Davy Crockett and the battle of the Alamo?

If these are the only associations that come to mind, you might be surprised to learn that a group of Belzer chassidim recently traveled to Dallas to be on hand for thechanukas habayis of Congregation Ohr HaTorah’s beautiful new shul.

In fact, a contingent from Belz has been making the journey to Dallas for a number of years, and Belz enjoys a very warm relationship with the Dallas kehillah. Although the Belzer yungeleit who have been visiting the community are not trading in theirshtreimels for Stetsons any time soon, they are deeply impressed by what they have seen in Dallas.

These warm feelings are reciprocated by the local residents, who are grateful for the chizuk they have received from Belz over the years, and appreciate the efforts that the Belzer yungeleit have been making to visit them and stay in touch. Representatives of the Dallas community have also reciprocated by coming to New York on several occasions.

For those who have never been to the Lone Star State (and perhaps still think of anything outside the New York area as a vast untamed expanse called “out of town”), a trip to Dallas might be an eye-opener. The city is home to a number of very fine institutions, and among them is Congregation Ohr HaTorah. The ruach of its congregants is uplifting an exhilarating. The friendliness of the people, their strong sense of achdus, and their sincere desire to keep growing in Torah and Yiddishkeit, while encouraging others to join them, define the congregation and the community in general.

Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum is the dynamic young rav of the congregation. A talmid of Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin and other major Torah institutions, he maintains a close relationship with his rebbe, Rav Aharon Shechter, shlita, and numerous other gedolim.

Rabbi Feigenbaum plays many major roles in the community – counseling, teaching and seeking ways to help people with any problems they may have. He exudes tremendous warmth and positive energy, and people from all walks of life are irresistibly drawn to him. Some even end up embracing a Torah way of life thanks to his friendly guidance and encouragement.

The kehilla has also benefited greatly from the guidance of a number of eminent roshei yeshiva and rabbonim, and organizations such as Yeshivas Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Agudas Israel and Belz have also provided much chizuk and encouragement.

The kehilla’s growth has been nothing short of remarkable – the congregation has had to seek increasingly larger quarters five times in eight years. The congregation started in 1999 in a living room, with 20 families who hoped to launch a shul that would be guided by Torah principles and that would welcome others who had the same desire, regardless of their background and current level of observance.

Although at present the membership of the shul is approximately 300 families, they have retained that original feeling of “mishpachah.” As Rabbi Feigenbaum put it, “We are not just a shul, we are a family.”

Ohr HaTorah has also expanded its activities since those early days. In addition to the regular minyanim, daily and on Shabbos, there are a beginners’minyan, a youth congregation, and youth groups, as well as regular shiurim in Gemara, Chumash – Rashi, Mishna Berurah, and Jewish philosophy. There are also various special events, and let’s not forget that delicious kiddush every Shabbos!

The newly completed shul is stunning from both an aesthetic and a functional standpoint, and represents the successful culmination of several years of careful planning and hard work. At the beginning of the project, the lead architect, Mr. David Stanford, accompanied by Rabbi Feigenbaum, Mr. Richard Glazer and Mr. David Hoffman went on a field trip to New York City, visiting 30 buildings to glean design ideas and help formulate their own vision. The resulting structure is a combination of classic and contemporary design and conforms to thekehilla’s mission, which is to reach out to Yidden of diverse backgrounds who seek a warm and caring congregation. The building contains rooms for Torah learning, childcare, and communal activities, as well as a social hall for special events. In addition to the main sanctuary, there is a special sanctuary for the learners’ service.

Over 450 guests attended the chanukas habayis and were inspired by the words of Rav Aharon Schechter and other prominent speakers, and uplifted by the singing of Reb Abish Brodt and the visitors from Belz – including Reb Alter Mayer Kallus, conductor of the Belzer choir, and Chazzan Shlomo Roth. The catering was done by Reb Leizer Igel, another member of the Belzer contingent.

Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, representing Agudas Israel, presented the kehilla with an ornate becher. From Belz, the congregation received a beautiful Sefer Torah breastplate, presented by Reb Leizer Grossman.

While everyone who attended the event was very moved and inspired, to the Belzer yungeleit the development of the Dallas kehilla has special significance. As Reb Leizer Grossman observed, “The growth and the struggles of this congregation are reminiscent of the stories that we have heard from our parents and grandparents about the efforts required to rebuild Belz in the aftermath of the Holocaust. And just as the pioneering efforts of the Belzer Rebbes have paved the way for Torah observant Jews of every affiliation, so too shall Ohr HaTorah, b’ezras Hashem, act as a role model and a beacon to guide countless others, and encourage them to follow the path of the Torah.”

(Source: Jewish Press)

3 Responses

  1. I was in Dallas two years ago for Purim and Shabbos. The Ohr Hatorah community is nothing short of remarkable. Anyone who has any excuse for going there – do so.

  2. Similar stuff going on in Houston, about 3 hours south of Dallas. San Antonio Texas also has a growing frum community. The shul over there is in midst of expanding as well.

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