Milt Wolf: Back around 1978 I used to go to minyan downtown or in Squirrel Hill, and Sam Balk told me that Beth El was just starting their minyans up again. So that’s when I started going to the minyan at Beth El. I was not a member yet. Now I’m a dual member at Beth El and Temple Emanuel, and coming to minyan is like the greatest way to get up in the morning. There is nothing like the morning minyan!
Sam and I grew up together in Squirrel Hill. We both went to Chovitz Chai at the bottom of Beacon Street. It’s now the parking lot of the Giant Eagle on Murray Avenue. We have some funny stories from those days. The kosher butcher on Murray Avenue, Mr. Horovitz, was the self-imposed shammas at the shul. The ladies would be upstairs—this is an Orthodox shul—and the service would be going on and the ladies would be upstairs talking. He would clap his hands and say “Ladies! Ladies! Schvey! Schvey!” The more the women would murmur the louder Mr Horowitz would shout until finally he’d say “Listen to the meaningless prayers!” Sam and I still laugh at that.
Jerry Rosenfeld: I was the Assistant Treasurer when they voted on whether women should be counted in the minyan. It was a big debate. Rabbi Steindel wouldn’t commit one way or the other. Sam was the president. This was in the 80’s. There were some heated discussions, but I looked around and saw Bernice Hoffman and a lot of people who were a lot more knowledgeable than I was. I thought why shouldn’t they be doing it—not instead of me but beside me. At that point it was voted on and decided that women should be counted. Later—I wasn’t there but I understand that there was a minyan and Bernice Hoffman was there and one of the people said that if she’s counted I’m leaving. And the answer was, “Well, she’s here to read the Torah!” So he stayed.
100 Reasons is a new blog series featuring members of our diverse and delightful congregational family. We are celebrating Beth El’s 100th anniversary this year with 100 stories, 100 memories, 100 reasons to join us! If you would like to add your story or memory to the blog, please contact Nancy Langer.