Century Village, West Palm Beach, is a gated, fifty-five and over community, which provides residents with lakes, a huge clubhouse, heated pools, tennis courts, game rooms, and a courtesy bus.
I remember when Red Buttons (Aaron Chatt, 1919-2006), was the advertisng spokesman for Century Village.
Today, some of the residents are having a Jewish civil war. Isaac Feder, 64, an Orthodox Jew who resides there part-time, has purchased a second apartment, which he uses for services.
He says he's not well enough to travel to services on Shabbes. The local newspapers report that his 2-bedroom, 2 bath apartment has become a make-shift synagogue and that he conducts twice- daily services in the spare apartment. This "synagogue" has infuriated other condo residents.
Frank Cerabino, columnist for the Palm Beach Post, has quoted another resident, Cookey Currier, who said, "It's supposed to be residential, but it's a house of worship seven days a week."
Attorney, Esther Zaretsky says that the condo neighbors who are complaining are secular Jews who are put off by the stream of visitors dressed in Orthodox garb--big hats instead of golf and "tenis" (tennis) outfits.
Another resident wrote to Rabbi Marc Gellman (God Squad) discussing the above-mentioned problem, and he said, "While Judaism requires regular daily prayer, it also requires that the laws of the state be observed. Those laws clearly prohibit what this man is doing. He's created a non-synagogue synagogue, which is neither legal nor morally sensitive. His first option should be to find some way to get to the 'real' synagogue to pray...If he is disabled, perhaps he could find someone to push him over to the synagogue in a wheelchair...Failing that, he might try to move his daily minyan to a meeting room in the condo clubhouse." Rabbi Gellman also enourages all those concerned to "try harder" to work things out.
In an e-mail to asktherabbi.com, Marjorie Wolfe received the following advice from Rabbi Reuven Lauffer:
"It certainly sounds like a very sensitive situation. In general, a person who cannot wak to Synagogue on Shabbs cannot be driven there. I have no background in civil law so I do not know if there are any legal issues involved in turning an apartment into a Synagogue or not. However, I think that what needs to be done is for some of those who object to the services being held in one of the apartments to approach Mr. Feder's Rabbi and ask him to arbitrate between the two groups. If they do not want to go to Mr. Feder's Rabbi because they are concerned that he will not be objective enough, they can approach another Orthodox Rabbi who is respected and looked up to by the community at large and ask him for his opinion on the matter. I think that makes the most sense as it allows the two sides to explain their points of view to a third party (hopefuly) without the negative emotions that would certainly be present if they tried to work out their differences alone."
(Thank you, Rabbi Lauffer.)
The above-mentioned problem would probably be discussed by the late Bernard C. Meltzer ("What's Your Problem?") if he were alive today.
Meltzer (1916-1998) had an advice call-in "radyo" (radio) program. It aired from 1967 until the mid-1990s on many stations. I heard him on WEVD-AM in New York.
His show provided counsel on a wide range of topics, ranging from financial to "perzenlekh" (personal). Families would seek "eytse" (advice)_about family crises, mortgages, leaky basements, Medicaid, recalcitrant children, philandering husbands, and every conceivable subject. Of course, he would announce, "Dr. Meltzer is not an attorney." (The Yiddish word for attorney is "advokat.") He would add, "A lawyer is a person who is willing to spend your last dime to prove that he's right."
And so, let's remember Bernard Meltzer's advice: "Courts are made for judges and lawyers"...and "The good people in the world far outnumber the bad."
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