On Rosh Hashana Rachel and I founded Pico Shul together with a group of open-minded young adults with the common goal of creating a purposeful, welcoming Jewish community, committed to spiritual growth and living mindfully. We are located in the heart of LA’s Pico Robertson neighborhood, amid kosher restaurants, garages, and many other synagogues.
Our home is a converted warehouse run by Tomchei Shabbos which is used every Thursday to distribute food to hundreds of hungry Jewish families. It is also home to two lending organizations, one for wedding gowns and one with centerpieces for simchas. The karma of the place is palpable. It feels good to be amid the thousands of mitzvahs that are performed there every regularly.
World spread quickly about Pico Shul. While many factors contributed to this buzz, something about a new shul for young adults struck a chord. No longer relegated to Young Professional minyanim, young adults will populate and run Pico Shul. Hundreds attended our High Holiday, Days of Awesome services, far outnumbering the number of seats. It was cozy, inspiring, meaningful, musical, meaningful, and more.
When we launched Pico Shul it was, technically speaking, not my first shul. Once upon a time I ran the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw for a while between rabbis. The Chief rabbi fled Poland after pointing his finger at the Pope and the community began a worldwide search for a new Rabbi….who wanted to move to Poland and spoke Polish. Meanwhile, I carried the torch, ensuring minyanim, shchitah, mikvah, buriall and and other rabbinical duties were fulfilled with utmost care and respect. The average age at that time was 88. Sadly they are all gone, a group of men who practiced group grandparenting on me.
Pico Shul merges a passion for Judaism, Torah, social justice, music and community into one entity. We will be different in a lot of things that we do, and we will become, God willing, the spiritual and community home of many young adults. The community of people drawn to shul is already very diverse. Some have lost interest in the entire concept of synagogue. Some wander from shul to shul but have no place to call home. Some got the spirit, studied in yeshiva and have returned to LA and realized they are not Haredi. Some grew up “frum” and some grew up with minimal Jewish content in their lives. One cast off the Torah decades ago and is finding that he fits in here amid the young searching for community. Another loves the short divrei torah that we give between main sections of the service.
Nearly everything about the shul and its early beginnings are fulfillments of divine providence. That might sound outrageous, but its true. Finding a location. Finding funds to renovate the warehouse. Fixing the aging AC that everyone thought was dead. Donations of furniture and prayer books. The list goes on. We still need to get our own Torah, Aaron Ha Kodesh/Holy Ark, Bima/riser, Shulchan/Torah reading table, podiums.
More, much more, remains to be written about Pico Shul, and I will attempt to capture what I can on the pages of this blog.
We start our programming with Shabb
If you want to know support the community please email me at rabbi @ picoshul.org