I belong to two shules. One I am a member of and love dearly but don't get a chance to go to much anymore. The other shule I love dearly to and I go to every Shabbat. They are different but on several levels they have things in common. The kehilla or community are a) wonderful people b) they have a great rav c) good atmosphere and above all ahavat israel or love of our fellow Jews. It is really important to have peace between Jews and with neighbours.
Hamayan I have belonged to for several years. I was with them from the Caulfield Hebrew congregation days when we davened (prayed) behind Caulfield shule in Inkerman Road.Then we were at 47 Kooyong Road and I remember the euphoria and excitement of having our own shule FINALLY. However Hashem had a few tests in hand for us to face. We had neighbours who did not like us and were and still are offended by our kehilla or community and its prayers.
It is kind of strange when you come to think about it. It is also highly illogical. Here is a community of maybe a hundred people on busy Shabbat days and we pray from the hours of sunset to an hour after at the most.
So, for example, Shabbat comes in at 5.15pm on a Friday our prayers are done by 6.30pm at the latest. Even when Shabbat comes in late, our kehilla likes to bring the Shabbat in early so we are usually finished by 8pm at the latest. The prayers of a morning are finished by 12.30 pm and we usually have a kiddush or did which finished by 1.30 pm at the latest. There were sometimes a few stragglers hanging around to clean up around 2pm on very rare occasions. This is on a Saturday morning.
The neighbours have been ropeable about the 'noise levels.' You also have to understand that there is no amplification of voices or booming loud speakers that we channel the prayers through with the tweeters and boomers directed at the back fences or side fences of our neighbours. We just must have loud voices or joyful ones that reach right up to heaven and to the neighbours at least. When they first complained we did bend over backwards to accommodate them. The children were not allowed to run around or to play in the back yard of the house in order to appease them and to lessen their discomfort. Once three boys, (including my son) escaped into the backyard and as I went out to get them the backyard neighbour was up on a stool on the other side of the fence snapping pictures of the children in the yard and screaming 'Now I have you.' I said nothing and ushered three rather startled and bemused children back into the room at the back where they were confined. The noice level was normal voices speaking and praying, not screaming or shouting. The kehilla consists of a very civilised group of people. Yes there is singing, but it is in tune.
One objector told the council we had a 'history' and were not to be trusted and that we were trying to use the premises as a catering hall or commercial enterprise and not a place of worship. Completely untrue.
One person was frightened her house price would fall if a shule existed next door. Actually in North Caulfield, probably the opposite is true. Being right next door to a shule would be a good selling point in the area.
It is sad that a group of people with a common feeling and aim to only worship G-D and create a G-Dly community can raise such ire in a few people.
It set me thinking about what I would consider really 'interesting neighbours.' Just imagine a bikie charter taking up residence in the house next door. Instead of a soft spoken and scholarly Rabbi, you have a 180 kilogram Bike leader complete with tattoos, smelly leathers, steel cap boots and ear studs all the way up his ears. He knocks on your door, a bike chain is casually linked over one shoulder, 'We're havin a bit of a bang up tonight. You're invited.' then he rattles the chain menacingly. 'No complaints eh. Good chap.' then he slaps yon neighbour on the back and departs. About 50 visiting bikies rock up on their Harleys and rev their engines before unloading slabs of beer. This is instead of Orthodox Jews who walk to shule on a shabbat or holy day anyway. Instead of women with children, there are a cluster of women in leathers and short skirts, swearing and cursing, using colourful language, some of them are more than a little drunk and one or two vomit in the driveways of the ajoining properties. The party starts around 10 pm at night. Around Midnight there is some disagreement over alcohol or drug deals. Not really important except that about ten or twenty of the males start to get stuck into each other. There are gun shots and bike chains swinging. This is instead of a scholarly discussion of different viewpoints in a gemora. The women join in the fight because there is no mechitza and separation between men and women in this sort of community is unheard of. They apparently share and share alike, probably even the STD's but not their bikes of course.
The police arrive with sirens blaring at 1am when they are sure the fight is not too dangerous and has died down a bit. At the arrival of the police around thirty bikes roar off. They arrest some members and some of the women for drunk and disorderly conduct.
This will happen every few nights. One of the bikers is enterprising and starts a meth lab to finance their club activities so the property does become used for a commercial enterprise which involves a lot of dubious traffic to and fro. And at all hours of the night. Also there is finally an explosion one day when something happens at the lab. Police arrive and the neighbours in the surrounding houses have had most of their windows shattered by the blast. Does insurance cover that sort of damage?
It would be interesting to see in such a scenario how many neighbours would front up to object to such residents being next door neighbours or would you just quietly try not to draw too much attention to yourself. You would not want them to know who made a complaint, if you did dare in such a scenario.
I am, for one, at a loss to understand why some of these people have objected so vehemently to people gathering together to worship G-D in a loving and wonderfully peaceful way. Is it the fact that we have a deeply satisfying spiritual connection and faith that somehow disturbs them? What is it?
Why don't people object to churches or Buddhist temples? Maybe they do and I just do not know about it? I know they often object to mosques but then there is the slight problem of the muezzin calling people to prayer quite loudly five times a day. We do not have that. We usually have publicised times and people make their way to shule without a wailing siren to get them up. If you go to most Jewish study houses at 6am in the morning you will see people studying together and discussing points from gemora or some other text. It is actually quite civilised and an intellectual pursuit. There is very little real noise as such.
Maybe kedusha attracts the klipa side of things. That is the nature of this world and we need to rise above it and transform hatred to love and anguish and pain to comfort and peace.