Tag Archives: Beit Chaverim synagogue

Standing Up, Speaking Out Against Anti-Semitism

The recent national surge in anti-Semitic acts — including the New York area — has rattled many local Jews.

Then there was one right here in Westport.

A congregant of Beit Chaverim — born in Israel, but a longtime Westporter — arrived home to find eggs splattered on her front door.

In his sermon last weekend, Beit Chaverim’s Rabbi Greg Wall told his Post Road West congregation that the only way to fight what’s happening is to be more visible.

“Keep your yarmulke on,” he said. “If you’re intimidated, the anti-Semites win.”

Rabbi Greg Wall

Noting the importance of community involvement, he adds, “Anti-Semitism is a communal issue. As Jews, we have stood with any group that’s been denied their rights — other religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations. Now we need them to stand publicly with us.”

Working with the other rabbis, including Jeremy Weiderhorn of Westport’s Conservative Synagogue, and Evan Schultz of B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, plus the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, they’ve created a very visible event.

Next Wednesday (June 2, 7 p.m.), a “Standing Together Against Anti-Semitism” rally is set for Jesup Green.

Approval came yesterday. Organizers meet this morning to plan the speakers.

Rabbi Wall knows he wants a wide range of voices.

“We hope other faiths will be involved,” he says. “Whenever anything has happened in our community, I’ve gotten support from the imam in Norwalk. I’m sure there will be many people standing with us.”

He thinks about previous rallies on Jesup Green — in the past year alone, for Black Lives Matter and against Asian-American violence — and shakes his head.

“Hate effects everyone. I look forward to a time when we won’t need rallies like this.”

(If you can’t attend, you can participate online. Click here to register.)

The ABCs of “06880”

Last summer, Shelly Welfeld’s mother passed away.

She sought solace in morning prayers at Beit Chaverim synagogue. Then she’d walk down the Post Road, along Riverside Avenue and downtown.

Along the way, Shelly noticed various objects that looked like letters. She took photos — and soon had enough to complete the alphabet.

Out of Shelly’s mourning came a creative and gorgeous collage:

(Photo collage by Shelly Welfeld)

It’s so beautiful, I asked Shelly to share it here.

And so much fun, we came up with a great contest idea.

“06880” readers: Identify the locations for all 26 “letters.” The first correct answer wins a $50 gift certificate, generously donated by The ‘Port restaurant. (HINT: One of the images above comes from the National Hall building.)

Email your entries to dwoog@optonline.net. Deadline is noon on Wednesday, May 23. If no one gets all 26, the person with the most correct answers wins. The decision of the judges (Shelly and I) is final.

Get to work, “06880” readers. The answers are right there, under — and above — your noses.

Faith In Our River

Beit Chaverim Synagogue was in the middle of the High Holy Days. Saugatuck Congregational Church had its usual worship activities.

But the 2 congregations came together last Sunday, to clean up one of Westport’s most cherished non-denominational resources: the Saugatuck River.

The event grew out of a friendship between Rabbi Greg Wall and Reverend Alison Patton. As they discussed areas of common interest, they organized the joint service project.

Taking advantage of low tide, work crews hauled out (too) many bags of refuse, hazards to humans and wildlife, and stuff that should never have been there.

Like fishing poles. Balls of every shape and size. Countless glass, plastic and styrofoam bottles, cups and packages. A set of false teeth.

And an old TV set.

Taking part in Sunday's interfaith Saugatuck River cleanup. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

Sunday’s interfaith Saugatuck River cleanup was a family affair. From left: Mason, Michael, Jack, Melissa and Kate Banks. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

The Saugatuck force was organized by Staples High School senior Alex Martenson and his mom Stephanie. Among the Beit Chaverim workers were the  Chapman family, 2 parents and 4 daughters who are new to Westport but dove right in.

Rabbi Wall said, “Many participants reflected on how meaningful this type of interfaith collaboration was. We all look forward to more opportunities for all of the faith communities in town to work together. We must make sure our planet — and our Westport — are on the right track to provide for all future generations.”

Amen!

(Photo/Greg Wall)

(Photo/Greg Wall)

“Jazz Rabbi” Blows Horn For Ornette Coleman

Greg Wall faced a challenge.

The “jazz rabbi” — a saxophonist who doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim (or the other way around) — needed a place to blow his horn.

Plenty of local spots feature music. But jazz is often relegated to “background music” — not the high-level listening experience offered at the major New York venues he’s worked, like Joe’s Pub and the Village Vanguard.

Enter 323. The restaurant near Coffee An’ offers a nice, wood-finished listening space. Every Thursday night Wall curates weekly jazz events, with well-known musician and guest stars.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

Like the jazz professional he is, Wall improvises well. This Thursday there’s a tribute to Ornette Coleman, the legendary alto saxophonist/composer who died last month.

Sitting in will be Coleman’s longtime guitarist/collaborator Kenny Wessel.

“I’m a firm believer in meeting people where they are,” says Wall. “Whether it’s using my music to make a connection with people in a night club, or teaching Talmud classes on a sailboat” — his Friday morning onboard classes are a whole other story — “I try to remove any barriers that stand in the way of people and their spiritual development.”

That spiritual development — the jazz element, anyway — continues every Thursday night through August 27. Upcoming guests include guitar legend Bob Devos and the New American Quartet.

There is no cover charge to hear the jazz rabbi and friends blow their shofars horns.

(For more information, click on the Facebook page: Jazz at 323 Westport.)

“Lots” Of Action

There’s a lot going on on the lots on and near Ludlow Road.

Demolition permits have been requested for 57, 63, 69, 71 and 73 Post Road West — the dilapidated homes that are among the 1st views of downtown seen by drivers heading east on US 1.

Post Road West, Westport CT

Because the buildings are more than 50 years old, the Westport Historic District Commission will review the applications.

Given the state of the homes, it should be a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to deny an application by Beit Chaverim Synagogue to construct a 4,000-square foot building at 24 Ludlow Road — across the street and up the hill from its current location at 85 Post Road West.

The congregation could appeal in court, or come back with a different proposal.

Stay tuned. With the opening of Bartaco and several other restaurants on Wilton Road, and the changes in store up the hill, this often-overlooked part of Westport may be ready for an extreme makeover.