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We are the South Philadelphia Shtiebel.

On the very busy thoroughfare of East Passyunk Avenue in South Philly, there was once a little scooter shop. But recently, when the scooter shop closed its doors, this little storefront became The South Philadelphia Shtiebel. The shtiebel, with its large and inviting windows, has quickly become a destination for passersby who pop in to say hello, learn more about Jewish practice, and attend a community gathering or prayer service.
The Shtiebel is a shul but it’s not just any shul. It is only in its first few months, and it is already also a community center, buzzing with spirited Jewish learning, kids playing, new friendships forming, and lively prayer services. It’s a radically accessible space, where both lifetime shul-goers and people who haven’t set foot in a synagogue in twenty years feel comfortable. And it’s a genuinely unique space, a space rooted in halacha, or Jewish law, and also a home for emergent ideas. 
The shtiebel is also unique because of its leadership. Guiding the shtiebel in a full-time clergy role is Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter, making the South Philadelphia Shtiebel one of the first Orthodox spiritual communities in the country to be led by a woman. Rabbanit Fruchter brings training and inspiration from Yeshivat Maharat, where she received semikha in 2016, and the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. Her leadership - notably praised in the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer - is innovative, intuitive, people-centered, and fueled by the desire to create a world where more people have opportunities to lead, engage, and thrive in Jewish spiritual communities. 
The South Philadelphia Shtiebel is bridging the old with the new. The neighborhood where the shtiebel stands was once home to a historic and bustling Jewish community. South Philadelphia was once home to the city’s Eastern European Jewish immigrants. It had a population of 150,000 before World War II and supported more than 120 shuls and community organizations. The blocks between Third and Seventh Streets bustled with Jewish community life. Shtiebels, workshops, and corner groceries dotted the streets of rowhouses. All week long, people schmoozed curbside on Seventh, Fourth, and South Streets, and on Shabbat, the streets filled with the sounds of people of all ages chatting in a lively mixture of Yiddish and English. 
After many decades of suburbanization, a multi-generational South Philadelphia Jewish community is re-emerging. Jewish families and individuals of all ages are revitalizing layers of South Philadelphia’s historic Jewish community and seeking new opportunities for Jewish life including learning, meals, and davening together.  
With its energy in the neighborhood’s Jewish renewal, the Shtiebel will be a center of spiritual gravity for the cross-sections of Jews making their lives in South Philadelphia. It will be a warm and welcoming space for genuine interpersonal connections, Shabbat and yom tov meals, serious and accessible Torah study, and spirited and joyous prayer and singing, and an anchor for South Philadelphia’s burgeoning, vibrant shomer Shabbat community.
The use of the word “shtiebel” in the South Philadelphia Shtiebel’s name, is a tribute to our historic Jewish roots. It’s also a tribute to the shul that helped inspire the creation of this community - the “gornshtiebel.” “Gornshtiebel,” or “little shul on the top floor,” was the shul that belonged to Chana Rochel Webermocher, the Maiden of Ludmir. She was born in the early nineteenth century in the shtetl of Ludmir, in Ukraine, to a family who provided her with an extensive education in Torah. She became well known as a scholar and holy woman. She was known as a “Rabbanit”.
We are the South Philadelphia Shtiebel. 
It’s exciting to think that every time we gather, the spirit of our Jewish past is animating our community building, our singing, and our study of sacred texts. It’s exciting to think that, in a space with so many layers of history, we are making history by creating a unique and accessible spiritual space grounded in halacha.
Sun, December 15 2019 17 Kislev 5780