Service at Kenesseth Israel

Photo of Kenesseth Israel

Front of Kenesseth Israel. 

Kenesseth Israel, the original Orthodox synagogue from which Darchei Noam and Bais Yisroel broke off, doesn’t look like much from the outside: a one-story brick building across the street from the Torah Academy, with a security guard, a sign that says “Parking space reserved for Rabbi,” and a sign on the door marking it as a chametz-free zone. On the inside, though, it feels like an entirely different space. It’s simple, but sacred, with walls converging inwards, brown pews, and a podium in the center of the men’s section where the Rabbi and minyan read the Torah.

Compared to the men’s section, the women’s section, located above the men, was close to empty. Seven or eight women and girls spread out across the pews, all dressed in clean knee length skirts and cardigans, wearing either wigs, hats, or bows. As we entered, the women were standing up, prayer book in hands, silently following along to the men’s chants just visible below. They turned back, noticing our entrance, but quickly went back to following the service.  It was an especially long service, a combination of Sabbath and the last day of Passover, and one had to wonder if more women came today than usual. When it was time to sit down, we realized that from the sitting position, the men’s section was almost completely barred from our view. We strained our heads, but could only make out the top of their heads and the white and blue of the talleisim. The other women congregants didn’t seem to mind. Some read along to the chants, moving their mouths without making any noise. Others seemed to look off into the distance or down into their laps. One woman still stood, reciting the prayers. The woman sitting next to us had decided to take off her shoes, showing off thick gray wool socks, and made herself comfortable. 

From a male student who also attended the service, we learned that the men’s section was only half full, with maybe 20 to 30 people. Most wore white shirts and black pants, and had some form of a beard. When new men walked in through out the service, they greeted each other like friends, and the older men helped the few boys follow along with the text.

Though we unfortunately didn’t get the chance to interview a congregant, one woman at Darchei Noam mentioned that she sometimes attended Kenesseth Israel services with her sister. She noted their hospitality, and said that without fail, someone always invites her to Shabbat lunch. This correlates with the mission statement on their website, which says that they “welcome Jews of all observance levels.” 1

 

  1. "Kenesseth Israel Congregation | A Torah Observant Congregation in Suburban Minneapolis, Providing a Welcoming Environment for Jews of All Observance Levels." Kenesseth Israel Congregation. Accessed May 29, 2016. http://kenessethisrael.org/..