In 1990, four businessmen bought a mountain in the center of Israel, and on it started building the future city for the new generation – Kiryat Sefer (eventually to be called Modiin Illit). Rapidly, many young families moved in. As the new community grew, a small group of motivated young men undertook to form a true Ashkenaz kehillah, to revive the German kehillos of the past wiped out in the Holocaust.
The Shul started with a Friday evening minyan, and bit by bit grew to a full Shabbos service. Kehillas Ashkenaz, established upon the customs of our forebears in Ashkenaz, held its first minyan in 1998. The venue was a room at a local Talmud Torah. Despite the tight quarters, the members enjoyed the warm, congenial atmosphere offered in the makeshift shul. But the kehillah’s thriving success meant that larger quarters had to be found. Thus, less than a year later, the shul made its first move. But even those larger quarters weren’t large enough for those attracted to the kehillah’s unique spirit. In 2002, the cornerstone was laid for our permanent home, in a central location of the town, at 2 Chatam Sofer Street. A small wing of this building was officially inaugurated in 2004. Word of the congregation’s unique davening and feeling of community spread like wild fire. As a result, the need to construct the main sanctuary became paramount. In [what year?], the main synagogue sanctuary was officially dedicated.
The Tefillah Prayer, the service of the heart, serves as a replacement for korbanos. Just as each day’s service in the Beis HaMikdash expressed the essence and atmosphere of that particular day, so do our prayers voice the essence of the various days throughout the year. Three tefillos daily are held in our shul. In the tradition of bnei Ashkenaz, the shaliach tzibbur leads the congregation throughout the tefillah, from beginning to end, always donning a tallis out of respect for the tzibbur. The tefillah itself is conducted unhurriedly and pleasantly. Many people choose to attend our beis knesses specifically for just this reason. The Shabbos prayers open with Kabbalas Shabbos, the verses recited alternately by the chazzan and the congregation, the melody conveying their holiness. L’cha Dodi is sung to a tune appropriate to the time of year. The Torah is taken out of the Holy Ark in glory and splendor, the melodies manifesting honor of the Torah. When the time comes for Shabbos to depart, it is escorted out with L’David Baruch, intoned to a very ancient tune.
The Yamim Nora’im atmosphere sets in early with their awe-inspiring melodies being used from Shabbos Mevarchin Elul onwards. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, each congregant wears a white headdress; married men wear a white kittel. These beautiful traditions, centuries old, are still alive and relevant in our times; may they continue for many years to come. The holiday of Sukkos is “zeman simchaseinu”, a time when hearts are filled with joy. We give expression to this joy with beautiful tefillos. The fervent communal chanting of Hoshanos in unison while encircling the bimah is a true inspiration. Our congregants meet to recite Tikkun Leil Hoshanah Rabbah jointly in the sukkah of the rosh hakahal in an uplifting atmosphere. The mood of Chanukah is captured each evening at the melodious ceremony of kindling the candles by the chazzan and the subsequent chanting of Maoz Tzur in unison. At a special celebration during Chanukah, the community gathers around beautifully set tables together with the Rav and guest rabbanim, to “give praise and thanks” with song and divrei Torah. On Shavuos, the beis knesses is decorated with trees and flowers to commemorate the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai. The bimah is magnificently adorned with plants so that it looks like a chuppah. On Shavuos eve, the members of the congregation gather and conduct Tikkun Leil Shavuos under the leadership of the Rav, shlita.
The Rav’s scholarship and personality, reflected in his dynamic leadership, make a deep impact on the community and its members. We benefit from the numerous shiurim and addresses given by our Rav, Rav Daniel Yehoshua Goldschmidt, shlita. In addition, the Rav’s door is open to all who seek his help; whether it be for those in need of advice or encouragement, or for those with questions in halachah and hashkafah, the Rav always makes himself available, despite his extremely busy schedule. Being himself an oleh from Zurich, Switzerland, the Rav understands the needs and challenges faced by our olim. Many of the shul’s members are olim, who have made Eretz Yisrael their home. Besides the feeling of belonging to a kehillah, the shul’s adherence to the Minhagim of Ashkenaz has served as a magnet to attract new members, especially those with Ashkenaz roots but also from other backgrounds who are drawn to the kehilla’s honoring of synagogue decorum and upholding of minhagim.
Our building presently houses an active beis medresh and welcoming shul. The aron kodesh and pews add to the décor and feeling of respect of our worshippers. The Ezras Nashim has been renovated to enable the numerous women to pray in a aesthetically pleasing and comfortable manner. However, dedication opportunities are still available to help us complete the building of the synagogue’s main entrance and staircase.
The community has many shiurim, activities for young and old, and much more on the plans, many more ideas awaiting the opportunity to be implemented.