Special Melava Malka at Congregation Etz Chaim of Hancock Park

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By Rabbi Arye D. Gordon.

On Motzaei Shabbos February 1, 2014, Congregation Etz Chaim held its Annual Melava Malka. Presiding over the evening events was President Alan Stern.

This year’s Melava Malka held special significance for Rabbi Boruch Rubin, the Mara d’Asra, and the shul members. It is almost almost 18 years that the Shul has engaged in a battle of sorts to acquire a use permit to operate a synagogue at 303 Highland Ave. During that time the city officials had twice denied the congregation’s permit request.

Not giving up, Rabbi Rubin and the shul’s members never lost faith and continued to battle for the right to have a shul on the corner of Highland and Third. And finally they were successful.

It had been a long and arduous campaign and recently reelected (March 2013) Councilman Paul Koretz, who is known to champion “a community-friendly, community-engaged style of governance” played a significant role in settling the matter at hand. Community Activist Stanley Treitel put the matter in perspective.

“We’re very happy that Councilman Paul Koretz saw that it was time to move on and put this matter to rest, and with the Councilman’s help we have succeeded. The community now can get back to what it should be doing,” he added.

A Presentation was then made by Mr. Stanley Treitel to Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the city’s historic Fifth District. Councilman Koretz has been a strong voice for the Jewish Community and for the Shul. The Shul took this opportunity to express its thanks to the Councilman for his continual assistance and dedication to the District that he represents. In making the presentation of a magnificent work of art, Mr. Treitel also thanked the many shul members and friends who assisted the Shul. Some of those mentioned were Michael Rosenberg, Rabbi Yehuda Feigen, Alan Stern and of course Rabbi Boruch Rubin.

Many in the Community are aware that the shul is now known as Cong Etz Chaim-Bais Medrash Moshe Yitzchok. The addition of the name “Bais Medrash Moshe Yitzchok”, is l’zecher nishmas Habachur Moshe Yitzchok Rubin z”l, the son of the Mara d”asra and the Rebbetzin, whose passing occurred almost 7 years ago. Moshe Yitzchok, born with Down syndrome, was a special soul whose life was a testament to the amazing abilities of a child with special needs, who showed us that one can live an active and productive life, no matter the difficulties.

A highlight of the evening was a 55 minute video/movie of the life of Moshe Yitzchok. It was due to Rebbetzin Rubin’s desire to create a lasting testament that this project came to fruition with the magnificent guidance and direction of Richard and Karen Lesser of Vision Quest Productions.

Rabbi Baruch Rubin spoke briefly of his son, before the showing of the video. He spoke emotionally of this special child that was such a positive influence on the Los Angeles Community by his behavior and fortitude, especially in battling the illness that finally took his life.

Rabbi Rubin went on to say, “Moshe loved the Yeshiva Toras Emes where he was a student. He loved the Rabbeim, his fellow talmidim and the warm atmosphere of the yeshiva.”

The congregants sat transfixed during the video. The atmosphere was heavy with emotion as these baale batim re-lived a period when they also played a significant part in the life of Moshe Yitzchok Rubin z”l. More than just a video of dedicated parents doing everything for their child, here was a community, a shul of baale batim , their wives and children, that grasped this child, held him near as one of their own, and their lives where changed forever by the experience.

In the video Rabbi Rubin tells us, “The Shabbos before his passing, the doctors came and told us that the battle was ending, and that he probably had only a few hours left. It was the beginning of the month of Teves. On the 6th of Teves was the Yahrtzeit of the holy Shinover Rov.” (Rav Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam, the Shinover Rav (1815-1899) was the eldest son of Rav Chaim of Sanz. He was known as the Divrei Yechezkel.)

“We were very down. I told my Rebbetzin, if Moshe has to go, then the Shinover will come for him and he will not go before then.”

And so it was. The Holy Shinover Rov came for him on Vav Teves.

“We merited”, concluded Rabbi Rubin, “to be his parents and to have such a son, And we know he will be a perfect representative for us and all of Klal Yisroel in the Heavenly Court.”

Photo credit: Arye D Gordon