On the Shtibl

June 29, 2007

People who have little or no income often have to cut back on cultural activities. It’s a sad fact of life that those things which enrich the mind are commodities that can usually only be acquired with money: books, plays, concerts, CDs and digital music, as well as trips abroad cost money. A book in Israel costs 70 NIS, which is roughly four hours of minimum wage work. A movie costs 35 NIS excluding popcorn.

That’s why the shtibl is an amazing institution. All you need is a tiny room, and the people who frequent it each give as much as they can, with or without government and city aid, and it fills with benches and bookshelves. If you have a spare 15 minutes you can drop in there and sit down to enrich yourself. Once in a while there will be a speaker – sometimes every day. There is someone who makes it his business to keep tea in a backroom for whoever wants to come. And its all free.

I’m not going to gloss over the problems of the shtibl – the gender inequality, the haredi bent of the literature and speakers – but just think what an egalitarian-progressive shtibl could be like!

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One Response to “On the Shtibl”

  1. DK said

    The few Left-wing Modern Orthodox shuls left are pretty awesome also. There aren’t many of them, but they are quite different than the RWMO synagogues, and though not egalitarian, appreciate their women members greatly and publicly.

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