Feb 10, 2013
After Davening, A Pricey Kiddush
The Wall Street Journal reports: After davening at The Shul of Bal Harbour, a kiddush can fare anywhere from $1,800 to $3,600.
Lucette Lagnado reports in the Wall Street Journal:
Come Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the atmosphere at Rabbi Sholom Lipskar's synagogue near Bal Harbour, Fla., turns festive. The eating and drinking start early.
The synagogue, called The Shul, attracts anywhere from 500 to 800 people each week. Most attend services in the main sanctuary that start around 9 a.m. But some early birds show up for prayers that begin at 7:15 a.m. and conclude by 9:15. Then it is party time for the largely male crowd.
This elegant seaside place of worship is on the cutting edge of the Kiddush—a lavish repast that has helped transform the staid postservice fellowship hour to the kind of boozy, over-the-top spread synonymous with weddings.
Such affairs have become so de rigueur to luring congregants that Rabbi Lipskar has solicited donors for a special "Kiddush bank" to fund the pricey libations and epicurean fare that can cost anywhere from $1,800 to $3,600 per week.
"It is perfect," says Rabbi Lipskar, whose synagogue is part of the Hasidic Lubavitch movement. "God didn't make the delicious stuff only for non-Jews." Those who want a shot of hard liquor—they don't say "let's have a drink," but "let's have a L'chaim," he says, referring to the traditional Jewish toast "to life."
"This is not a drinking fest," he adds. "The drinks are in small cups."
In the face of dwindling attendance at religious services, many rabbis have become similarly creative. At the Bal Harbour shul and other synagogues, the sumptuous food, fine wines and liquors are a way to help draw congregants.
... Last year in Bal Harbour, one donor made an unusual contribution. Each Friday afternoon, on the eve of the Sabbath, his driver appeared carrying a leather suitcase with a giant 1.75 liter bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label tucked inside. At the Saturday Kiddush, a special volunteer handed out shot glasses of the $500 scotch. "It went pretty fast," Rabbi Lipskar says.
Some of the faithful cast a cold eye on such excess. "It is very upsetting. It is not in keeping with Jewish standards of modesty," says Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union.
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