A ‘Superhuman Mission’ at a Brooklyn Synagogue

(Photo courtesy of Sam Reinstein and Kol Israel via The Forward)

Two years ago, the board of Kol Israel hired Sam Reinstein as its rabbi, a young Prudential employee without a rabbinical background, in hopes of reviving a synagogue that has been “on the verge of shuttering since the 1990s.” To turn the Crown Heights synagogue around, Reinstein is looking to attract a younger demographic.

In a Forward profile on the 27-year-old rabbi, Britta Lokting writes that he has “been dealt the superhuman mission of transforming his ailing Modern Orthodox synagogue into a place young people consider cool.”

What is one way Reinstein has approached this mission? By hosting the first Jewish Comic Con in the country at Kol Israel back in November.

Over the course of the day, about 100 people visited the narrow sanctuary to thumb through comic books, turn over merchandise, talk with vendors and listen to panelists like Mort Gerberg, the New Yorker cartoonist. It was the most visitors the synagogue has welcomed in years.

“You want something that feels new,” Reinstein said. “Because people are inundated with the same thing. I don’t think a synagogue is only about prayer and learning.”

For more on Kol Israel – from its “somewhat depressing, and also vaguely defined, history” to what triggered the end of its “period of significance” – and why Reinstein considers the “Jewish hipster” movement an obstacle for the synagogue, go to The Forward.

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