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Bais Abraham is situated in the Delmar Loop area of Saint Louis, a 1920′s era, revitalized shopping and entertainment district, surrounded by the elegant yet affordable early 20th century neighborhoods of eastern University City such as ParkviewAmes PlaceUniversity HeightsUniversity Hills, and University Park. The Bais Abraham community considers itself fortunate to be part of the re-energizing of this historic neighborhood.  

Bais Abraham is nationally known as one of the most unique Orthodox-affiliated communities in the country. It is a community in which Yeshiva-educated Orthodox Jews pray side by side with families just beginning to explore tradition. Founded in 1894 and building on its rich history, Bais Abraham is a growing community in the midst of a renaissance.  It is home to families with young children as well as elderly Holocaust survivors and a growing number of observant college students, graduate students, and faculty from our distinguished neighbor, Washington University, one of the top ranked universities in the country.

Bais Abraham is a community that takes davening (prayer) and Torah study seriously, with Torah classes and Chavrutah (study in pairs) learning almost every night of the week. It is a non-judgmental community in which we realize that everyone is at a different place in the development of their relationship with G-d. Deep Jewish spirituality is very important to us, and we take time periodically for guided Jewish meditation and learning about prayer and kavanah (intention).

Bais Abraham is a community that is known for its embracing attitude toward all Jews and its social responsibility to all G-d’s children. It is a community that sees itself as part of the larger world that G-d has created and realizes that we have a responsibility to that world and not just to our own community. Bais Abraham is a large family and we consider other social and religious communities, Jewish and non-Jewish, our cousins and feel responsibility to reach out, lend a hand, and learn from them. Bais Abraham encourages community service in the Jewish and general communities and interdenominational as well as interfaith dialogue and understanding.

One of our primary mandates as Jews is to connect with the Infinite. In order to undertake such a daunting task, we believe, as Orthodox Jews, that G-d has given the Jewish people the Torah and mitzvot (commandments) as a guide in connecting with G-d. We must utilize all tools acceptable within the bounds of halacha (Jewish law) in order to traverse the infinite distance between us and G-d, and to uncover the holy in a seemingly mundane world. To this end we encourage the women in our community to utilize mitzvot that they feel inclined to perform in pursuit of holiness and a deeper relationship with G-d. All our classes are open to both men and women and we are proud to house the St. Louis Women’s Tefillah Group which conducts monthly Shabbat services led by women for women. Women and men alike are encouraged to take leadership roles within our community and to see themselves as partners in nurturing the community’s future, its children.

Ours is a community in which children are encouraged to feel at home. Though adults speaking about mundane matters during prayer may be gently silenced, our children are given much free reign, encouraging them to feel at home in the sweetness of our Shul, our place of communal prayer.

Though Bais Abraham is truly its own community both ideologically and geographically, we are part of the greater Orthodox and general St. Louis Jewish communities and are located in the University City Eruv. Our rabbi, Hyim Shafner, sits on the rabbinical council of the Orthodox community’s Vaad Hoeir-The United Orthodox Jewish Community, as well as on the interdenominational Saint Louis Rabbinical Association. Our members see the Epstein Hebrew Academy and the Block Yeshiva High School as primary institutions of religious and secular education. Those members of our community who choose to send their children to secular private or public schools are encouraged to find tutors for their children in Torah study and Hebrew language.

The community’s spiritual leader, halachic authority and pastoral counselor is Rabbi Hyim Shafner. Rabbi Shafner hails originally from New London, Connecticut where his family has lived for five generations. He attended a Jewish day school there and the yeshiva high schools of Providence and Scranton, and studied advanced Talmud at the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens, New York and at the New England Rabbinical College, in Providence, Rhode Island. He received a BA in Philosophy, an MSW in Social Work, an MA in Jewish Philosophy and Semicha (Rabbinical Ordination) from Yeshiva University in New York City.

Rabbi Shafner served as Rabbi of India for a year in 1995-1996, and as Rabbi of the Saint Louis Hillel at Washington University for eight years. Since he came to Saint Louis in 1997 with his wife Sara Winkelman, Rabbi Shafner and his family have been part of the Bais Abraham community and lived in the eastern University City “Loop” neighborhood of University Heights. Rabbi Shafner and Sara have three children. In 2004 Rabbi Shafner became the Rabbi of Bais Abraham following in the footsteps of Rabbi Abraham Magence, zt’l who was the community’s rabbi for over 30 years. Rabbi Magence hailed from an illustrious line of eastern European rabbis and studied in the famed Grodno yeshiva in Vilna with Rabbi Shimon Shkopp before the war. Rabbi Magence was known far and wide in St. Louis and beyond for his warmth and unquestioning acceptance of all Jews regardless of their background or affiliation.

Rabbi Shafner emphasizes the need to draw on all parts of Judaism and general knowledge in coming to greater understandings of Judaism and Godliness. Chassidut, Talmud study, Jewish law and Chumash (Bible), as well as scientific knowledge, critical studies, psychology and philosophy are all seen as roads to deeper Torah knowledge and comprehension of the Divine.

Bais Abraham is a community with open arms. If you are interested in visiting for a Shabbat we would love to host you and give you a taste of our unique community.

Sat, October 21 2017 1 Cheshvan 5778