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Start-Up Shul

Barbara Bensoussan, Los Angeles

It’s the dream of Orthodox homeowners everywhere: buy that big, beautiful, inexpensive home just past the avenue that divides your neighborhood from the outside. Most don’t muster the courage to see the dream to reality, but in Los Angeles, Rabbi Elchanan Shoff and his LINK community are trailblazers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You could call it too much of a good thing: As frum communities continue to grow, young couples are finding it harder and harder to locate affordable housing in the largest Jewish neighborhoods. That has led some to settle outside large cities, in growing, smaller towns likeCincinnati,Dallas, andDetroit.

The problem is most acute in New York, where housing prices lead the nation, but Los Angelesdoesn’t lag far behind. Enter Rabbi Elchanan Schoff, a voluble, ebullient yungerman at LINK (Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel). “You can’t touch a house for less than a million dollars in the Jewish neighborhoods ofLos Angeles,” he says. “People are really running out of options.”

We’re sitting in the upstairs office of LINK, a ten-year-old independent kollel involved in what Rosh Kollel Rabbi Asher Brander terms “second-stage outreach, transmitting Torah learning and living to people who have had an initial taste of Torah.” The LINK building isn’t large, but it’s a pretty happening kind of place: downstairs, two women — led by the serene and gracious Mrs. Shoff — are setting up for a Shabbos couples’ luncheon for the next day, and flyers at the entrance advertise all manner and level of classes and social events.

Shoff, now in his early 30s, grew up in nearby Venice, but returned to Los Angeles only six months ago after years of learning and working in Eretz Yisrael, where he received smichah from Rav Noach Weinberg of Aish HaTorah and served as a rebbi in Rav Shmuel Brazil’s Yeshivas Zeev HaTorah.

He’s excited about his new position as associate rosh kollel at LINK and hopes to plant roots. Many of his friends do, too. But they tell him, “I can’t move here, it’s too expensive.”

“That is the biggest single problem in LA,” he says. “What we need here, more than anything, is housing for young couples.” And LINK may have found just the solution.


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