A community of Hasidic Jews in Beit Shemesh has turned to a distinctly modern strategy to build their new house of worship: crowdfunding.
So far, members of the Kosov-Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty have raised nearly $3 million through their online campaign, selling memorial stones to Jews around the world engraved with the names of loved ones. The stones are sold for $1,200 each, and the website says 2,430 have been sold.
According to community members spearheading the project in this city west of Jerusalem, memorial-stones sales will cover most of the building costs of $4.3 million (the website says there are 1,200 memorial stone places remaining). They said donors will also receive the personal blessing of the community’s head, Rabbi Naftali Reuven Kornreich.
The group turned to crowdfunding “so that every Jew can take part in the mitzvah of building a synagogue,” a PR representative for the community said.
The synagogue will replace the community’s current spiritual home – a trailer. Typically, some 150 community members attend prayers there three times a day, while on Shabbat it can draw an overflow crowd of about 300 people.
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The new structure will serve as both synagogue and also a community center for the underprivileged, the community said in a statement.
It will be a far cry from the trailer, with plans for a three-story building with room for a large kitchen, dining room, guest rooms and banquet hall.
The PR representative said that, for a nominal fee, the hall will host circumcisions and bar mitzvahs for families who are struggling financially.