Hip-hop hyperbole

Ohel Mo'ed feels like a relic in ultra-secular Tel Aviv.

tel aviv 88 (photo credit: )
tel aviv 88
(photo credit: )
In the notoriously secular metropolis of Tel Aviv, which has more bars, cafes and restaurants per square feet than any other Israeli city, it's no wonder that an 80-year-old religious center not far from Rothschild and Sheinkin feels like an archeological relic. Recently, however, the Ohel Mo'ed synagogue has been partially revived by Shlomi Bobail, who saw a unique opportunity to bring the synagogue to life as a Jewish forum for weddings, bar mitzvas, brits and the like. And even though it took a business idea to bring traffic back to the synagogue, it has made this Tel Aviv landmark a more accessible attraction. Bobail discovered the potential of the synagogue at a bar mitzva he attended there about 13 years ago. "I couldn't pray. I just looked at the shul and wondered how a place like this in Tel Aviv could be so neglected," said Bobail, who is an events manager at various halls in Israel. He held the bar mitzva of his son at the synagogue, and two years ago implemented his idea to make it a trendy place for celebrating Jewish milestones. The synagogue was built in 1923 on land purchased by two Yemenite Jews, who saw their Jewish future in the city of Tel Aviv. Rav Uziel, the first chief rabbi of Israel, charged them with building a synagogue that would be an honorable, majestic, and proud statement of Jewish tradition in the first Hebrew city. The synagogue has retained the character and atmosphere of a once- thriving Sephardi religious center. Symbols of the Holy Temple are engraved in different corners of the large hall, which is covered by an impressive dome about 60 feet high. The benches, ark, plaques and stained glass windows are all original. Bobail has made it a point to frame and hang Rav Uziel's original letters documenting the founding of the synagogue. Bobail has refurbished the room adjacent to the prayer hall, where guests hold dinners and receptions, and has introduced new elements, such as artistic lighting and d cor, to give the synagogue a more modern look. Illustrious people who have held their simhas there since the founding of the synagogue include Eli Cohen, Kobi Oz and Aki Avni & Sandi Bar. Tel Aviv old-timers, who probably remember the building in its heyday, still form a minyan every Shabbat, but the place is far from fulfilling an active role as a traditional shul. "There aren't enough people interested to revive it as a shul,"said Bobail, who is the gabbai by default. The synagogue is now one of the stops on any tour of Sderot Rothschild. Shadal St. 5; Tel: (03) 560-4886