About the Shtiebel
The South Philadelphia Shtiebel is a community-building project grounded in the traditions of the old neighborhood and fueled by the spirit of the new. Led by Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter, the shtiebel will open in the Fall of 2019.
We are deeply rooted to our heritage and to one another, and we are a spiritual home that empowers its community members to be active participants in Jewish life and Torah learning.
Jews of all backgrounds in South Philadelphia are looking for a space where they can enjoy Shabbat and holiday meals together, engage in uplifting and empowered learning and prayer opportunities, and create spaces to collectively mark, celebrate, and observe life cycle events.
The South Philadelphia Shtiebel hopes to be that home, and we are excited to join the area’s other synagogues and institutions in creating rich, local, and welcoming space for Jewish community-building. Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbanit Fruchter, the Shtiebel will be an inclusive and innovative orthodox space that is engaged in contemporary conversations about how halacha (Jewish law), mitzvot (Jewish practice), and spirituality intersect with the fabric of modern day life.
The founding of the South Philadelphia Shtiebel is made possible by seed funding from Start-Up Shul, a project helping to incubate inclusive and vibrant Modern Orthodox communities across the country; Hillel’s Office of Innovation Rabbinic Entrepreneurship Fellowship; Zelda R. Stern, New York, NY; and you!
We need your help to get this project off the ground! Donate now to become a partner in funding the Shtiebel and bringing this vision to life!
The Old and The New
South Philadelphia was once home to the city’s Eastern European Jewish immigrants. It had a population of 150,000 before World War II and supported more than 120 shuls and community organizations. The blocks between Third and Seventh Streets bustled with Jewish community life. Shtiebels, workshops, and corner groceries dotted the streets of rowhouses. All week long, people schmoozed curbside on Seventh, Fourth, and South Streets, and on Shabbat, the streets filled with the sounds of people of all ages chatting in a lively mixture of Yiddish and English.
In the 1950s, many Jews in South Philadelphia moved out to the Philadelphia suburbs, and Jewish communities grew in Lower Merion, the Northeast, Elkins Park, and South Jersey. But beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Philadelphia began to experience an urban revitalization at the city’s center, resulting in the re-emergence of Jewish communities in both Center City and adjacent neighborhoods.
Now, a multi-generational South Philadelphia Jewish community is re-emerging. Jewish families and individuals of all ages are revitalizing layers of South Philadelphia’s historic Jewish community and seeking new opportunities for Jewish life including learning, meals, and davening together.
With its energy in the neighborhood’s Jewish renewal, the Shtiebel will be a center of spiritual gravity for the cross-sections of Jews making their lives in South Philadelphia. It will be a warm and welcoming space for genuine interpersonal connections, Shabbat and yom tov meals, serious and accessible Torah study, and spirited and joyous prayer and singing, and an anchor for South Philadelphia’s burgeoning, vibrant shomer Shabbat community.
How We Got Our Name
The use of the word “shtiebel” in the South Philadelphia Shtiebel’s name, is a tribute to our historic Jewish roots. It’s also a tribute to the shul that helped inspire the creation of this community - the “gornshtiebel.” “Gornshtiebel,” or “little shul on the top floor,” was the shul that belonged to Chana Rochel Webermocher, the Maiden of Ludmir. She was born in the early nineteenth century in the shtetl of Ludmir, in Ukraine, to a family who provided her with an extensive education in Torah. She became well known as a scholar and holy woman. She was known as a “Rabbanit”.
Our hope is that the spirit of Chana Rochel Webermocher will carry us to create our own vibrant, open and accepting learned community.
About Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter
Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter is the founder and spiritual leader of the South Philadelphia Shtiebel, a new and inclusive Modern Orthodox community in South Philadelphia. Rabbanit Fruchter also holds the position of Halachic Advisor for Niddah and Women's Health at Beth Sholom Congregation. She has served as an Assistant Spiritual Leader at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac, MD, the largest Modern Orthodox Congregation in the Washington Metropolitan area. Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, Rabbanit Fruchter was ordained by Yeshivat Maharat in June of 2016 upon completion of the Maharat Semikha Program combining a mastery of the texts of Orthodox Jewish law with pastoral education. She graduated summa cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, and completed an M.P.A. in Non-Profit Administration and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.
What’s Near the Shtiebel?
Kohelet Yeshiva Day School in Lower Merion is 25 to 45 minutes (9 miles) away, and Politz Day School (Cherry Hill) is 20 to 40 minutes (13 miles).
Center City and South Philadelphia grocery stores are plentiful; kosher meat is purchased at grocery stores in Lower Merion and Cherry Hill, and Center City stores are growing their selections.
Mekor HaBracha and Chabad B’nai Abraham in Center City have daily morning minyanim as does Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania.
Women’s mikvahs are in Lower Merion and Cherry Hill; a Center City mikvah is in the planning stages.
On Philadelphia’s urban regeneration including a spotlight on a reborn anchor institution in South Philadelphia: Matt Katz, “Leaving New York to Find the American Dream in Philadelphia”, The New York Times, July 20, 2018.
On Center City’s Eruv and its planned expansion to South Philadelphia: Jay Elkin, “Making Carrying Shabbat-Friendly”, The Jewish Exponent, February 25, 2015.
Local civic associations and community organizations that encourage neighborhood growth include the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District, Friends of Dickinson Square Park, the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association.
South Philadelphia’s Pennsport neighborhood is a growing favorite as written about here by resident Jim Moylan.