Rabbi helped launch and maintain popular ‘young families’ shul and community

Four years ago, the basement of the Yeshiva of Central Queens experienced a quiet Shabbos for the first time in many years. Kehilas Ishei Yisrael had disbanded after Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, and many of its members followed him to the Young Israel of Queens Valley. A sizable number of young families seeking to maintain the minyan in that space adopted a new name. Kehilah Torah Temimah was then founded, and secured this site with Rabbi Elan Segelman as its rav.

“He helped launch KTT and made it successful,” said Joshua Goldsmith, who served as its first president. “I picked him for his amazing grasp of halachah and the ability to have others gravitate to him, especially the young marrieds.”

This past Shabbos, Rabbi Segelman and his wife Elisheva were honored for their role in developing KTT as a community and their final week in Queens. The couple and their five children will be moving to Los Angeles, where he was selected to serve at the Young Israel of Hancock Park. “The idea is to raise the bar: more members, more programs, and more personal connections,” said Rabbi Segelman. “For the past 40 years, it was under Rabbi Yaakov Krause. He has been extremely warm and supportive.”

The rebbetzin will serve as a mashgichah and program director at the Yavneh Hebrew Academy, a short walk from their new shul. He will remain in his role as Rabbinic Advisor for Puah, a nonprofit addressing infertility in the Jewish community, developing its West Coast operations.

As a result of his position at Puah, Rabbi Segelman introduced the members of KTT to some of the latest developments in halachah concerning the creation of life. “Fertility is an important topic for a young crowd. He knows halachah and science, and likewise the topic of Nidah,” said Ari Korn, the president of KTT. Often, examples of the latest opinions in this topic came up at the seudah sh’lishis, where the men gathered around the table with Rabbi Segelman in a free-flowing discussion, where the question was raised, participants suggested their opinions, and then Rabbi Segelman would deliver the p’sak received from the leading halachic authorities.

“He is a friend, confidante, and a rav. It feels like talking to a mentor. He brings himself down to earth and puts you at ease,” said Marc Goldhammer, a former vice president at KTT. “He could have been a doctor.”

The pandemic greatly limited the operations of KTT as it did in all Jewish institutions. The children’s groups, daily minyanim, and kiddush were suspended. During the month-long return to normalcy, every opportunity to hear Rabbi Segelman speak was treasured by the members. “He has gone above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome,” said Shmuly Stern, a gabbai at KTT.

“Pesach during COVID was probably the most intense experience,” Rabbi Segelman said, “to see that everyone’s well-being is taken care of, financially, spiritually, and logistically.” In a typical year, most of the young couples at KTT stay with their parents, and others observe the chag at a hotel. Instead of a handful of phone calls about kashering dishes, Rabbi Segelman received 150 calls with a “quick Pesach kashrus question.” He then spent the time to call everyone in the shul’s directory.

“I made the effort to call every member. There were people in need. Couples made donations to couples in need. Baruch Hashem, the majority of the members were not in need, so the money was allocated to appropriate places. It was beautiful to see the members dedicated to each other.”

KTT is conducting the search for its next rav, having invited two candidates so far in the past two weeks to lead the davening and deliver the drashah. The members submit their feedback to the search committee, which then presents the 150 member-families to vote on their next rabbi.

 By Sergey Kadinsky