On a typical weekday, Rabbi Jonathan Klein can often be found marching alongside ministers, monsignors and janitors. Irv Hershenbaum could be pressuring multimillion-dollar almond growers to provide their workers with shade to protect them from the blazing California sun. And “Rabbi Dr.” Aryeh Cohen might well be phoning his Talmud students to let them know he’ll be late because he’s been arrested for civil disobedience. Again.
But on a typical Saturday, you can find all three men in a tiny, dusty, 110-year-old rented Yiddish cultural center next to a Petco, dancing with the Torah to Shlomo Carlebach melodies. They are all active members of the Shtibl Minyan, a small, lay-led independent community that describes itself as “Hasidic Egalitarian” and meets at a Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring cultural center in Los Angeles’s heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood (full disclosure: I am a member as well). In the tradition of The Workmen’s Circle and the aid it provided to Yiddish-speaking newcomers to America, these three members are carrying on a modern version of that mission.
Klein, Hershenbaum and and Cohen are all Los Angeles-based activists, deeply involved in today’s high-intensity struggle to protect immigrants from the stepped-up ICE raids, roundups and deportations of the Trump administration.