Last Week in San Antonio

Last week my daughter and I were fortunate enough to spend Shabbos in the Orthodox community of San Antonio, Texas. The community has been under the remarkable leadership of Rabbi Aryeh and Judy Scheinberg for the last 40 years.

Rabbi Scheinberg, whose father was a prominent rabbi in Brighton Beach, explained to me how he ended up in Texas. “Someone said ‘Go West Young Man,'” he said. “I figured when we had kids we’d go back east.”

It soon became apparent, however, that San Antonio needed Rabbi and Mrs. Scheinberg. The Orthodox shul Rodfei Sholom only had 70 elderly members, but as soon as Rabbi Scheinberg arrived, the community began to grow. Since San Antonio is one of the largest military towns in the US, Rabbi Scheinberg offered to run activities on Shabbos morning for Jewish children whose parents were stationed on the army base. Suddenly, the once-quiet shul was filled with bustling children of all ages.

In 1977, when Rabbi Scheinberg’s father passed away, the Brighton Beach congregation asked him to take over; he declined because of his calling in San Antonio. Rabbi Scheinberg also developed a friendship with Pastor John Hagee, a stalwart defender of Israel. Rabbi Scheinberg was involved in the creation of Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel group in the United States with more than 1.4 million members. The political impact of this group was so strong that Rabbi Scheinberg became used to having bar mitzvah lessons interrupted by urgent phone calls from US Cabinet members.

Being a smaller Jewish community, Rabbi Schineberg said the tradition of Southern hospitality and kiruv naturally complement each other; the community now numbers close to 200 Orthodox families.

As the local Jewish community day school began to drift away from religious Judaism, Rabbi Scheinberg and his community decided it was time to build their own school. They launched the Torah Academy of San Antonio in August, a fitting crown to Rabbi Scheinberg’s achievements over the last 40 years. This warm and welcoming community is ready to grow and to become a central part of American religious Jewish life.