The fact that I am writing on this subject should certainly not be interpreted by the reader to mean that I have expert knowledge in this field. I am writing about the poroches at Congregation Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights not only because I have memories about them from my youth when I lived there, but also, I have a personal interest in the subject, but more about that later.
It seems to me from the limited number of shuls that I have been in that most congregations have two basic poroches that they use throughout the year. One for everyday use and a white one for the Y\omim Noraim. I am sure many of the larger shuls have others that are hung for special days throughout the year.
What differentiates KAJ from the average shul is that there are different poroches for every special day in the year. Not only for the Yomim Noraim, not only for the shalosh regalim, but Chanukah, Purim, Rosh Chodesh all have their own specific poroches that are hung on those specific days. Each occasion is of a different color and each poroches has its full set of matching covers for the omud, shulchan, pulpit, kiddush table, choir stand and lecterns for the rabbonim.
Several of the poroches used in the Schützenstrasse shul (build under the leadership of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch), were still able to be used in the new Friedberger Anlage shul once it was built in 1907, although narrower than the dimensions of the new aron, due to a set of columns, specifically designed for the purpose, that fit into the decor and were placed on either side of the Aron. Naturally, all the beautiful poroches, together with all the contents of the shul were lost on Kristallnacht.
In New York, too, the poroches used in the original shul building at 90 Bennett Avenue, though much shorter than required in the current shul across the street, were still used for quite some time by lengthening them with matching material. A new white poroches, used until very recently on the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, was donated by the Sisterhood at the inauguration of the new shul in 1952. Currently there are three white poroches that were donated at later dates. One used only on Rosh Hashanah (not very visible in picture #1), a second only for use on the Aseres Yemei Teshuva (picture #2), and a third donated by my wife and myself in memory of the fallen soldiers of the Yom Kippur War, and hung, appropriately, only on Yom Kippur (picture #3).
Some of the oldest poroches include the tan Rosh Chodesh/Chol Hamoed poroches (picture #4), and the brown Shabbos poroches with Menoros (picture #5).
Although originally there was one poroches for Chanukah, Purim, Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed, separate poroches were later donated for Chanukah and Purim (pictures #6 and #7), and the original poroches is now used for just Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed.
(To be continued next week)
By Norbert Strauss
Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and Englewood Hospital volunteer. He frequently speaks to groups to relay his family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1941.