Work and pray in Israel high-tech

dina 1 (3)When I started working at my current IT company in 2000, we (the religious employees) would have an makeshift mincha prayer in the lobby of the company gym each day at 1:30pm, and we’d get a minyan of about 15-30 men. It wasn’t the idea place to pray, but it wasn’t possible to get a permanent time reservation for a conference room, and none were big enough in any case. We used a shoebox to hold the small paperback prayer books, a tzdedaka box and some kipas for the occasional non-religious guys. Someone later donated about twenty Sephardi mincha/maariv siddurs, which we had to put away after each session. The nusach style of prayer depends entirely on the hazan and tolerance is high enough to accept any flavour such as Edot Mizrach, Chabad, Sefarad and Ashkenaz as well even though that is a minority.dina 2

After a few years, we decided to try our luck with HR (human resources) and ask for the company to set aside a room or two for a dedicated synagogue. While we were officially ignored, off the record we were told that if we were given a synagogue, then other people might demand their own place of worship. We had to accept that answer, but nonetheless, all this time, we did appreciate the access to the area during off-hours the gym.

On fast days, we could not bring a sefer Torah, so we had to close down and recommend people go into the nearby cities for alternatives.dina 3 (2)

As we gradually grew in size, we moved into the actual training room with the gym equipment but later, the gym was closed and turned into more office space, and we had to move to a basement hallway in another building . Our new location was able to fit more people, and a combination of growing number of religious guys as well as a wish to offer an additional minyan, gave us the encouragement to open a new ‘second-chance’ mincha at 4pm. Someone donated a shelf and we were able to give a more proper display for the prayer books.dina 4

We never gave up on looking for some place else because this location had disadvantages of having the people come through (some would be considerate and wait, others could not [be expected to] wait 10-15 minutes), and we were continuing to grow, with overflow into side hallways as the company grew and adjacent companies began to populate the building expansion and their employees joined as well. Around 2011, we decided to go over the heads of the HR department and
approach our company maintenance / operations department for a better location. This time we were happily surprised beyond our highest expectations. The company was still not going to allocate any office space but they decided to relay our request to the building complex owners who happily accepted the idea with no hesitation.dina 6

Over the next few months, adjacent to a busy intersection, yet tucked discretely into a quiet side of a typical glass covered IT office building, a contractor closed off a section of the parking lot and turned it into a fully furnished synagogue that can seat over 50 as well as a women’s section (who also come), with aron kodesh (including a cage to lock in a sefer Torah), and a nicely stocked library with more siddurim and seforim – all donated by the building owners with no strings attached except the name of a family matriarch for this small chapel now called Ohel Dina. On fast days, a Torah is now brought by one of the workers and we can have a regular prayer with reading, and the attendance swells to more than double the usual (including standing room). During the wintertime when the sun sets early, we also organize a Maariv prayer. When there is a mourner, he does not need to search for a nearby synagogue, and there are never any struggles to be the hazan either. The synagogue is open to all people who work in the area’s office buildings and visitors. Having this synagogue at work is really convenient and another awesome reason to live in Israel.

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