We just returned from the bris of our grandson sheyichyeh, named after my father zatzal, Harav Aharon Tzvi. We decided to drive from Chicago to Lakewood because we needed a break, and we enjoy driving- it's a fourteen hour drive plus stops, but we have interesting discussions about life, hashkafa, and many other things. Also, if you keep your eyes open, there's always something interesting to see. This time, it was a magnificent bald eagle alighting in a solitary tree on a farm along I-76 in Ohio. Of course, you occasionally get the rural couple that see a yarmulkeh and timidly approach, saying they've never met a Jew before, and can they ask you a few questions.
I'm saying kaddish for my mother hk'm, and that meant that we had to arrange our trip around minyanim. We had very pleasant experiences meeting people in the shuls along the way. Minyanmaps and GoDaven were indispensable. Going Eastward, we davened Mincha/Maariv in Cleveland's Khal Yereim, Rav Blum's shul, at 1771 S. Taylor Rd, and thence at our destination, the Yeshiva of Staten Island. Returning home, going Westward, after the bris in Lakewood at the Chevra Lomdei Torah (Yook's) shul on Fifth, we got Mincha/Maariv in Harrisburg, at Rabbi Male's Kesher Israel, 2500 N 3rd St, and Shachris in Toledo at Rabbi Rubin's Etz Chayim, at 3853 Woodley Road. All the shuls were kind enough to give me the amud, which is especially nice because they usually have hanhagos that I do not know. (I declined Khal Yereim, because it's nusach Sefard, and from what I can tell, nusach Sefard is not a nusach, it's the absence of a nusach, and it would be too distracting to try to guess what they said and what they didn't.)
Small town minyanim have a special flavor. You often meet memorable people, such as this fine man, a perfervid NRA supporter, pictured next to my Rebbitzen. This is a man you do not want to cross. You don't want to cross my Rebbitzen either, but at least she won't come after you with a bazooka.
It seems to us that in these towns, where the community is small and sometimes treading water, it is the energetic and charismatic Rabbi that determines whether the community is vital or moribund. Rabbis Rubin's and Males' communities are lucky to have them.
I plan to post the dvar Torah I said at the Bris separately.