The Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, boasts a thriving and diverse orthodox Jewish community. With Modern Orthodox, yeshivish, and Chabad congregations, there is a plethora of different flavors for Jews to choose from when looking for a place for tefillah (prayer) and socializing.
One lesser-known option, recently disbanded but fervently loved, was Bais Medrash Minchos Yitzchok.
Long-time Kemp Mill residents Rabbi Hirsh Michel Chinn and his wife Chayie headed this unique congregation. It convened in their basement, which they made over as a little synagogue complete with an aron kodesh, seating, and a mechitza (divider). Offering Chasidish davening and environment with a hint of Carlebach, the minyan hosted such figures as the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Lazer Brody, and the Stropkover Rebbe.
Rabbi Chinn works as an addiction counselor and has co-authored books with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski. “Rabbi Chinn is a man like no other,” said former shul president Jeremy Rovinsky, now living with his wife and children in Arizona. “He holds himself to the highest personal halachic standards, but shows unparalleled love to all Jews, whether they daven with him or not, and never looks down on another Jew for subscribing to a different hashkafa [religious worldview] or being on a different level of halachic observance.”
“His dedication and pure love are remarkable,” said Rovinsky.
Rabbi Aron Lopiansky of Kemp Mill described Minchos Yitzchok as “suffused with the warmth of Chasidus, and with Rabbi Chinn’s embrace” of every person who came to pray.
Chayie’s homemade potato kugel at the Chinns' Shabbat kiddush was the stuff of legend among congregants young and old; and Rabbi Chinn’s cholent was so popular, guests would occassionally leave the Chinns' Shabbat table — and there were almost always guests — with a tupperware of cholent to go.
After an eight-year run, the Beit Midrash made a decision to close down the shul for regular Shabbat sevices, but will hold selective services for the upcoming holidays. An official statement from the shul stressed that its eight years are significant in gematria (Jewish numerology), in which the number is the number beyond infinity.
“We broke through the natural laws of gravity that keep tefillah bogged down, and our davening, wherever we find ourselves, will be able to soar,” the statement said.
By Jared Fusia
Jared Fusia has been a resident of Kemp Mill for two years and the DC area for three. He graduated from Rutgers Univeristy in 2012 and works for JCommerce Group and Kosherwine.com.