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Rabbi Simcha & Rebbetzin Rina Steinberg

Article by: Diana van den Eijnden, March 1, 2021 - Vonderkwartier Neighborhood Association, Eindhoven.

The Vonderkwartier Portrait of this month is written from a special place in the neighborhood: the synagogue on Hendrik Casimirstraat. This month, we introduce Rabbi Simcha Steinberg and his wife Rina to you.

Who are you? Simcha (32) and Rina (30) have been living in the Vonderkwartier with their 4 children Musia (7), Chana (5), Batya (3), and Menachem (2) since 2017. The Jewish community established in our neighborhood was in search of a rabbi four years ago. That's when Simcha Steinberg became the first rabbi in Eindhoven since World War II.

Simcha was born in Israel. He studied in Prague and New York, volunteered at a Jewish school in Thailand, and before coming to the Netherlands, he served as a rabbi in Kiev. He got married to Rina in New York, who is half American and half Dutch and grew up in Utrecht.

What do you do?

Simcha is a rabbi and leads the services at the synagogue. However, as he says, "It is much more pastoral work. On Sundays, my wife and I used to do house visits. Now, due to COVID-19, we can't do that, but we offer a listening ear, even to non-Jewish people." The prayers during the service are in Hebrew, but the rest of the service is in Dutch. The service always concludes with a special prayer for King Willem-Alexander to help him lead his people well.

Simcha and his wife have contact with approximately 200 congregation members, and the number of members is steadily growing. The new additions come from abroad, including expats working for companies like Philips and ASML, who move to Eindhoven and find their way to the Jewish community.

An interesting fact: there has only been a Jewish community in Eindhoven for 250 years. Prior to that, Jews were not allowed to settle in Eindhoven unless they paid a guarantee of 300 guilders, which most couldn't afford. The synagogue on Hendrik Casimirstraat was established in 1958; before that, there was a beautiful synagogue on Kerkstraat. The old synagogue was demolished for the widening of Kerkstraat, which, incidentally, never happened. Simcha and Rina proudly show the windows, Torah scrolls, and other beautiful props from the old synagogue.

How can the neighborhood know you?

Rina: "We would have liked to organize guided tours of the synagogue for the neighborhood residents, so people would know us from that. Then the pandemic started, and we couldn't carry out our plans, but those tours will still happen!"

The couple loves the neighborhood. "Vonderkwartier is a pleasant place to live; there are many children, and it's peaceful. It's close to the city center, but you don't feel the city. We moved here because the synagogue is here, but we would definitely choose it ourselves too; we have great neighbors." Unfortunately, they are not often present at neighborhood activities, which mostly take place on Saturdays, the Sabbath. "The neighborhood association's walking dinner is also difficult for us. We would like to invite people for dinner, but we cannot dine at others' homes. We eat kosher, and kosher products are hard to find in the Netherlands. We sell them ourselves at cost price. We buy them in Antwerp, where we go every day because our children go to school there."

Many younger people in the neighborhood are unaware that there is a synagogue here. Before Rabbi Simcha and his wife settled here, there was hardly anything happening. With the arrival of the family, there is now a Sabbath service once a month, the major holidays are celebrated together, and people can find their way to the synagogue for pastoral guidance. Both Simcha and Rina teach there, and they do most things together. Rina helps Simcha translate the services he writes in Hebrew. They can't wait for everything to resume after the lockdown!

The next time you pass by the synagogue, know that you are welcome by this warm couple. As it says above the front door in Hebrew: "I rejoice when I hear that you come to the house of God."

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