On a recent Saturday morning, at Congregation Mogen David’s Ashkenazic Shabbat service, a blond-haired girl in a shimmery pink sundress tugged at the fringes of a man’s tallit (prayer shawl). The tallit belonged to Alex Katz, and he tried to ignore her entreaties as he led 90 people in the social hall in the prayer for the United States.
For years, members of Mogen David, a traditional synagogue on Pico Boulevard near Beverwil Drive, watched young Orthodox families trek down the hill past the brick building at the westernmost end of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood on their way to other synagogues. Lay leaders of Mogen David, which according to the shul's executive director, Rabbi Gabriel Elias, had a dwindling membership of about 600 families -- 80 percent of them older than 80 -- knew that if they were to survive they would have to get those families in the front door.
So after much soul-searching and with a painful dose of pragmatism, the board decided four years ago to carve out separate men's and women's sections in the sanctuary, get rid of the microphones and start a search for a Modern Orthodox rabbi.
Rabbi Gabriel Elias vividly remembers his frustration as a teenager not being able to participate in intramural sports because games fell on Shabbat.