Rapaport News reports on The Boys of Summer thinking ahead to the Winter and while winter may seem as far off as the end of Los Angeles’ current July heat wave; nonetheless, diamantaire Avraham Nektalov knows that when sundown comes early from November through February across Los Angeles’ diamond district, business demand and heavy commuter traffic make it difficult for Jewish diamond dealers to attend services in outlying areas.
Nektalov, owner of Custom Carats LLC, decided to setup a branch of Shaarei Rachamim (a Pico Robertson area synagogue) in the heart of Los Angeles at his 12th floor, 550 Pershing Square, office.
The 32-year-old Nektalov is known to his associates as a problem solver and they describe him as one of the sharpest dressers in the diamond district. Less than one year ago he named his conference room as the Downtown Shaarei Rachamim. Jewish men of Sephardic heritage (a term used to group together descendants from Spain, the Middle East and Iran) began to trickle in to the high-rise diamond district house of worship.
Some attendees donned black velvet skullcaps, others exhibited their colorful central Asian tradition of wearing an elaborately embroidered cap. The daily prayers are led by different fellows — each chanting in their own unique accents of Russian, Hebrew, French, English, or a rarer tongue, Bukharian, but all were united in the universal Jerusalemite tune.
On any given weekday since its opening, when services are completed, coffee and tea are available to those who have some time to spare. Jewish diamond salesmen visiting from Europe or Israel find a home-away-from-home at Downtown Shaarei Rachamim too.
During the 2006 Passover holiday, when Jews refrain from eating leavened products (using matzo instead of bread plus a multitude of other products that are deemed kosher for Passover,) Nektalov hosted a bevy of Chassidic salesmen. Nektalovâ€™s wife Leora made sure the showroom and synagogue’s pantry was stocked with food for the duration of the holiday.
Nektalov was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the former United Soviet Socialist Republic. His forebears date back to Bukhara and the Jews of Babylonia, who are specifically known for their charitable and hospitable nature. He was raised in New York and arrived in Los Angeles in 1996 with his bride.
Ten years ago, Nektalov only had a window booth, which he said extended a bit to the sidewalk. He placed a table along side the street and between selling stones, he gave out prayer books while blasting Jewish music for all to enjoy.
It is a personal mission he said to bring the vibrancy of Jewish life and the love of Torah to those who sought it in the diamond and jewelry district. Jewish pioneers arrived 150-years-ago downtown in what was then the Wild West and established homes, businesses, and conducted their religious life in Los Angeles. Those first settlersâ€™ families dispersed across a sprawling landscape. Downtown Shaarei Rachamimâ€™s opening marks the renaissance of Jewish observance in the same locale where it began a century and a half ago.
Following orthodox halacha (law,) a small section of the synagogue is cordoned-off with a brown, lace curtain room divider for the womenâ€™s section. On the official opening day of Downtown Shaarei Rachamim on Labor Day weekend 2005, more than a dozen females of all ages participated in the services and also helped in the serving and preparation of the breakfast.
Mathieu Attar, a diamond dealer of French-Moroccan descent, said, â€œIn all the years Iâ€™ve been here, no one has ever dedicated such a large space, and included a permanent home for a Torah. It shows how someone can successfully divide himself between his work and religion.â€
â€œIt reminded me of the biblical story of Abraham â€“ who waited outside his tent, greeting and serving visitors. And I said to myself â€¦this is in America!â€
Weekly prayer services are conducted each morning at 8:45 a.m. Nektalov said, â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter whether Iâ€™m here, or if I travel. Weâ€™re keeping the faith at Shaarei Rachamim”.