July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Bergenfield’s Ohr HaTorah Breaks Ground for Expansion

A snowy Sunday morning proved to be no deterrent as congregants and elected officials packed into Ohr HaTorah—also known as Rabbi Sobolofsky’s shul—to join in the eagerly anticipated groundbreaking ceremony that was years in the making.

Yitz Novak, president of Ohr HaTorah, welcomed everyone and thanked them for braving the elements. He also gave special thanks to the building committee and the several elected officials who were in attendance. “We’re also extremely grateful to local and state leaders for their support and all they do.”

He noted that congregants first began discussing an expansion back in 2016. “It’s been six years of extraordinary commitment, time and dedication.” He then recognized Rabbi Zvi and Efrat Sobolofsky and explained how they are the reason that the community has grown the way it has.

Rabbi Sobolofsky, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, is known nationally and internationally as a posek and an inspirational speaker. He is known for blending the practical and broadly contextual techniques of two of his major teachers, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, shlita, and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, shlita. Rabbi Sobolofsky is the author of a landmark work on hilchot niddah, and also serves Teaneck as one of three members of the Teaneck-Bergenfield eruv committee.

Rebbetzin Efrat Sobolofsky, PhD, is a social worker as well as the founder and director of YUConnects, a matchmaking organization that has made over 1,000 shidduchim.

Among the dignitaries on hand were Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Assemblyman Chris Tully, Bergenfield Mayor Arvin Amatorio, Bergenfield Council President Rafael Marte, Councilwoman Ora C. Kornbluth and Councilmen Marc Pascual and Hernando Rivera.

Building Committee co-chair Azriel Rauzman said, “We have tremendous gratitude towards this community, both members of the shul and members of the greater Jewish community, the rabbi and rebbetzin, and above all else Hashem. We are so excited to begin this next stage of the project and to, God willing, welcome all of you to our new home soon.”

Rauzman pointed to the massive excavator sitting just outside and said, “You can’t get more ready to start this project than right now and it is filling my heart with just pure excitement. It’s really special to finally stand here today and see how everyone has chosen to support this community and to appreciate that it supports us,” he added.

Rabbi Sobolofsky recalled how 16 years earlier the shul had its first Shabbat minyan. “I realize that this morning is really a moment of contrast…On the one hand, we are involved in a very worldly pursuit; very earthly; very down in the dirt.” But he noted that there is something much more profound taking place. “As we stand outside a few moments from now looking down at the soil in front of us, perhaps our hearts should really be looking at the heavens above, because what we in effect are trying to do is to build a home, a physical home, for a spiritual, noble, Godly pursuit.”

He spoke of Yaakov Avinu’s dream of a ladder that was planted firmly in the ground but soared to the heavens. Afterwards he dedicated the place and built on it. “He realized that to build a House of God takes two parts: It has to be in this world, all the pieces have to connect…in this world and then, only then, can one turn heavenward and be able to turn sticks and stones into a place of Torah, prayer, kindness, family and connection to God.”

He added that the parshiot we are now reading talk about building the Mishkan as a place for Hashem’s shechina to rest so that Bnei Yisrael have a place to turn to and connect to spiritually. “We live in a physical domain…but the challenge is to turn the physical world into a place for God to dwell; a place of heaven,” and this new building will serve as a spiritual home that will serve the community as a source “of righteousness, of holiness, of kindness and a connection to God.”

Congressman Gottheimer’s office had sent a proclamation in honor of Ohr HaTorah, and Assemblyman Tully and Assemblywoman Swain brought one as well; both proclamations will be hung up in the shul.

Later, Novak added “Rav Sobolofsky is one of the leaders of the observant community—far beyond Ohr HaTorah and even North Jersey. He’s an international posek and a new building for his shul is thus meaningful on a grand and international scale. We are grateful to the entire community from near and far who have invested in the future home of Ohr HaTorah.”

After she had a chance to dig, Assemblywoman Swain said, “It’s very exciting to be here today to see that this particular community is expanding. It’s a wonderful testament to the people who live here to be able to bring a new building to their community.”

Assemblyman Chris Tully called it an honor to welcome the new expansion.

Councilman Mark Pascual thanked the community for the invitation and said, “This is just the beginning,” while Councilman Rafael Marte called it a real success for the whole community. “This project is something really big for us. Growth means progress.”

Bergenfield Mayor Aramand Anatorio congratulated the community and said the town would always be there if anything was needed.

Councilwoman Ora Kornbluth smiled as she said, “It’s a pleasure to be here finally celebrating the actual groundbreaking. It’s been a long time coming and we are thrilled to be here.”

By Ronit Mershon


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