Congregation Ohr HaTorah, located in Bergenfield, is a vibrant and growing shul in the Teaneck/Bergenfield community. Under the guidance of Rav Zvi Sobolofsky, Ohr HaTorah is a shul built on limud haTorah, tefillah and chesed. In addition to a full slate of minyanim and learning opportunities over Shabbat and the weekend, the shul offers minyanim and shiurim during the week, including its new nightly beit midrash program.
On Wednesday, June 5, Congregation Ohr HaTorah will hold its annual dinner to show hakarat hatov to three families who have given selflessly to the shul over the course of many years. Aviva and Avraham Simcha Adler, along with Tamar and Naftalee Zomberg, are the co-guests of honor, and Eileen and Jordan Silvestri will be honored with the community service award.
Aviva and Avraham Simcha Adler have been active members of the Ohr HaTorah community for many years. Having served as both the vice president and secretary of the shul, Avraham Simcha helped lead the kehilla into its current growth. As an attorney, Avraham Simcha used his expertise to oversee many of the shul’s legal needs, including the formalization of the shul’s structure and bylaws. Always looking to advocate for Torah learning for all members of the shul, the Adlers have been a driving force behind the start of many shiurim and other programming, including monthly shiurim for women and learning opportunities for youth. Avraham Simcha helped initiate Ohr HaTorah’s Friday night beit midrash program and also co-led the Shabbat morning youth groups for two years.
Aviva and Avraham Simcha were instrumental in establishing Ohr HaTorah’s annual dinner, serving as co-chairs for the first two years, after which they continued to serve on the dinner committee. Aviva has been active in many shul and sisterhood events, served on the mishloach manot committee, and assisted with the planning of the annual hachnasat orchim Shabbat. She is constantly involved with helping others, whether as a volunteer or professionally as a dentist. The opportunity to be part of the shul and spend hours of time in the company of the shul’s mara d’atra, Rav Zvi Sobolofsky, was also something the Adlers appreciated about their roles in the shul.
“While being part of the board and working in the shul, it was an honor to work with Rav Sobolofsky,” said Avraham Simcha. “The rav took into account what the shul stood for and what he thought would be best for the shul as a whole and the greater community.”
From the moment the Zombergs moved into the Ohr HaTorah community, Tamar and Naftalee volunteered in a range of capacities. Naftalee served as the president of the shul and organized many projects to encourage learning for children and adults alike. Naftalee’s professional expertise lies in the accounting and finance industry, and helped lead the shul’s early efforts to expand. The Zombergs were also extremely involved in the early days of the youth department, with Naftalee running the post-davening Shabbat morning groups with Torah, stories and the occasional puppet show and Tamar coordinating the snacks and cleanup of the shul.
Naftalee and Tamar are known for their hachnasat orchim and warmth, and have developed new member programming focused on welcoming others and making the shul feel more like a family. Naftalee is not only happy to volunteer himself, but he is constantly finding ways to be “mezakeh et harabim,” encouraging others to get involved on any level or in the area they are comfortable.
“We see the shul as our home, and the people there as our family,” said the Zombergs. “If someone new moves in, it’s like we just had the chance to add new members to our family. It’s essentially the starting point of all of our social and personal relationships in the community. The kids meet their friends there, and when they don’t have plans for Shabbos, they know they can find someone at Ohr HaTorah.”
Though Naftalee is not currently on the shul board, he is still involved in many of the behind-the-scenes operations of the shul, compiling, updating and delivering the shul’s membership directory, even issuing the shul’s first family photo book last year. He also helps with reviewing announcements and communications, giving shiurim to the youth for tikkun leil Shavuot and organizing the building and cleaning of the rav’s sukkah.
Tamar was a member of the mishloach manot committee and helped pack the shul’s Simchat Torah candy bags for many years. She is consistently one of the first to help out with shul events, whether that entails purchasing food, making phone calls, or making deliveries for shul projects. Tamar’s warmth is not only part of Ohr Hatorah. She also volunteers on the RYNJ welcoming committee to help new families get acclimated to the school. As a speech language pathologist in Bergen County schools, Tamar works in many of the community’s local yeshivot.
“We are so happy to have the opportunity to say thank you to the Adlers and the Zombergs,” said Rav Zvi Sobolofsky. “They have been actively involved in so many aspects of the Ohr HaTorah community. It has been a pleasure to work together with them to help Ohr HaTorah grow and flourish into the makom Torah it has become.”
“When our family moved into the community, one of the earliest memories we have is Naftalee and Avraham Simcha working side by side, leading and running groups after davening in the shul,” said Gabe Hanauer, shul president. “Any time I had a shul question or the shul needed assistance in any matter, the Adlers and Zombergs always answered the call eagerly to help in every and any way possible.”
While overall the dinner takes on a celebratory mood, there is a bittersweet element this year as Eileen and Jordan, Ohr HaTorah’s beloved youth directors for the past six years, step down from the role they helped establish. Together they expanded the shul’s Shabbat youth programming, recruiting youth leaders, developing programming and establishing a rapport with children in the shul and the greater community of youth leaders. Having implemented successful and well-attended Shabbat groups, they moved on to enhance programming for the chagim.
Jordan and Eileen wanted to ensure all members of Ohr HaTorah youth felt included, and partnered with Yachad to create inclusive groups, assigning partners or mentor group leaders to children who wanted to attend but may need an extra hand. They also coordinated joint activities between Yachad and Ohr HaTorah.
Eileen and Jordan have made a strong connection to the youth in Ohr HaTorah, serving as role models not only to the Shabbat group participants, but to the leaders themselves. Whether through Jordan’s weekly drasha at the youth minyan, or Eileen’s hilchot Shabbat shiur for the older girls, they are teaching the children of Ohr HaTorah a way of life.
“Not only do I and the other parents of the shul have hakarat hatov to Jordan and Eileen, but so do the children of our shul,” said Hanauer. “Besides the regular Shabbos-day groups the children enjoy, they also enjoyed the special activities like paint night and football with a barbecue.”
In putting themselves out there for the youth of the shul, the Silvestris have in a sense become part of everyone’s families. “Jordan and Eileen have dedicated themselves with love and devotion to the youth of Ohr HaTorah,” said Rav Sobolofsky. “We are forever grateful for their share in instilling in our children a love for Torah. We wish them continued success in their endeavors in chinuch in the greater Jewish community.”
“Through serving as the youth leaders these past years, our family has become part of so many other families and we have formed relationships we will treasure,” said the Silvestris. “Watching the older girls reach out to us and look out for our daughters means so much to us.”
Their involvement with chinuch is not just a Shabbat pastime, but something to which they have dedicated their lives. Jordan is the dean of students at Ramaz Lower School, and before that he was the director of Sinai’s high school at Heichal HaTorah. Eileen has spent many years as a morah. Many of the children who attend groups know Eileen as “Morah Eileen” from RYNJ and always enjoy seeing her whether in or out of school.
Please join Ohr HaTorah as they honor these families for their dedication, at Congregation Keter Torah, Wednesday night, June 5 at 7p.m. To sign up, visit http://www.ohrhatorah.com/event/ohr-hatorah-5th-annual-dinner/.
By Jenny Gans