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Congregation Ohr HaTorah Plans Dedication of New Building

Congregation Ohr HaTorah will dedicate its new shul building on Sunday, September 3.

Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky’s shul, Congregation Ohr HaTorah, has been a makom Torah since its establishment as a “house shul” 18 years ago, when Rabbi Sobolofsky relocated from Paramus. The community has transformed itself during the pandemic from a “weekend minyan”-style shul to a full service community institution.

A new era will begin in the heart of the Bergenfield/Teaneck community this weekend, with a dedication this coming Sunday morning with a keynote by Rabbi Mordechai Willig, shlita, and several programs throughout the week. On Erev Shabbat, September 8, the sifrei Torah will be danced from their previous home at 36 Rector Court, to their new home next door at 40 Rector. All are invited to share in the celebration.

Ohr HaTorah, under the leadership of Rabbi Sobolofsky, has been providing minyanim, shiurim and programming since Rosh Hashanah of 2005, with minyanim primarily on Shabbos and Sunday, adding evening Maariv services as more families moved to the area. Rabbi Sobolofsky has been a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University since 2002 and has long been a posek for his community. He is known for his sensitive and personal guidance to families and has become known throughout Klal Yisrael. He, as well as his wife, Rebbetzin Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, a social worker who directs the shidduch organization YU Connects, has been a draw for the Bergenfield community for close to two decades.

Growing up in Riverdale, Rabbi Sobolofsky was a ben bayit in the home of Rabbi Willig of the Young Israel of Riverdale and rosh yeshiva at YU. “I began YU at the age of 17 in Rabbi Willig’s shiur,” Rabbi Sobolofsky recalled in an article published in 2018. Rabbi Willig, speaking several years ago at an Ohr HaTorah event about his student, compared Rabbi Sobolofsky’s love of learning to Yehoshua Bin Nun. “As a younger man, Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky had the reputation of always being in the beis midrash. The defining characteristic of Yehoshua Bin Nun is never wanting to leave the tent of Torah,” said Rabbi Willig.

However, Rabbi Sobolofsky is constantly pulled from the beit midrash, mainly to answer shailot (halachic questions) from his many congregants in the Bergenfield community and also from rabbinic colleagues and former students around the country and worldwide. He is considered a posek, or subject matter expert—a rav’s rav—in many matters of Jewish law, particularly taharat hamishpacha (family purity laws), on which he has authored a definitive text. He is also one of several rabbinic poskim for the Teaneck-Bergenfield eruv and a posek for NCSY. “His phone buzzes at all hours of the day and night with people asking a great variety of halachic questions,” said Rabbi Willig. “Sometimes I walk with the rebbe (the Rebbe Zvi, as my children call him), and his phone is vibrating all the time. He is always answering she’alos, day in, day out, night in, night out, in the funniest places,” recalled Rabbi Willig.

Former home of Congregation Ohr HaTorah.

The minyanim moved from their house-converted-to-shul minyan to the side-yard-outdoor-pandemic minyan, and back again. But the camaraderie created during their time outdoors or socially distanced grew into a yearning to not only preserve that cohesiveness, but to build a larger more accommodating structure to become its makom kavuah (permanent place). Now with over 200 vibrant full and associate member families, Congregation Ohr HaTorah is welcoming the community at large to join in the celebration events and dedication of their newly completed shul building.

Yitz Novak, vice president, shared some of his thoughts on this momentous occasion: “To say that our community was transformed during COVID is an understatement. We were mostly a weekend shul, with a once-daily evening minyan and a weekly evening shiur. COVID was extremely difficult on our community, but growth during the challenging moment propelled us to where we now have a new building, fully operational and with many minyanim every day.

“Judah Eizikovitz was the president at that time. He led us through a phase which included [the creation of] many daily outdoor minyanim. As we gradually returned to normal, the daily minyanim remained. We now offer three daily Shacharit minyanim and multiple afternoon/evening minyanim. There is also nightly learning with the Kollel Nachlas Dov.”

“Membership of the synagogue has grown far more than expected. We are elated to have an opening week that will celebrate [both] the new building and the growth of the community,” added Novak.

Most meaningful and an essential key of the new building to Rabbi Sobolofsky is that “We have created a new makom Torah and a makom tefillah for old and new members of the shul and of the community. We have more space, more opportunities, three Shabbos minyanim, a night kollel and multiple daily minyan options, with many learning opportunities for men, women and children.”

Josh Rozenberg, Ohr HaTorah’s president, shared, “It’s remarkable and fitting for such a beautiful building to be built for Rav Sobolofsky’s shul. He serves as so much more than just a rabbi of Ohr HaTorah. He is constantly on call for guidance and for fielding some of the toughest questions for Jewish institutions in Bergen County and far beyond. We are excited to help create an atmosphere fitting for him given his prominence and role for Klal Yisrael, not just for the Ohr HaTorah community, but also for the broader Bergen county community and around the world.”

The opening celebration week includes the following scheduled events:

Sunday morning, 9:30 a.m.: Inaugural communal shiur by Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Official dedication ceremony: 10:15 a.m. with remarks by Rabbi Sobolofsky

Grand youth opening program on Sunday morning following the dedication

Events during the evenings of this coming week

A Friday Erev Shabbat dancing of the sifrei Torah to the new building, on Friday, September 8.

Everyone is invited to join as Congregation Ohr HaTorah officially opens its doors this Erev Shabbat for Mincha and all of the events to follow on Sunday. All events will take place at 40 Rector Court in Bergenfield.

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