On September 24, Dr. Richard and Ellen Gertler will be boarding a designated Nefesh B’Nefesh flight to embark upon their new lives as olim chadashim. In Israel, they will be welcomed by two daughters and their families who reside in Beit Shemesh in close proximity to the apartment of which the Gertlers took ownership in January. Rivka and Elie Wildman and Rachel and Ari Gruenspecht and nine of the Gertlers’ grandchildren, ranging in age from 5 to 20, will be on hand to welcome the new arrivals as they begin this phase of their lives.
The Gertlers’ journey to aliyah began long ago, even before moving to Teaneck. As college students at Rutgers they were active in Hillel and other Zionist organizations. In the mid-1970s, they each experienced mind-changing experiences in Israel which impacted all of their subsequent life decisions. In 1975, even before they married, they joined a garin, a group of like-minded young people with intentions of making aliyah together.
After marrying in 1975, they toyed with many options that would bring them closer to the fulfillment of their dream. They spent their first year of marriage driving a bookmobile to Jewish communities throughout the United States bringing Jewish culture and literature to these outposts. There was serious talk of Richie becoming an ordained rabbi and eventually a Hillel rabbi. At a pivotal point, during his studies at Yeshiva University, it became clear that in order to move forward with their plans, they would need to choose a different professional direction and so Richie applied to the New Jersey College of Dentistry. With the encouragement of Ellen’s father, who practiced dentistry and the approval of Rav Moshe Tendler, who cleared him for the profession despite his Kohanic ancestry, Richie earned his DMD.
As their family grew to seven, the Gertlers, now settled into Teaneck, began educating their children and became involved in many community organizations. Dr. Richie joined a dental practice on State Street where he successfully implemented his dental skills with care and compassion. Many Teaneckers remember coming to Richie with erev Shabbat/Yom Tov emergencies to which he responded with utmost concern. The practice of over 70 years recently relocated to 1008 Teaneck Road where it will now be headed by Dr. Ari Frohlich and Dr. Sami Solaimanzadeh, both of Passaic.
During their 43 “blessed” years in Teaneck, Ellen and Richie filled many roles and worked for many organizations. Richie served as president of their longtime shul, Congregation Beth Aaron, from 1987 to 1989. Ellen was president of the sisterhood at Beth Aaron, along with Gloria Gellis, from 1980 to 1982. They have been active participants at Yavneh Academy, the Jewish Learning Experience (JLE), Project Ezrah, The Jewish National Fund and many other local and national organizations. They are still active on behalf of their alma mater Rutgers University where Ellen serves on the board of the Hillel whose new facility is a source of great pride to the Gertlers.
The Gertlers were fully aware that growing up in their home, their children may have been inclined to make the same life choices that they espoused. Their daughter Rivka Wildman and her family were privileged to make aliyah on the first Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in 2002, and another daughter Rachel Gruenspecht followed nine years later in 2010. Three Gertler siblings, Nitzana and Ari Silverman, David and Beverly Gertler and Shlomit and Koby Sterman, and their children will remain in Teaneck. But as the senior Gertlers see it, life in 2019 is highly connected so that face-timing, videoing and frequent trips from both sides will soften the separation.
The Gertlers shared their plans for their near future with The Jewish Link. Richie hopes to seek out many learning opportunities in and around Beit Shemesh. He also intends to tour his new surroundings while biking. Ellen shared that she will definitely be attending ulpan to upgrade her spoken Hebrew. She also hopes to resume her matchmaking activities at which she was quite successful through Saw You at Sinai. She foresees learning a new craft, gardening and continuing on with her “zest for theater, film, fiction and other methods of artistic expression.”
Needless to say, the Gertlers look forward to “hanging out” with their many friends from Teaneck who also made the “big move.”
As a parting message to the community, the Gertlers shared, “For the past 43 years, Teaneck has been a dream-come-true for us. Jersey boy and girl that we were, we found our places here. We found loyal, amazing friends here. We raised five fabulous, beautiful Jewish souls right here in Teaneck. We like to think that we contributed somewhat to Teaneck’s growth through our participation in many local institutions and organizations. It is a bittersweet feeling for us to be leaving, but the world is smaller now. We don’t really feel that we are leaving. We are simply following up on our original dream. The time is finally right for us to live in Israel. And most important, don’t forget that we are expecting lots of company. L’hitraot!”
By Pearl Markovitz