Last week, members of Teaneck’s Rinat Yisrael and Teaneck Township dignitaries, along with friends, family, congregants and neighbors gathered together, as a section of West Englewood Avenue, between Dickerson Road and Pennington Road, was renamed “Rabbi Yosef Adler Way.”
It was a fitting tribute for the man who served as both mara d’atra of Rinat Yisrael for 43 years and rosh yeshiva of Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) for 32 years. Long-time Rinat Yisrael member Rikki Landa called the tribute “a well deserved honor for someone who has served TABC, Congregation Rinat Yisrael and the Teaneck community for so many years. Rabbi Adler has been an amazing teacher and rabbi and has made a lifelong impression on our family, and we know he has positively impacted the lives of thousands.”
Erik Kessler, president of Rinat, who also serves as executive director of The Moriah School added: “Rabbi Adler has left an indelible mark on not only our shul community, but the greater Teaneck community as well. He helped to build our shul into the makom Torah and tefillah that it is today.”
Bina Faber, the immediate past-president of Rinat Yisrael, said Rabbi Adler was not just a pulpit rabbi but also “a visionary with broad shoulders. Everyone who grew up in the West Englewood area of Teaneck knew of his impressive shiurim; everyone the world over knew of his very popular teshuvot and that he spent decades inspiring and working hard to encourage everyone to learn a little more, join a shiur and the importance of tefillah b’tzibur,” she said.
Deputy Mayor and Jewish Link Co-Publisher Mendy Schwartz, a former student of Rabbi Adler’s at TABC, said: “This is a day that is probably 20 years too late, but something I am honored to be a part of … especially ahead of him leaving for Israel. I think this is a parting gift for Rosh Hashanah, not to him but to the town, so we can always remember him wherever he is.”
Deputy Mayor Elie Katz, also a former student of Rabbi Adler (at Torah Academy of Bergen County), emceed the event and spoke about the rabbi’s involvement in Renewal, and how the exposure he brought to the life-saving organization inspired so many community members to become kidney donors.
“I’ve seen the great work that Rabbi Adler has done in this community. … Being a principal of a school is a tremendous obligation and responsibility and besides the actual physical work, schools’ names, reputations and cultures are really built by their leaders. … And I want to tell you Rabbi Adler, I’m very proud to be a Torah Academy graduate.”
Katz then jokingly asked Rabbi Adler if he wouldn’t mind changing some of his grades on his permanent record before his official retirement.
Teaneck Mayor James Dunleavy brought some levity to the proclamation as well, reading: “Whereas Rabbi Adler is a lifelong dedicated community member and a fan, thank God, of the New York Yankees—boy, that could have gone south real quick if he picked another team,” giving the crowd a good laugh, as they were all keenly aware of Rabbi Adler’s deep-seated devotion to his beloved Yankees.
Rinat Yisrael’s Rabbi Chaim Strauchler said: “How appropriate it is that the messages of a great Torah leader of Rabbi Adler are extending not just within the walls of a synagogue building, but are extending out onto the streets, as we gather here today.” He touched upon the term “way” in the street sign. “It is something which is very dear to all of our hearts and very much to the message and the legacy that Rabbi Adler leaves for all of us … and to recognize that this is not just something that we’ll see upon our streets, but it’s something that we will continue to follow in how we as a community live, how it is that we think, how it is that we approach one another and how it is that we approach our Creator who places upon this great earth to be able to serve one another, to serve our community, and to serve God.
“Thank you all for being here, and may we celebrate the opportunity to walk this street and to be able to walk in Rabbi Adler’s Way.”
TABC Associate Principal Rabbi Steven Finkelstein described how the Torah characterized Avraham Avinu as a “creator of souls” and demonstrated how Rabbi Adler’s actions mimic those of our patriarch. “It means if you engage with people, if you challenge them to think, if you move them to look inside themselves and tap into their true potential, you have, in fact, created a new soul, a new human being, that is prepared and ready to take on life in a whole different way than before your engagement.”
Jonathan Kukin, a long-time Rinat member, past-president of the synagogue and close personal friend of Rabbi Adler spoke next. “The overall criteria for a street-naming is for the township and petitioners to provide compelling evidence that the person contributed in an extraordinary way to the welfare of the community and the country. In basketball parlance, naming the street Rabbi Adler Way’ is a slam dunk.
“We can emphatically state that Rabbi Adler Way is an example of consistency and constancy. The Rinat family will always treasure your words of Torah in our classic Rinat moments. We do not require a street sign to tell us that this block is Rabbi Adler Way, as it has always been Rabbi Adler’s Way.”
Rabbi Adler’s son, Dov Adler, said, “It’s really going to be an everlasting siman for my parents in terms of what they represented and what they really brought to the town of Teaneck.” He asked Hashem to continue to bless his parents with much nachas “and continue to be a source for limmud haTorah for many, many years to come.”
Rabbi Adler thanked the crowd and said the event was incredibly meaningful. “If you think about it, there haven’t been too many street namings that we have had in our community and it only bodes well for the future, for the continued growth of the Rinat community, the Teaneck community and the broader community in which we live.
“I have been talking for a very long time and I am extremely proud of the fact that my message has been received by virtually everybody, And I just hope and pray that you continue to listen to your respective rabbis, respective teachers, and take advantage of the teachings that they offer you. And I know that this will continue to raise the bar in our community. People will continue to be more learned, more guided, more appreciative of God’s work, and may we all, as we approach the Yamim Noraim, be awarded by Hakadosh Baruch Hu with great bracha, great success and an opportunity to exhibit that which we have learned and share, im yirtzah Hashem, with our children and grandchildren.”
Councilman Keith Kaplan gave closing remarks. “I can only imagine 40-plus years as a full-time educator, a full-time rav, and as a full-time pillar for a community. … To say that his impact is in the thousands is to minimize the true numbers, because Rabbi Adler is still impacting every person he touches along that journey.”
Rabbi Adler pulled off the yellow covering revealing the new signage to a roar of applause.
Faber concluded: “Naming the road Rabbi Yosef Adler Way is very appropriate, for as a community we always strove to live our lives his way. Even though Rabbi Adler has retired, his makom in Rinat Yisrael as teacher and rav will forever be remembered by the thousands of people he has inspired. When people pass by Rabbi Yosef Adler Way, they will remember a giant of a man who helped mold not just a shul, but an entire community.”
To see a recording of the event visit: https://www.facebook.com/rinatyisrael
By Ronit Mershon