July 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

YINR Ruach Program Thanks Founder Vera Koppel

On December 29, YINR’s Ruach program celebrated the conclusion of its ninth year, honoring its heart and center, founder Vera Koppel. Host Aviva Adler said: “It’s my great fortune to have been asked to host this program by Vera. And when Vera asks you to do something, you say yes.”

Adler continued: “Nine years ago, Vera said, ‘The New Rochelle community serves so many people, as it should. Yet there was a segment that didn’t have its own program—the people who are retired or home. It would be lovely to have something special for them.’”

Adler reflected how, at that time, she had been taking care of her mother and saw value in friendships and being intellectually and socially motivated. “Vera and I met at my house with my husband, and this was the very beginning. We had no clue what the programs were going to be, what the name was going to be, how often we were going to meet, but Vera had a vision. The vision was about relationships, seeing, being and sharing with each other. That’s what Ruach turned out to be.”

In preparing her remarks, Adler poured over nine years of flyers. “It’s absolutely astounding the number of programs, the variety of programs,” she exclaimed.

Adler recalled an event where each table had to make a flag that would describe Ruach. It was evident from the results that Ruach is about making a connection with people’s hearts. “I know many people who would do nothing else on Wednesdays; they wouldn’t make doctors’ appointments. These flags signified that in addition to the incredible array of programs, trips, movies, parties and lectures, this heart is what Vera gave all of us.”

YINR’s Associate Rabbi Chaim Axelrod described these weeks’ Torah readings about B’nai Israel in Mitzrayim. He quoted a rabbinic statement that because of the righteous women in Egypt, the Jewish people were able to leave. They explained a certain type of strength through the hope the Jewish women in Mitzrayim had, more so than the men, and strength through hope about what the future could bring. Even though things looked dark, that’s the Jewish people we merited in order to leave.

“When I think about the entire life of Mrs. Koppel, it is strength through hope and what she went through, in terms of her upbringing, and then transitioning into this country, building a family, building a community,” Axelrod said. “It’s inspiring for people like me, people who are coming in relatively a little bit younger, and not having as much life experience, seeing this program that she built at a different stage of life. There were some naysayers for this program. She saw something.

“It’s a strength through hope that there could be something positive for every single age; we need to engage everyone in the community. This program has now become a beacon to other communities that there should be vibrant programming for people of all ages, of all types.“

Former YINR Executive Chair Dina Sterman recalled a senior YINR member who suggested starting programs for the shul’s many retired members. She spent weeks trying to figure out who could spearhead this tremendous undertaking. “One day, sitting in shul with Vera, I ran the idea by her. She said it would be great. I asked, ‘Would you possibly consider taking this on?’ She said OK. That was the beginning of Ruach.”

Sterman added: “Thank you personally for inspiring me to work for the community and showing me that even after you’ve already worked for the community, already been honored by the shul, already run countless programs, kind of retired from shul life at this point, with just a word, you stepped right back in and showed us what you can do for the community.”

Koppel was presented with a cake, covered with hearts, inscribed: ‘Vera, you will always be the heart of Ruach.’ She was also given a necklace with a heart cut out of a circle. “Your heart will always be with Ruach.” explained Baila Weiss. “Ruach means wind,” she said as Koppel also received wind chimes, inscribed: ‘May the spirit of Ruach chime for you always, December 29, 2021.’

Beginning in January, Anya Wiebke will be running Ruach’s programming every Wednesday; free for YINR members, $18 for non-members and includes lunch. For additional information, contact [email protected].

By Judy Berger

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles