April 15, 2024
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YIOZ North Riverdale/Yonkers to Honor Rabbi Shmuel Hain

On Sunday February 26, Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale/Yonkers will host its 45th Annual Dinner. Rabbi Shmuel and Shari Hain, who joined in 2006, will be honored. The community will also be celebrating the completion of a three-year shul renovation project. Founded in 1979 by a small group of pioneers, the Young Israel of North Riverdale merged with Congregation Ohab Zedek of Yonkers in 1991 and moved into its present location at 6015 Riverdale Avenue.

In the last several years, YIOZ has welcomed many young families. Their recent expansion project included a magnificent new sanctuary, a beautiful social hall and additional youth and office space. Members can avail themselves of robust programming for young people, more classes and shiurim for adults, chesed opportunities, advocacy for Israel and social action in this growing and vibrant Modern Orthodox kehillah.

YIOZ President Lee Botnick explained: “The sanctuary has 30-foot high ceilings and light coming through. It’s bright, airy, and built with stones reminiscent of Jerusalem stone. The centerpiece is the original Ohav Zedek Aron Kodesh from Yonkers, built in 1908. Any construction project has its foibles, but a project during a pandemic is exponential. It has brought out the best in so many people. Many dug deep in generosity; Rabbi Hain was a driving force in getting this building built.”

“We are thrilled to have this wonderful new space,” said Rabbi Hain. “It was a long time coming. It’s already fueled excitement and growth because we had outgrown the space and it wasn’t fully meeting all the simcha needs and everything else that a shul can provide. This new space is allowing us to really thrive as a shul for a growing community.”

Hain continued: “The founding members and the community here in 2006 gave us the blueprint and foundation. It’s the kind of community that attracts educators, academics and people who are serious about their Judaism, tefillah and Torah study, but are also engaged with their professions and the broader world. With those founding members and their values, together with the growth of the area, through SAR High School, the shul has been on a slow, steady, organic, natural trajectory. It’s been kind of slow, steady growth each year; between four and eight families made a big difference.”

Rabbi Hain continued: “Joining a community led by Jewish values, love for medinat Yisrael, commitments to Torah and mitzvot, and seeing more and more families becoming committed to those values has been incredibly rewarding and satisfying. We’ve had a lot of members and retirees from the shul who have made aliyah, a source of real pride.

“I look at shul every Shabbos and I have to pinch myself what a beautiful community this has become: a function of those people who are here from the beginning and the people who have shepherded and spearheaded the growth all along the way. One of the things that I’m very proud of is that pretty much every single member of the community has been in our home and has experienced the warmth and hospitality of Shari and our family. That’s a big piece of community continuity.

“Since year 10, there’s been a push to honor us. We said, ‘First build the shul.’ I think part of this honor, as we see it as a celebration, a chanukat habayit, of this next stage of growth. The new sanctuary, Ohel Yosef, is a very meaningful piece of the new building, named after a member of ours. I think the predominant feeling we have is that now that we’ve reached this, we are ready for the next stage of growth and pushing the community forward. This building can help fuel that growth.”

Looking towards the future of his community, Rabbi Hain said: “I hope more of the same slow, steady growth and focus, now that we’re post-construction and all the challenges of COVID, figuring out ways in which we can expand our programming, our shiurim, to have the shul be a real religious and intellectual home for each of our members. … Now that we have the space, we’re trying to continue in a post-COVID environment.”

Outside YIOZ, Rabbi Hain serves as rosh beit midrash at SAR High School, and Shari is a senior physician assistant in otolaryngology at Mount Sinai West.

By Judy Berger

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