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About Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan

History

by Altie Karper

In 1912 a group of young and idealistic Orthodox Jewish men and women living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan started a Friday night lecture series that would eventually give birth to the Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan and the world-wide Young Israel movement. They were motivated by the then-powerful forces of Reform Judaism and secularism, both of which were luring young people to abandon the Orthodoxy of their immigrant parents; in the case of the former, with a more “Americanized” and non-halachic form of synagogue worship, and in the case of the latter, with cultural programs and social events. The lecture series--which was given space in several local synagogues and featured some of the leading rabbis and religious scholars in America--proved to be wildly popular. And the “model synagogue” that was established, in which young men led the services and which featured congregational singing, quickly outgrew its original quarters at 205 East Broadway and began to rent space at the Educational Alliance.  In 1929 the Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan moved to a larger home at 229 East Broadway. To the cultural and social programming were added classes in Tanach and Jewish Law, all overseen by Young Israel’s founding rabbi, Rabbi Dr. David Stern, ztz”l. And a youth program was added as well, in which hundreds of neighborhood girls and boys enjoyed sports, music, crafts, and social events in an environment of Yiddishkeit. A Mother’s League and, eventually, a Sisterhood followed. As some of the founding members moved on to other neighborhoods, Young Israel synagogues were established in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, and in cities throughout the United States, making Young Israel a national movement dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Orthodox Judaism.

But the Manhattan branch continued to flourish as well, as founding members such as Ben Koenigsberg, I. J. Lurie, and Sam Kushner began training a new generation to assume the reigns of leadership. With the outbreak of World War II, YIM swung into action, sending food packages to “the boys” overseas and sending out a monthly newsletter, “The YI GI News” to YIM’s servicemen, updating them on the whereabouts of their fellow soldiers in Europe and the Pacific. At the war’s end, YIM became involved in both public and clandestine efforts to support the Jewish community in Palestine as it smuggled in Holocaust survivors and battled against Arab terrorists and the British Army. As food and medical equipment were proudly shipped overseas, 229 East Broadway also became a stop on the “underground railroad” that illegally smuggled guns and other armaments to the Yishuv.

In the 1950s, a new generation of leaders enlarged our youth department, helped set up Young Israel’s Intercollegiate Council, and laid the groundwork for our expansion to 225 East Broadway. And with Rabbi Stern’s retirement and aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, YIM welcomed Rabbi Yeshaya and Rebbitzen Rita Siff and their family in 1964. They have been our spiritual leaders, our teachers, and dear friends to us all for almost half a century.

Over the last forty years, as the demographics changed on the Lower East Side, as the neighborhood went through some difficult times and then, quite amazingly, began to experience a renaissance, YIM has remained a leading neighborhood institution, providing classes and shiurim to men and women, public lectures, programs for young people, and a spiritual home for all who seek it. Although our beloved building on East Broadway is, sadly, no more, our Young Israel spirit lives on in the children and grandchildren of our founders who remain active in our organization, in our newer members, and in all those on the Lower East Side who want to live lives of Torah-true Judaism.

Shul Officers

    Rabbi:

  • Rabbi Yeshaya Siff

    Presidium:

  • Stuart Goldstein

    Vice Presidents:

  • Avraham Rothman

    Associate Vice Presidents:

  • Kenneth Keller
  • Rabbi Joseph Reifman
  • Janet Riesel
  • Michelle Sitzer
  • Tzvi Sitzer

    Treasurer:

  • Michal Krupnik Oberstein

    Recording Secretary:

  • Ilene Keller

    Financial Secretary:

  • Debbie Krupnik

    Gabbai:

  • Rabbi Gary Ambrose

    Executive Committee:

  • Ed Arfe
  • Reuben Epstein
  • Joyann Erez
  • Pam Fogel
  • Nussin Fogel
  • Fraeda Goldstein
  • Pauline Hagler
  • Aaron Hauptman
  • Dr. Edith Honig
  • Shmuel Karper
  • Eliezer Krupnik
  • Reva Ambrose
  • Roy Mensch
  • Penina Mezei
  • Kalman Nochlin
  • Harry Packer
  • Charles Feit
  • Justin Goldstein
  • Shayna Goldstein
  • Edward Silver
  • Roberta Tischler
  • Sol Wenig
  • Gale Weintraub

    Sisterhood Liaison:

  • Dorothy Reifman
  • Lelia Weil

    Cemetery Chairman
    Chevra Kadisha

  • Shmuel Karper
    T: (718) 253-1950
    M: (646) 942-0176