Young Israel of Fort Lee recently celebrated another year of substantial growth with a special “New Members” kiddush after davening to welcome the 16 new family and single members who have joined the synagogue over the past 12 months. The new members run the gamut from young couples to retirees.
While there are many ingredients that contribute to the vibrancy of a community, people are consistently impressed with the robust adult education program at the Young Israel of Fort Lee (YIFL). Over the past two years, YIFL has hosted a range of scholars and inspirational speakers including Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Raizi Chechik, and Rabbi Paysach Krohn. Most recently, author Tuvia Tenenbom spoke at a sold-out Lunch and Learn event. These speakers as well as the weekly shiurim given by Rabbi Goldberg, are of great interest to those who wish to move into a community where Torah study is a priority.
In addition, many of the new members are drawn to Fort Lee for its unique housing options. “Fort Lee has beautiful high-rise buildings with breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline,” says Rabbi Zev Goldberg, spiritual leader of the Young Israel. “In addition, many of the buildings close to the shul offer a wide variety of amenities, such as Shabbos elevators, fitness centers, and pools.”
Yitzchak and Ellen Berger joined YIFL this past year. The Bergers moved from Jamaica Estates after 43 years in their home. Tired of fighting traffic when visiting their grandchildren in Englewood, they considered buying a home in Teaneck. Along the way, their children and contemporaries mentioned how Orthodox retirees were downsizing to Fort Lee, and they decided to take action.
“We met Rabbi Goldberg. We spent a Shabbos in Fort Lee. Everyone was welcoming and friendly,” Yitzchak recalled. Since the couple moved in, they have been inundated with invitations. “The warmth of the community is amazing,” Yitzchak said. “The shul, too, has something for everyone. I enjoy the classes, the learning, and growth opportunities,” he added.
The location, it turned out, is perfect for the Bergers. “We are close to the city where we both still work, and we are closer to our children,” Yitzchak noted. Both Yitzchak and Ellen feel they fit right in, and Yitzchak has already begun giving divrei Torah at community events. Ellen added, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighborhood continues to grow.”
As a young couple and proud Fort Lee transplants, Drs. Len and Liz Begun moved to Fort Lee approximately one year ago. Liz grew up in Woodcliff Lake, having attended Moriah and Frisch, and Len grew up in Deal. When they first married, they lived in Manhattan and, later, in Philadelphia. Recently they both took jobs in the greater metro New York area, with Liz commuting to Westchester and Leon to central Jersey. “We needed to live somewhere that had convenient access to highways because we both have about an hour commute in the opposite directions,” Len explained. “We also wanted to move somewhere where we could become part of a community and start setting down roots,” Len said.
Because the couple has a dog, they chose to live in the Hudson Lights building. “For us it was the best balance of space, convenience for commuting, and a feeling of being in the middle of all the action, due to its location. We currently have a two-bedroom apartment and have been happy so far. Being in the middle of the Fort Lee downtown area is also very convenient,” Len added.
Len has been particularly attracted to members of the congregation who have fascinating life experiences. “It makes for really interesting interactions with other members, and often the younger guys will stand around and just listen to the stories told by our older members. It’s nice to feel that the shul has a vested interest in keeping each member. The rabbi does a great job of encouraging people to get involved without being too pushy. I go to the rabbi’s class on Thursdays, which is a nice way to meet up with other members,” Len said.
With their children grown and on their own, new YIFL members Rabbi Dr. Saul and Marlene Landa decided it was time to downsize. They were founding members of the Young Israel of East Brunswick in 1975 so, “psychologically, it was a difficult move,” Saul recalled.
The Landas did not make the decision to choose Fort Lee lightly. “We found ourselves examining in detail and with a critical eye — perhaps a little too much — the neighborhoods we were researching for our next residence. We knew we were downsizing to a co-op, condo, or small ranch house and needed an Orthodox community within walking distance to the shul, with adequate space, a nice rabbi, and near our kids. We were asking a lot, no?” Saul noted that the co-op they chose near two of their three children, is, of course, smaller than the large house they had lived in, but the transition has been an easy one.
“The building affords adequate space for everything we have, and we are across the street from the Young Israel! What can be bad?” he joked. The Landas, in such a short time, have already begun to get involved. Saul is in charge of the popular Lunch & Learn program, and in fact, interviewed Tuvia Tenenbom as part of the program mentioned above. The interview was a big hit. Another example of the interesting and exciting happenings in Fort Lee!
To learn more about the Young Israel of Fort Lee, contact the shul at firstname.lastname@example.org or e-mail Rabbi Goldberg directly at email@example.com.