By Dov Levy
The summer vacation season is winding down, but tefillos continue full force at the historic Woodbourne Shul on Route 52. It was another whirlwind summer of constant coming and going as the shul serviced the tens of thousands of heimishe vacationers who retreated to the pleasant atmosphere of the Catskills for a bit of relaxation.
The dormant shul was revived in 2010 by Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, shlita, beloved Niklesburg Rebbe, who saw it as the perfect place to accommodate the needs of the seasonal frum community. It is flourishing ever since, with each summer bringing even greater numbers of visitors who drop by to catch a tefillah, refreshment, and a warm berachah from the Rebbe.
The Rebbe’s devotion to the shul is legendary. He was there every morning this summer to unlock the doors at 5:30 a.m. He spent virtually every minute of every day overseeing the bustling minyanim and making sure everyone has all their needs provided. Doors were never locked before 2 a.m. or so, after which the Rebbe drove the non-Jewish janitor to his home in Monticello, a drive of 20 minutes each way. Then he caught at most two hours of sleep before returning to prepare the shul for yet another day of activities.
Over the past few years, the shul has seen attendance grow steadily, with total numbers in the upper ten thousands in recent years. Yet this summer the shul saw hundreds of new faces each day. How many times did the Jungreis family hear people step into the shul and ask in amazement, “Wow — is today visiting day?!” Thousands of dollars were spent each day to provide the coffee and light refreshments, not to mention the highlight of the week — hot cholent and kugel that are served to the delighted crowds every Thursday night.
In one of Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Weiss’ weekly Thursday evening shiurim at the Woodbourne shul — another tradition that developed here in recent years — he stressed, “People should learn from Rabbi Jungreis’ example that this world is all about giving, and more giving and more giving!”
The proudest aspect of the shul’s operation is its tradition of complete openness to all. This motto is prominently displayed on a large sign outside the shul, but it is also reflected on all of the faces that enter. Here all walks of Klal Yisrael mingle comfortably; there is no hint of the machlokes and divisiveness that sadly sometimes still finds expression in other venues.
Every day at the Woodbourne Shul is an ongoing kiddush Hashem, one that Klal Yisrael should rightfully be proud of. There was not a single incident of disharmony or discord throughout the entire summer. It is a kiddush Hashem that has a profound impact, if only in a quiet way. Numerous people admitted to Rabbi Jungreis, shlita, and his sons that they never put on tefillin but committed to doing so daily now after experiencing the warmth and camaraderie that are the hallmark of Rabbi Jungreis and the Woodbourne Shul.
While the summer rush has died down, the shul is now gearing up for the first night of Selichos, always a big draw. Selichos will take place motzaei Shabbos at 1 a.m. What better place can there be to launch the tefillos of the Yomim Nora’im than the shul that brings Klal Yisrael together year after year?