On Sunday, December 16, the Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale/Yonkers (YIOZ) held its annual dinner. This year’s guest of honor was Lee Botnick who has dedicated years of service to the shul, including multiple terms on the board, serving as vice president and, as of January 1, the first female YIOZ president. Long-time Gabbai Jeff Bocarsly was presented with the Community Service Award. Rachel Mansdorf and shul treasurer Josh Neuman received the Community Leadership Award.
Founded in 1979, the Young Israel of North Riverdale merged with Congregation Ohab Zedek of Yonkers in 1991 and moved into its present location at the Morris and Marilyn Sopher Building at 6015 Riverdale Avenue. “YIOZ is a warm and welcoming community synagogue that aspires to be the religious, intellectual and spiritual home for each of its members,” explained Rabbi Shmuel Hain. “In the last several years, YIOZ has welcomed an influx of young families who, together with the community’s pioneers, have created a unique shul, renowned for its warmth and the diversity of its membership.”
“This is an exciting time to join the YIOZ community,” added Rabbi Haim. “New programming for youth, additional minyanim for tefillah, more classes and shiurim for adults, expanded opportunities for chesed, advocacy for Israel and social action, all ensure that each member of YIOZ contributes to, and feels a part of, this growing and vibrant kehillah.”
The congregation recently announced its plans to expand its building. The current 5,000 square foot space has a 250 seat sanctuary and a very small social hall area with limited space for youth. Under the construction plan, the current space will be transformed into a beautiful 225 seat social hall along with offices and youth rooms. A new sanctuary, with a capacity of 350 and featuring natural light, will be built in the parking lot behind the current building.
“We will retain the 100 plus year old ark which was installed from Congregation Ohab Zedek when it merged with Young Israel of North Riverdale in the early 90s,” revealed Rabbi Hain.
“It is great to see that we have run out of space,” exclaimed Botnick. “When I moved here over 30 years ago, there were not many kids in the shul, and plenty of room. Now, as a new generation has moved in, there are children everywhere.” She added, “I think our shul is pretty unique, we are a wondrous mix of age, and demographic, it is an integrated mix. It is the best of modern Orthodoxy, everyone is welcome.”
“I am constantly hosting or invited for Shabbat meals to homes of members who are my children’s age. There are no defined groups; we are one community,” Botnick said.
“We are the only 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, community synagogue in North Riverdale (above 252nd street) and Van Cortland Crest and Ludlow Park, the two Yonkers neighborhoods contiguous to North Riverdale that our shul serves. As a result, we have a truly diverse shul, a rarity in the metropolitan area. Together with this out of town feel, we have robust programming for both youth and adults. This is what is attracting families to our shul, along with all of the amenities of Riverdale, SAR and other day schools. In terms of diversity; we are proud to have YIOZ members who also belong to the Young Israel of Riverdale, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, The Riverdale Minyan, the Riverdale Jewish Center, and the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel Riverdale,” added Rabbi Hain.
Describing her aspirations for her term as YIOZ president, Botnick included that her “vision is to have a successful capital project that comes to conclusion, stays on budget and which truly enhances our community.” Further, she added, “Since we are a grassroots shul, and rely on our members involvement, I want to find a better way to include all those who want to be involved in a meaningful way, and for them to add and participate in the life of our growing shul.”
By Judy Berger