What have been your major “projects” since you’ve been in Williamsport?
One project that I am particularly proud of is that Williamsport is now an official “Sister-City” with Maale-Adumim. I contacted both mayors and coordinated everything, including hosting a delegation that came from Israel to visit Williamsport. Through the Sister-City pact, we now maintain regular contact and are planning some projects that will bring further interaction between the cities.
In addition, we reinstituted having an annual Yom HaShoa commemoration ceremony. This was done with participation of local politicians as well as local religious and civic leaders. We also have brought a lot of “ruach” to the congregation by continually bringing groups of bochurim throughout the year, to liven up our davening and learn with congregants. Our thanks go to the yeshiva in Wilkes-Barre and Project SEED who have been our partners in this effort.
We have also initiated several successful programs in the wider community. One such program is an interfaith seminar which took place at the shul with great participation. Another program was the 10 year memorial service for 9/11. I was astounded to see that nothing had been planned for 9/11, so I got to work myself, and put together a large-scale, very respectable and honorable ceremony which was held at the local college. Further, we do educational programs for the non-Jewish community, such as Holocaust education for youth, for which I have developed a very moving and practical curriculum.
You and your family have lived in quite a few countries. Did traveling so much help prepare you for your position now?
Moving around was a very beneficial learning experience. It allowed us to see many different communities and understand how they are all similar yet different. Being attuned to those subtleties has been a tremendous advantage in understanding communities, and also in understanding individuals.
What should potential visitors know about your community?
Williamsport is a magnificent, beautiful city with lots of places to see in the vicinity. If you are here on business, or on vacation, please stop in and see us and give us the zechus of doing hachnosas orchim. We love greeting guests! Also, if you are in need of anything, such as use of a mikvah, kosher food, Shabbos hospitality or anything at all, don’t hesitate to contact us.
What are your plans for the future?
Plans? I learned long ago that “a mentsh tracht, uhn Got lacht” and boy–He’s got some sense of humor!