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Posts Tagged ‘Five Towns’

Oceanside, N.Y. – To Be Young Again

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

        Youth is the key to a Jewish community. Sure, there are snowbird synagogues, but bocce ball and bingo aren’t going to attract young couples. And a Jewish neighborhood without the semblance of a youth department in its future is a community that will likely not be around very long. There are Jewish communities throughout New York City and Long Island, where this has occurred, and is happening still. Oceanside, N.Y., was on the path to becoming one of these communities. But the pillars of the town, men and women who have lived in the town for decades, weren’t about to let their beloved neighborhood erode like the beaches of Long Island’s Eastern Shore.

 

         The Young Israel of Oceanside used the recent celebration of its 50th anniversary as a time to reflect on its rich past and begin plans for attracting Oceanside’s young future leaders of tomorrow. At its peak in the early 90s, the shul had approximately 275 families, now the number is closer to 160. Members of the community do not want Oceanside to become like the beautiful, but dwindling community of Belle Harbor, N.Y., which has barely a frum family looking to locate there, let alone a young couple.

 

 


Members of the community marching at Oceanside’s Memorial Day Parade

 

 

         To change the trend, the shul’s Rav, Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, started a growth initiative committee led by David Welner, a stalwart figure in the community for over 30 years. Working as a team, this committee created fresh blueprints for reinvigorating an Orthodox neighborhood by attracting what Rabbi Muskat calls “‘Klal Yisrael Families” – couples that are truly looking to make a difference in the community.”

 

         Rabbi Muskat, 35, and his wife Yael, had been in the community for a little over two years, but their youthful exuberance, and impressive credentials made them the perfect candidates to help restore Oceanside as a neighborhood that appeals to young couples. “When we first arrived the shul was somewhat stagnant, but now we’re on the rise,” Rabbi Muskat said.

 

         With starter homes going for $400, 000, and four-bedroom houses for $500,000, the committee has arranged for free attorney charges for the closing and buying of houses, home inspections for a mere $350, and (through a special affiliation) mortgage rates that are up to 3/8 of a point below average rates. In fact, for qualifying couples, there are some “substantial” interest-free loans that may be used towards the purchase of a home and do not have to be repaid until these buyers sell their homes.

 

         But Mr. Welner points out that the attraction to Oceanside isn’t and shouldn’t just be dollar-driven. “No young couple in their right minds would move to a neighborhood and commit for 10 years for money alone,” he said. “It’s about the sincerity of our community and the warm and secure feeling they get inside when they’ve spent a Shabbos with us.” Therefore, the growth initiative committee prepared special Shabbatonim and parlor meetings, organized specifically for young couples. And more and more, the targeted demographic started taking notice of Oceanside.

 

         After only a short four months from the roll-out date of the project, seven young families are already finalizing the paperwork for their new homes in Oceanside. With yet another successful “Young Couples” Shabbaton last week, Oceanside has an additional two-dozen ideal families looking to move in.

 

         “At first we were a bit skeptical,” said Jake and Naomi Weintraub of Woodmere, N.Y., “but after spending a couple of Shabbosim in Oceanside, we knew that this is where we wanted to raise our children. We could not believe our good fortune in finding such a warm, noncompetitive, chesed-filled community with real Torah values and where everyone knows each other.” They added that they were able to save tens-of-thousands of dollars with help and advice from the home-buying committee.

 

         Stu and Tamara Brand, 25 and 24, have been living in the community since January, 2006 and recently gave birth to their first child. Their son’s bris was held at the Young Israel. “I think Oceanside is a community that is a hidden treasure,” said Mr. Brand, 25. “It has a quiet, beautiful, country feel; it’s a low-key neighborhood with an established core of Orthodox families. When Tamara gave birth the Young Israel of Oceanside Chesed Committee made sure meals were provided for us for two weeks. Every night another family would cook for us.”

 

 


Stu and Tamara Brand with new Oceansider Alex

 

 

        It must be pointed out that the Young Israel isn’t the only Orthodox minyan in town. A mile away is Chabad of Oceanside. Established in 2000, it can have anywhere from 35-200 people on Shabbos, and a whopping 1,000 attendants for the High Holidays. Many of these Jews are what Rabbi Levi Gurkov calls “Yiddin that are unaffiliatedand disenfranchised for one reason or another,” but who are looking to grow in their Judaism, which is exactly what Chabad is there for.

 

         “Our main focus is on our educational department,” said Rabbi Gurkov. The Chabad of Oceanside Hebrew School (“for ages 5 through Bar Mitzvah” as Rabbi Gurkov put it) currently has 250 students, an impressive number for such a new establishment.

 

         Aside from the Young Israel there are only two other Orthodox shuls: Congregation Darchei Noam, which has approximately 60 people for minyan on Shabbos, and Shaar Shamayim, which averages 35 people on Shabbos and has been a part of the community since 1964. The shuls are located in converted neighborhood homes and surrounded by Jews both frum and non-observant. Yet, both Darchei Noam’s and Shaar Shamayim’s doors are open to all. “I think one thing that might set us apart is that we’re involved in more outreach,” said Rabbi Avi Kasten,  rav of Shaar Shamayim.

 

         Both Darchei Noam and Shaar Shamayim are warm, intimate and quiet congregations.

 

         “I enjoy that we are close and accessible to the New York Jewish community’s many institutions, yet retain the advantages of a tight knit, out-of-town community where people really can get to know one another,” said Rabbi David Friedman of Darchei Noam.

 

         “There are a variety of shiurim and I have always been heartened by the enthusiasm of participants in my Tuesday night Gemara shiur, and monthly class for women. My ba’alei batim have been warm, friendly and supportive, and have made our family part of their family simchas.”

 

         One aspect that sets the Young Israel of Oceanside apart from large shuls, which focus on young married couples in other neighborhoods, is its view on young couples minyanim. “We are in principle against these minyanim,” said Rabbi Muskat, “The main minyan should be for everyone. New members should be integrated fully, and the community should daven as a whole, and not be segregated.”

 

          It seems that this approach is appealing to some couples. “After spending just one Shabbos in Oceanside my wife and I knew this was the kind of community we were looking for,” said Joey Levy, who, along with his wife Susie, is in contract for a new home in the neighborhood.

 

         The Young Israel of Oceanside also has a strong youth department headed by the affable Daniel Stroock. When asked how the numbers compare to when he started eight years ago, Stroock smiled and jokingly said, “You’re going to make me look bad.” The truth is that, yes, the youth department numbers have gone down in recent years. But the influx of young couples that have moved in and are moving in portends a resurgence in the youth department.

 

 


A Youth Department BBQ at the Stroock house

 

 

         “We’ve had something of a baby boom,” Stroock said, pointing out the 10 new children born into the community in the last year alone. Plus, some of the young couples planning to move into Oceanside have one or two young children.

 

         Even now, the youth department is still an integral part of the community, not only working with the National Council of Young Israel, but NCSY, as well. “We have programming for pre-schoolers, high school, and even college students,” said Stroock. Some of the more interesting events in the last year included an exotic animal show for Parshat Noach, a fishing trip for teens, and a white water rafting/Arnold Ring Homestead trip for all ages. The Stroocks are also known for having barbecues for all of the neighborhood youths in the warmer months. “Daniel has done a great job with the youth department,” said Stu Brand, “I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to participate.”

 

         For a young frum couple sincerely looking to be part of a community, it would seem that Oceanside must be a consideration. While the growth initiative committee has select members, it is in fact a unifying effort. “There is something very special about our initiative that makes us stand apart from the rest,” said Mr. Welner, “The vision of Rabbi Muskat, my committee, and each and every member of our Young Israel is one and the same. We are all truly unified in our resolve to make this community grow with quality young people who share our Torah values.”

 

 


New to the Neighborhood: The Simantov Family

 

 

       Oceanside’s growth initiative has proven so successful that shul presidents and rabbis from many communities around the Tri-State Area have been calling both Rabbi Muskat and Mr. Welner, asking if they could share the secret of their success with them.

 

         Some people who hear that Oceanside has no kosher restaurants or non-Chabad yeshivas become somewhat dismayed by the idea of considering it a suitable place for a frum couple to live. But residents will point out that it isn’t as if Oceanside were located in the middle of Utah with only a Chabad school in sight. The neighborhood is a mere 15-minute drive from Central Avenue in the Five Towns, a block that offers essentially every type of kosher restaurant and establishment a frum family could want.

 

         However, Oceanside isn’t without its own kosher establishments. There’s Bagel Boss, Steinberg’s Bakery, and the Knish Factory, which provides kosher catering and takeout food. Plus the area Stop and Shop Supermarket is one of several supermarkets that carries an entire section of kosher meats from Empire, as well as many side dishes from Mauzone and other kosher items. Oceanside has an eruv that covers the entire community and includes South Nassau Hospital. They also have a modern mikveh, and a new, vibrant JCC.

 

         In terms of yeshivas, both for grade and high school, the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR), Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), Yeshiva of South Shore, and all branches of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB) are all within 20 minutes of Oceanside.

 

         Some people think of it as a quiet alternative to the Five Towns. It is a unique neighborhood with a strong past, but also ripe with possibility. Communities can shine brightly for years, but over time their batteries start to get weaker, and though they still work, they are mere shadows, a flicker of what they once were. In Oceanside, the community refused to let those batteries die. They just needed a little recharge to help the neighborhood shine brightly once again.

The Paintings Of Brocha Teichman

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Brocha Teichman - The Art Studio of the Five Towns:

Proprietors; Zelda
Weiss and Brocha Teichman.

48 Frost Lane, Lawrence, New York;

516 374 1904.

 

When Brocha Teichman was a young girl growing up, she always drew pictures. Once, she did a drawing of a kiddush cup set in her kitchen. She accidentally left it out on the kitchen table and her father, a rebbe in the Breuers community, saw the drawing and praised it. Years after he passed away, she fondly remembers the incident, and comments that her mother, to this day, encourages her professionally, as an artist.

Unfortunately, many times in the tradition-bound Orthodox community, creativity in the visual arts is frowned upon by some, based on the mistaken notion that all images are simply forbidden or that making art is not a serious pastime for the Torah community. What Brocha experienced as a child was a generosity of spirit and sensitivity to her talents by her parents. Such love and understanding can give birth to enormous creativity in the secure environment of a frum family. And that can make all the difference in the world.

Brocha Teichman has, for the last 10 years, painted the places and objects that give her joy. Her scenes from Eretz Yisrael, still lifes and portraits, are infused with Jewish sensibility that makes each one an expression of personal belief. The formal artistic training she received at the Art Students League in New York has shaped a realist’s sensibility to the daily images of an observant family life. In a rather literal way, her paintings are a direct reflection of her Yiddishkeit.

Israeli Still Life (2000) brings a classical perspective to a set of highly symbolic objects. The earthenware jug looks as if it was just unearthed from an excavation of an ancient Jewish settlement. The little looped handles are the exact kind I found with an archeologist friend in the fields of upper Galilee, while the crack along the neck seems a direct symptom of years of burial. This little icon of history is surrounded by two deep red pomegranates, echoing the hopes of a plentiful year, as associated with Rosh Hashanah. The simple painting is worthy of the French 18th century still-life master, Chardin, in that it displays a classic, triangular composition that expresses stability and reserve. It is a perfect New Year’s greeting from Israel.

Purim in Meah Shearim (2000) brings us into the heart of Jerusalem, while defining a quintessential aspect of Purim, the costumed abandon of children. A Hasid in his Yom Tov finery is seen walking away from us, surrounded in space by three sets of gaily-costumed children. Even though Teichman’s figurative paintings are all done using photographs, her manipulation of multiple images and compositional creativity belie a painter’s eye. Figures recede from the picture plane as others simultaneously advance towards us. This creates a visual tension that breaks into the fixity of the one point perspective that would normally dominate this image. Moreover, the fact that the two children in the foreground are about to turn back into the pictorial space begins a narrative that leads us into the mitzva of delivering shalach manos. In this concise little painting, the holiday is, at first, described and then pictorially narrated.

There is perhaps no genre that interests me less than Rebbe portraits. These generally murky images of venerated sages from retouched photographs or badly reproduced prints are unfortunately interchangeable caricatures of some of our greatest leaders. Teichman’s portrait of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein is a notable exception. Her clear and forceful delineation of the planes of his face in combination with the strong compositional triad based on his shoulders and crowned by his Old World rabbinic cap express the strength of his Torah personality. Beyond her masterly handling of paint, the crisp light in the painting gives it a power and integrity that reflects the very lucidity of Reb Moshe’s vision.

Brocha Teichman’s vision of Jewish art is seen in yet another expression in the field of art education. She has recently opened, with partner Zelda Weiss, The Art Studio of the Five Towns. It is located in Lawrence and offers classes for children and adults, with a special emphasis on teens. The classes in acrylic painting, drawing, watercolor and oil painting are held in the newly created studio space and are attracting a growing following of aspiring artists.
Both Weiss, who owns and operates Zelda’s Art World in Brooklyn and Teichman, are experienced teachers who offer a solid foundation in academic techniques necessary to create realistic images. They also have an opportunity to offer their students another kind of essential foundation. The Jewish values and sensibility that Teichman has been able to express, must be nurtured by an ongoing appreciation of Jewish art.

Just as the skills of drawing and painting are gleaned from the masters of Western painting, so too the sensibility and subjects of Jewish art need to be learned from the 2,000 years of visual expression of the Jewish people. To infuse fine art training with the values of Jewish art would make The Art Studio of the Five Towns a truly unique institution. I hope they seize this opportunity.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to email him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Where Are The Moms And Dads? – The Readers Respond

Wednesday, June 25th, 2003
Two Letters

Letter #1: ‘Poor Little Rich Children’

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have a feeling that you will be inundated with endless letters and stories relating to those shared in your article entitled “Where Are The Moms And Dads?” I am compelled to share two of my own experiences with you.

I was recently a camp counselor in the Five Towns. All of the staff were “Agudah” types, but the community generally consisted of affluent modern Orthodox Jews. This circle of people was very new to me. I really had had contact only with the “Yeshivish” world or secular Jews.

My new group of four year old campers were coming in and I was using every ounce of my mental and emotional capacity to try to remember their names and those of their parents as well as “very important” information” that some mothers didn’t think pertinent enough to write down. Then, something very strange happened. A young mother firmly grabbed my arm and very anxiously said, “You must come with me now!”

She took me over to a Hispanic woman and stated rather strongly and nervously, “This is my child’s care- taker. Her name is Maria. If there is any emergency with my daughter “Sarah,” she is who you will contact. She doesn’t speak any English, but don’t worry, I taught her how to walk to the camp if she has to pick up Sarah.”

Rebbetzin, I must tell you I let out a silent prayer, “Please, please Ribbono Shel Olam, Almighty G-d, don’t let there ever be an emergency with “Sarah.” Please don’t make me ever have to call the non-English speaking gentile caretaker for this holy Jewish child.”

The second story happened a few years later at the same camp. I had a lovely, well-behaved four year old in my group. It was several weeks into camp, so by now I knew the children well. “Baruch” always ate his lunch very well and generally was a pleasure to have in my group. One day, we noticed that “Baruch” wasn’t eating his lunch. We asked if he felt O.K. He stated, “Yes”. We asked him why he wasn’t eating his sandwich, and he stated, “I don’t like salami and BUTTER.”

We were rather shocked at this statement. We knew that the boy’s parents were observant Jews and had a strictly kosher home. We tried to speak with him to find out what was going on, but to no avail. We really thought he must be mistaken and just wasn’t hungry that day. Well, the next day, the same thing happened. “Baruch” wasn’t eating, when we asked why, he stated that he didn’t like “bologna and butter sandwiches.”

By this point, we were wondering what was going on. We took the sandwich and examined it. The sandwich really did look like cold cuts and butter, but we thought, “Perhaps it’s soy meat. Perhaps it’s soy butter.” I tried to call the house, but there was no answer. Then I called the father at work stating that I was Baruch’s camp counselor, and was told that the father was in a very important meeting and couldn’t be disturbed. Then I called the emergency number, but there too there was no answer. Baruch Hashem, it was the last day of the week.

On Monday, I saw “Baruch’s” mother dropping him off at camp. I told her the whole story and her face turned white as a ghost. She kept saying, “Oh my G-d, Oh my G-d. I don’t believe it!” Finally, when she calmed down, she told me that she had gone on a short vacation and left the children with a secular Jewish girl who swore she would only give the kids kosher food, and she must have intentionally given the children meat and dairy sandwiches. The family had to kasher the whole house and throw out many things that couldn’t be made kosher.

May Hashem have rachmanut on His Jewish children.

Second Letter: “A Father’s Confession”

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

Thank you for the very compelling and insightful analysis of derech eretz. It touches upon a subject that has also troubled me for some time – even before I became a father. I have always advocated that children learn and do what they see and hear. If they experienced physical and emotional abuse or neglect between parents or siblings in the home, then they too will tend to behave in like manner as adults – sometimes long before reaching adulthood.

I believe that parents should even avoid something as innocent looking as arguing with each other in front of children, especially if their arguments tend to become emotional or hurtful. This is for two very cogent reasons: (1) Such arguments tend to undermine their parental authority, and (2) children, especially younger ones, can actually develop an unwarranted sense of guilt as a result of seeing constant parental disputes. They tend to feel that somehow they did something wrong and that this time, Abba and Eema are fighting about it and that is their fault.

My very first reaction after my ex-wife informed me that she was leaving me for someone else was to gather my four children around me in order to attempt to explain to them that what was
happening was not their fault, and that Mommy and Daddy still love them and always will.

I realize that this issue is separate from that which you discussed in your response, but it is nevertheless related to it because it is rooted in the very same cause – parents setting poor examples for their children’s behavior, unwittingly or otherwise.

Regarding the use of baby sitters, may I tell you that I cannot ever recall my parents having a hired baby-sitter watch over us while I was growing up. Occasionally, when aunts and uncles visited us, they did take care of us, however, my parents always avoided having strangers watch us for two reasons: (1) they did not trust placing us in the care of strangers, and (2) their unanimous attitude was that they would simply not go anywhere that they could not bring their kids - an attitude that is perhaps not very popular today.

Finally, before I conclude this letter, if I may, I wish to offer you a confession. It would be improper and hypocritical for me to address these important issues without sharing with you my own guilt, my own terrible mistakes concerning my absence from my children - in itself a vicious form of neglect. I shall undoubtedly have to deal with the pain and guilt of the indirect effects of my actions on my children for the rest of my life. I have been attempting to make up for this absence, if indeed, this is even possible.

Baruch Hashem, my children have responded positively and appear to genuinely wish to include me in their lives. I intend to do everything within my power to promote that goal and to enrich my relationship with all of them. I have taken this opportunity to write in the hope that others will learn from my experience.

Your Avid Reader

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