Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Friday night, November 23, saw the realization of a long-awaited dream. Young Israel Congregation moved into its new and beautiful building and held its first Friday night service there. It had been a daunting task. Aaron Weinberg, president of the congregation, said, “It has been a long and sometimes challenging road to get us to this point, but this has been part of God’s master plan, and we are so grateful.”

The concept of a Young Israel-style congregation in the Surfside area was an idea originated by Bernie Lack, Stephen Opert, and Allen Schloss in the latter part of 1997. Allen set up a meeting with Surfside mayor Paul Novack. Stephen contacted the Young Israel National office and spoke to director Rabbi Aaron Tirschwell. Rabbi Tirschwell met with the three men during Passover 1998.


Ben Levine, former mayor of Surfside, was helpful in obtaining permits and moving the undertaking forward. Many other individuals were instrumental in the inception of the synagogue. They worked hard and persevered. A room was found in the Coranado Hotel in Surfside and the Young Israel Congregation was founded in March 1999.

The synagogue then moved to the top floor of the Am Trust Bank building on Harding Avenue. The quest for a real home began in earnest in 2007. The congregation needed to buy land and get permission and permits. Members met with Surfside officials. There were many challenges and trials. Finally, wonderful news: a groundbreaking ceremony in March 2013.


Young Israel Congregation


The building process had many ups and downs. Approvals were needed. There were many problems, disappointments, and delays. The building committee and membership were tenacious. All agree that the result was well worth the wait.

Jack Gluck, chairman of the building committee says, “The road leading to the building of our new sanctuary has been a long and difficult process. It has taken more than eight years of overcoming numerous obstacles that were placed in our path, but finally our hope has turned into reality. We have all learned that the more difficult it is to achieve a goal, the greater the happiness, the greater the appreciation, and, most importantly, the greater our gratitude to Hashem when we finally do achieve our goal.

“May this new building be blessed to bring our members and their families much joy, much berachah, and many smachot, and may it enable everyone who enters our sanctuary to be able to move spiritually closer to the Almighty for many years to come.”

The new facility is stunning. The 400-seat sanctuary has beautiful stained glass windows. The pews are magnificently crafted as is the carved-glass aron kodesh.

The building includes a beis medrash, ballroom, and social hall. Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein, spiritual leader of the congregation says, “The Young Israel Congregation hopes to be a beacon of Torah inspiration to the entire Jewish community with classes and programs that cater to people of all levels of Jewish observance. Hopefully, our new majestic edifice reflects the beauty that is manifested by the dedicated and special people that make our Young Israel Congregation unique.”

Young Israel Congregation, serving the communities of Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor, and Surfside, is centrally located on the corner of 96th Street and Abbott Avenue and is in walking distance to all the communities the shul serves. For more information call 305-866-0203, e-mail [email protected] or visit


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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.