The History of Young Israel of New Rochelle
In 1957, a small group that was affiliated with New Rochelle’s Congregation Anshe Sholom sought to establish a new community. Anshe Sholom had recently moved farther south, to its current location at 50 North Avenue, and this group, which lived farther north, desired a synagogue closer to their homes.
On September 16, 1957, the National Council of Young Israel voted to accept the group as one of its branches and granted it the name Young Israel of New Rochelle (YINR). The first president of YINR was Dr. Bert Lescot, who served until his death in 1963.
Upon the founding, Dr. Lescot stated that YINR “hopes to become a pilot project for similar modern traditional synagogues in the area, catering to the needs of the modern adult and the youth.”
Early Years on Coligni Avenue
On September 24, 1957, YINR acquired as its first synagogue building a colonial house at 225 Coligni Avenue, near Webster Avenue.
In 1962, Rabbi Israel Goldberg was engaged as the community’s first spiritual leader. He left in 1965 to head a synagogue in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
At that time, Rabbi Abraham Lieberman, who previously served as Rabbi of Sherbrooke, Quebec, became Rabbi of YINR.
In the early years, the community remained small and there were very few children. Finding a minyan was difficult and because of the struggles, many members considered relocating. In the mid-1960s, realizing that it would be very difficult to attract new families to the neighborhood, the community considered two options: to dissolve the synagogue and sell the building, or to purchase another facility farther north.
The Move to 1228 North Avenue
At that time, the Christ United Methodist Church – formed through the 1964 merger of First Methodist Church at 1228 North Avenue and St. John’s Methodist Church in the southern part of New Rochelle – was building a new facility at 1200 North Avenue (corner of Disbrow Lane). Its facility at 1228 North – comprised of a sanctuary building built in 1897 and a social hall building built in 1925 – was for sale. The church originally moved to the property at 1228 North in 1788.
In December 1966, YINR entered into an agreement to acquire the church buildings at 1228 North, and closed the purchase of 1228 North on June 13, 1967 (erev Shavuot).
Rabbi Lieberman left shortly before the move to 1228 North and Rabbi Stanley Wexler, who had previously served the Young Israel of Syracuse, was engaged as YINR’s spiritual leader.
Some of the families affiliated with YINR on Coligni did not move with the shul to 1228 North, primarily because it was too far from their homes. YINR had fewer than twenty member families at the time of the move.
After moving to 1228, YINR was fortunate to acquire some new families; however, it was still difficult to make a minyan and each family was counted on to participate fully in all activities. There were Shabbat groups and junior minyan for the children led by teenage members.
In 1972, an addition was constructed that connected the sanctuary and social hall buildings, providing three classrooms, a beit midrash and a youth lounge.
In 1969, the YINR leadership was approached to discuss the possibility of establishing a satellite minyan in the North End.
YINR agreed to this new initiative, and to share administration, social functions and the Hebrew school, which met on North Avenue. YINR changed its name to Young Israel of Westchester, New Rochelle Center, and the new community was called Young Israel of Westchester, Scarsdale Center.
For the first year, Stanley Raskas served as Rabbi of the Scarsdale Center. Rabbi Reuven Grodner served as Rabbi for the next several years.
In 1972, following considerable growth, the Scarsdale Center applied for its own Young Israel charter and became Young Israel of Scarsdale. In 1982, the New Rochelle Center reverted back to the name Young Israel of New Rochelle.
Years of Dramatic Growth
In 1981, Rabbi Reuven Fink was engaged as the community’s MaraD’atra, beginning the period of the community’s dramatic growth and expansion.
On September 21, 1981, just weeks after Rabbi Fink’s arrival, a dailyShacharitminyanwas instituted for the first time.
In 1983, the New Rochelleeruv was built under Rabbi Fink’s leadership.
While for many years YINR had held youth activities led by volunteers, in 1983 the community had a critical mass of children and it was determined that it was necessary to develop a formal, more expansive youth program.
The YINR Women’s League was established in 1988 and over the years it has taken increasing responsibility for a wide range of critical functions and programs.
The YINR Hashkama minyan was established in the early 1990s for the dual purpose of providing an important davening option and relieving crowding in the 1228 North sanctuary.
Looking to the Future
As early as the mid-1980s, given the considerable growth of the community, 1228 became crowded and it became necessary to begin thinking about future space needs.
YINR considered expanding the facility at 1228 North and over a period of several years, every possible option within a half-mile radius of 1228 North was investigated.
In 1993, a single-family house on 0.75 acres at 1149 North Avenue was successfully acquired and proposed as the site for a new building. The house, built in 1904 was owned by the Disbrow family until 1963.
Planning for a new building on the site began immediately, although the YINR community faced many years of challenges to complete this important project.
On April 6, 2008, Young Israel of New Rochelle dedicated its new building at a Chanukat Habayit celebration attended by approximately 1,000 people, including member families, community dignitaries, and family and friends from other communities.