Bonnie Panzok is just trying to catch up with her children.
When Panzok sent her kids to Jewish day school to get the education she never got, she watched as their knowledge grew exponentially and surpassed her own. But now, Panzok, after a crash course in Jewish history and rituals, has soared ahead, filling in the gaps in her own Jewish learning.
Talk about a job with growth potential. In 1952, Rabbi David Halpern (single and newly ordained by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University) took what he thought was a temporary pulpit in a pioneer Brooklyn Jewish community later to be named Mill Basin.
Congregants met in a store on Avenue N, paying the owner $5 per service. A daily minyan was hard to come by, but families were steadily trickling into the area from such fading Jewish areas as Brownsville and East New York.
Bernie Lazar dreads answering his phone these days if it rings in the morning.
The president of Bnai Zion of Midwood fears it will be news of another break-in at the 75-year-old congregation, which has been targeted seven times in less than two months, most recently early Monday morning.
"It's so heart-wrenching when I get these calls at 6 in the morning," says Lazar, a Bnai Zion worshiper for more than 50 years.
Though not particularly religious, Boris Karasik enjoyed going to the Orthodox Mapleton Park Jewish Center in the seven years since he arrived in Brooklyn from Belarus.
At the Bensonhurst shul, he could hear a sermon in Russian and recite the Kaddish for lost relatives. But the former Red Army officer, who fought the Nazis and wears his medals proudly on his chest, could also swap war stories with other immigrants over a bottle of cognac.
Seeking a strategy for survival in a changing demographic landscape, members of the Rego Park Jewish Center may soon look to a mechitza as the answer to their prayers.
The 65-year-old Conservative congregation, which has lost more than half its members in the past five years, is considering a shift to Orthodoxy to remain viable.
When David Isler and his wife, Esther, were looking to move from their home in Kew Gardens, Queens, to a house on Long Island, they sought out small Orthodox communities where “everybody knows everybody and is warm and friendly.”
And the $25,000 cash incentive one of them offered didn’t hurt.
Renewal, a theme of the High Holy Days, will resonate in particular this year for the congregants of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, which was heavily damaged last month by fire. “I’m going to speak about the lessons one unfortunately takes from a trauma like this,” said Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, the congregation’s spiritual leader. “I’m going to talk of the vision of rebuilding, something that unfortunately Jews are accustomed to doing. And I’m going to say that just as buildings can be rebuilt, so can lives.”
A fire that heavily damaged the second floor ballroom of Temple Israel in Great Neck early Tuesday was sparked by sawdust that spontaneously ignited, according to fire officials.
“Last night they were sanding the floor and the contractor put sawdust in a closed container in a corner of the room,” explained Victor Fuentes, chief of the Great Neck Alert Fire Department. “There was a spontaneous combustion from the sawdust and the chemicals [from the floor].”