September 17, Staff Report
The leaders of a Sunnyside synagogue are looking to bring new members into the fold.
Young Israel of Sunnyside, an orthodox synagogue located at 43-01A 46th Street (separate entrance on 43rd Ave), aims to boost its membership at a time when the synagogue is being upgraded and the Jewish high holidays are approaching.
The upgrades to the synagogue include new floors, windows and furniture, as well as a renovated kitchen and a refurbished children’s area. They aim to complete them before Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of September 20.
The congregation has benefited in recent years from the influx of young Jews into western Queens. However, membership is significantly lower today than in its heyday of the 1950s and ‘60s, when Sunnyside had a large Jewish community.
Stephen Weiner, who is the President at Young Israel of Sunnyside, said he is hopeful that the upgrades will attract new people to the synagogue for the holidays.
The congregation also plans to open a Hebrew school, which will make use of the refurbished children’s area.
Betty-Ann Hogan, Weiner’s wife, said the synagogue is very welcoming. Despite its orthodox following, she said that its membership is very diverse, and that congregants come from South America, Israel and the Middle East.
“It’s a nice, inclusive space,” Hogan said. “It’s not cliquish.”
Converts to Judaism are also embraced, she added.
Program Director Howard Brickman said that even though his own family is not orthodox, the synagogue has made him and his family feel welcome.
“Regardless of your family’s needs, we want to make everyone feel comfortable,” said Brickman.
The congregation is active in the community and hosts various 12-step recovery programs open to all. Hogan says that she hopes that the synagogue will be able to offer more community services with the renovation.
Weiner says that members wish to help residents renew their Jewish faith by helping them with Hebrew and religious texts. In addition to Hebrew, the synagogue features an English language library which Weiner says is helpful for those who want to explore the religion.
“It’s very welcoming to people who are reconnecting to their roots,” said Weiner. “Our religion has been around for thousands of years. Education is the only way to continue from generation to generation.”
Alternatively, Office Manager Jill Parshley-Cardillo can be reached at [email protected].