Saturday, November 12, 2016

Women's Rosh Chodesh Group

The Old  Broadway Synagogue is proud to have a monthly Women's Rosh Chodesh group. The meets after kiddush on the Shabbos preceeding Rosh Chodesh. It features presentations by its participants. New women are welcome!

For more information, please contact 
Rhonda Taylor Ramsuer 
or Laura Radensky 

Here are the dates of meetings for 5777:


Cheshvan - October 29, 2016

Kislev - November 26, 2016

Tevet - December 24, 2016


Shevat - January 28, 2017

Adar - February 25, 2017 

Nissan - March 25, 2017

Iyar - April 22, 2017

Sivan - May 20, 2017

Tammuz - June 24, 2017

Av - July 22, 2017

Elul - August 19, 2017

and September 16, 2017 is for Rosh Hashanah 
not Rosh Chodesh.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sam and Dora Ratner and the Old Broadway Synagogue Sukkah

Four years ago, in 2010, we rebuilt our fixed sukkah in the back courtyard on foundation of the sukkah that was donated to the synagogue by Sam and Dora Ratner back in in 1954. Since this year is the sixtieth anniversary of that sukkah, it is appropriate to reflect on the Ratners and their contribution to the synagogue.

Before I go further, I should say that it was much that the Ratners donated the sukkah, they most likely donated the materials, but moreover, Sam built the sukkah with his own hands. And a great job he did at that since the sukkah was in operation until 2009 when the heavily reinforced roof flaps started pulling the walls apart.

Dorothy and Dora Ratner, middle to late 1940s.
According to Sam's grandson, Ken Ratner, Sam was born in 1897 in Zelva, Byelorussia, and came to the United States via Ellis Island. The origin of the name "Ratner" is shrouded in mystery, since the family's original name was "Bublatzky." One theory has it that the name was the maiden name of a woman who married into the family. Another theory is that the orignal name was changed at Ellis Island (I myself am usually suspicious of such stories, and on the Ellis Island site, one can find both names on the lists of arriving passengers). In any event, it seems to have been changed by Sam's father, Eliahu (Bublatzky) Ratner. Please click here for further notes on the Ratner family genealogy.

Sam opened a dry good store in lower Manhattan and later another one on White Plains Road in the Bronx, but lost these stores in the Depression. Later, he moved to Harlem and opened another dry goods store.

Ken and David Ratner and Abraham Klein, 1966
In 1921, Sam married Dora Sackinsky in Brooklyn. Sam and Dora son, Herbert, married Dorothy Rogoff in the late 1940s and had sons Robert, Ken and David. Herbert and Dorothy, their children and Dorothy's mother, Esther (Kiki) Rogoff,  lived at 160 Claremont, and then moved briefly into the Manhattanville Houses when they opened in 1961. After a few years, the family moved into 180 Claremont (where the Krets, the Rubinsteins, the Feigenblatts and the Libermans lived, among others). When Sam died in 1958 (four years after building the sukkah), Dora married member of the Old Broadway Synagogue, Abraham Klein Sometime in the 1970s, the Kleins moved to Florida, where Abraham died in 1979 and Dora died in 1996.
Esther Rogoff, 1985
Robert Ratner Bar Mitzvah Photo, 1963

When we decided the the sukkah built by Sam Ratner was no longer safe, we considered a couple different options. One would be to demolish the old sukkah and just put up a nylon sukkah, as many people in the suburbs have. The second option would be to recreate our original sukkah as best we could. In light of the fact that the old sukkah had served us well, and also because it was built in an old European style which included moveable roof flaps (compare with the images of the sukkos that appear in the extraordinary sukkah decoration was created by R. Aryeh Steinberger and hangs in the first floor of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan), we decided to recreate the sukkah that Sam Ratner built. We had to raise the money from a number of contributors to build the new sukkah, and because none of us had Sam Ratner's expertise, we hired Alex Myftarago, the contractor who rebuilt the roof, to build the new sukkah. As was noted above, the new sukkah was built upon the foundation of the old sukkah and largely along the same lines. To express our continuing thanks to the Ratners for nearly 50 years of the sukkah, we installed the old sukkah plaque next to the new one, which thanks our recent generous donors. Let's hope the new sukkah will last as long as the one it replaced!

Plaque thanking the Ratners on the left, and plaque thanking the contributors to the new sukkah on the right, 2010. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eureka!!! The Best Vegetarian Cholent Ever!!!

Well, that's probably an exaggeration, I did, however, make a very good vegetarian this Shabbos. It had great consistency, and for vegetarian, a very good taste. Friday afternoon before Shabbos, I put six large chopped carrots in olive oil on the bottom of the five quart crock pot. To that I added three cups of dried beans - black, red and white. I also added a cup of wheat berries, a cup of barley, three heaping teaspoons of salt, a spoon and a half of pepper, and also a half a spoon of peppercorns. I also placed six whole eggs in the pot and more olive oil. I would have added paprika, but we were out. I filled the pot with water and let it cook until just after davenning early Shabbos afternoon. The ingredients blended very nicely and yielded a thick, filling consistency. The pepper gave the cholent some kick, but not so much that our pepper-averse congregants could not eat it. I augmented my own bowl with some cayenne so that it was sufficiently spicy for my taste. I had been adding mushrooms to the cholent but some people don't like them, and I feel that mushrooms don't hold up that well in leftovers. So I made this one without mushrooms. Reviews from the other congregants were uniformly positive although they would have been much happier if they could have had meat cholent.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

5774 High Holiday Letter from our President

Elul 5773
August 2013

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well.

You may have noticed that the High Holidays begin very early this year. This is because the Jewish calendar is largely a lunar calendar and is about eleven days shorter every year than the solar calendar. In order to make sure Passover falls in the spring (as the Torah mandates), the rabbis established that every once in a while (seven times in a nineteen year cycle to be exact), an additional month be added, making a total of thirteen months.  Our new year will have such an additional month.

Today, the Jewish calendar has been calculated for the foreseeable future, but in antiquity, the addition or intercalation of a new month was decreed by a Jewish court. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 11a-11b discusses the conditions under which a month could be added. Among these were allowing time for roads and bridges to be repaired, allowing time for the ovens to dry, and giving Jews travelling from outside Judea time to make it to Jerusalem for Passover. All of these made it easier for Jews to celebrate the holiday.  In Hebrew, a year with an additional month is called a shanas me’uberes a “pregnant year.” Our liturgy suggests that it is pregnant with blessings. In the Kedushas Ha-Yom (Sanctification of the Day) blessing of the Rosh Chodesh Musaf Shemoneh Esreh, six pairs of blessings – one blessing for each month – are listed: goodness and blessing, joy and happiness, salvation and consolation, livelihood and sustenance, life and peace, forgiveness of sin and pardon of transgression. During a shanas me’uberes, we add another blessing:  atonement of iniquity.

As we begin the New Year – a shanas me’uberes – we would be wise to remember that the additional month was proclaimed out of consideration of others. So too should we strive to be considerate of others. Moreover, the additional month brings additional opportunities and an additional blessing. As this particular blessing demonstrates God’s patience and love for us, we should emulate His example when we ourselves deal with other people. In this way we will hopefully merit all the blessings listed above.

We are excited as the High Holidays approach. As we have done for decades, we will be holding our Selichos service with the students from Columbia/Barnard Hillel. The service will take place on Motzoei Shabbos, August 31/September 1, 2013 and will be led by Orrin Tilevitz, as he has done for many years. This year we will celebrate our eleventh annual Rosh Hashanah dinner. I am delighted to note that our outstanding High Holiday baalei tefilah, Yosef Tannenbaum and Rabbi Reuven Hoff will be back again to lead us in davening this year.

I am also delighted to report that the New York Landmarks Conservancy has awarded us a $25,000 Jewish Heritage Fund matching grant to help pay for repointing of the exterior of the building, replacing the rear exit doors, repainting the fire escapes and restoring the rear stained-glass window. We anticipate the total cost for this project to be $60,000.  In order to be eligible for the grant, we have to raise at least $10,000 for this purpose (of which we have already raised $2,000) by June 2014.  We will have to make up the remaining $15,000 from savings. Please help us reach our immediate goal of raising at least the minimum $10,000 needed to receive this grant. Your support for this effort will be deeply appreciated and will enable us to move on to restoring the interior of the building.

We have had a good spring and an equally good summer. Thanks to the generous support of an anonymous donor, we were able to accommodate everyone who wished to join us for our popular Passover Seder.  Daniel Fridman, who has completed his rabbinical studies at Yeshiva University this year, continues to give his excellent shiur every Sunday morning after Shacharis.  This year he taught also on Shavuos and Tisha Ba-Av. Thanks to Dale Brown’s energetic efforts (with the help of Tashia Amstislavski and others) our garden in the back provides a beautiful and welcome place for contemplation. Dale also led us this past June on another very successful visit to the Old Broadway section of the Riverside Cemetery, where we weeded the graves of our deceased members and recited Kel Male in their memory. Looking forward, we have arranged to have Ben Elton, a talented rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, present a Kiddush-Luncheon series this fall. I am also happy to say that over the last few months, we have attracted a small but growing number of new congregants. We are looking forward to further growth and success in the New Year!

Your generous help has enabled us to welcome people and provide them with beautiful davening and a warm community.  You have also enabled us to maintain and restore our historic building. As the New Year approaches, we turn to you again. We hope that we continue to be worthy of your support so that we may continue to be a beacon of Yiddishkeit and Torah to many Jews in Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side.  May Hashem inscribe and seal you and your families for good health, happiness and success for the New Year.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו,
א גוט געבענטשט יאר,

Paul Radensky

Dr. Paul Radensky

P.S. Mazel tov to Benjamin Waldman and Bracha Rubin and Sheyna Radensky and Eli Ehrenreich on their weddings this summer! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

This Year's Visit to the Riverside Cemetery

We began our visit with the wonderful brunch that Dale arranged.

We had our annual congregational visit to the Riverside Cemetery this year on June 23rd. We figure that this    must  have been our twelfth or thirteenth annual outing to the Riverside Cemetery. Under the very able leadership of Dale Brown (who prepared a magnificent brunch for us), we recited Kel Male Rachamim, weeded the graves that needed attention, and in general straightened up the Chevra Talmud Torah Anshei Marovi section of the Riverside Cemetery. We also took photographs of every gravestone in our section which we hope to upload to JewishGen for the benefit of geneaologists as well as members of our community. Although I did not grow up in Old Broadway, three of the four of my great grandparents who came to the United States are buried in the Riverside Cemetery (in different sections - the Phoenix Association and the Hebrew Free Burial Society of Passaic). It has been always easy to find the graves of my mother's paternal grandparent, Lewis and Gussie Moss. This time, I also tried to find the grave of my mother's maternal grandfather, Samuel Kalman Pitnikoff. Since this was a section for the indigent, there were a number of small, marble headstones perhaps two feet high by a foot wide. These stones, as well as some of the larger ones, were covered over with dense ivy. Since they date from the teens, whatever engraving
Dale Brown
had been on the stone, or perhaps paint, had long since worn away. There were also many stones that had probably fallen over with time and were lying horizontal in the ground. Although my son, Binyamin, and I tried assiduously to find the grave of my great-grandfather, we did not have any luck. I hope to try again the near future, although I expect that best I will be able to do us to find one of the small, worn stones. I note all of this to underscore how fortunate the Old Broadway Synagogue is to have Dale Brown, who had made sure that those of our shul who have passed from this world are not forgotten.

Here is the gang - ready to perform a "chesed shel emes."

Rhonda was a big help!

As was Yosef Meir

Rachel was too!
Igor hard at work
Seth tending to one of the graves
Binyamin M. tending to the graves

Chana and Binyamin R at the grave of their great-great  grandfather, Lewis Moss.