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Jewish Center Ages Well

For the past year, Manetto Hill Jewish Center (MHJC), a progressive Conservative synagogue in Plainview, has been celebrating its 45th birthday. And members — both long-timers and new ones — are comfortable in its skin.

A small, but growing synagogue, its motto “large enough to serve you, small enough to know you,” has been embraced by its 200-family congregation. Ronni Mordechai, a mother of two young adult children from Levittown, joined MHJC three years ago.

“My husband and I found a community, of caring people who shared our values, that we didn’t have before,” she said. “From the moment we stepped foot in the door, we felt welcomed, appreciated and wanted. Especially my husband, Shlomo, who is a regular worshipper and pretty darn handy with a hammer and paintbrush.”

Lisa Fogelson agrees. Two years ago, she and her husband, Jason, started a monthly Shabbat and Me program for parents and children two-years-old and under. This year, they started a Shabbat Tots program for older children. They provide fun, educational services with puppets and musical instruments. They even spearheaded a unique, musical children’s service open to the community on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar.

“As a new mother, I was looking for an egalitarian synagogue, one that would nurture our son and truly make him and us feel welcome,” Fogelson said. “We also wanted to make sure he would receive a quality Jewish education leading up to and after his bar mitzvah. Manetto Hill has more than met our expectations. We found an extended family here.”

Following the retirement of its long-term and beloved Rabbi Morris Bernstein five years ago, the synagogue board decided to take advantage of the transition and engage in strategic planning. Headed by then-president Larry Kurtzman, himself the son of MHJC founding members, a large committee was formed, comprised of a diverse group of congregants.

“We balance the advantages of traditional and progressive aspects of Jewish life,” said Kurtzman. “We revised our mission to reflect who we are today: a Conservative, egalitarian warm synagogue that creates an inviting home for the lifelong spiritual, educational and fellowship needs of our members and the community at large. We truly care about our members and the entire Jewish community.”

Major strides were made in attracting new members, raising more funds, improving its Hebrew school, and continuing its active community programming. A special and extremely affordable dues structure, including free Hebrew school, was initiated to attract new members and young families.

“It’s never been more exciting to be part of Manetto Hill,” said Harvey Cohen, ritual committee chairperson and a long-time pillar of the MHJC community.

“What makes a synagogue? Is it the building, the sanctuary? The number of Torah scrolls? The rabbi? No, it’s the congregation,” Cohen answers his own question. “And nothing gives me more satisfaction than walking through our halls and seeing the diversity and spirit of our members, young and old, breaking bread together, planning a program together, learning together, and praying together. I am thankful for this congregation’s leadership, humanitarianism and warmth.”

Rabbi David Senter replaced Rabbi Bernstein, but recently decided that New England promises a better quality of life for his family than Long Island can offer. The synagogue has just begun a search for a new spiritual leader.

“Plainview has one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the country, and MHJC’s membership is inspiring, caring and thriving. We have no doubt that we will find the right rabbi who is both drawn to Long Island and to our very special congregation,” said Mark Hirsch, MHJC president. “A competitive salary package helps,” he adds.

In the meantime there is plenty to do at MHJC. Recently its sisterhood hosted a community crafts fair. In the coming weeks, members will be recognized with a member appreciation barbeque. Additionally, members and non-members can participate in game days, hear guest speakers, and participate in an instrumental Friday night musical Shabbat service once a month. For more information, call 516-935-5454.