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Recollections of Susan Ruttner

My first visit to LSS was for a wedding. The building was not yet completed, and there were white draperies hung to obscure the aron kodesh. The sanctuary was eventually completed and has lasted long after the marriage failed.

I moved to Manhattan in 1972, and for several years, I would come to LSS once a month, gravitating toward Rabbi Cohen’s minyan, where my friend Moe Harary often read the torah in his Syrian nusach. I wasn’t ‘looking’, and in a 1978 phone conversation with a soon-to-be blind date, I was assured that I’d recognize him because he, too, went to LSS. (I opened the front door and said, “I never saw you before in my life”. So I married him.) For the six years prior to that meeting, Rabbi Riskin – who had graduated from YU a year after Norman – repeatedly exhorted him from the bimah to “get married, Tuly. For you I’ll do it for free!”

When the new (plexiglas) mechitza went up in 1980 – and the B section became fully female rather than just the two rows at the top of a men’s section – I purchased a newly-created seat. I was not-yet-announced pregnant, and I saw the shelf next to the seat as a wonderful place for a baby to sleep. Karen did just that for two years of Yamim Noraim – and for years would pass quietly long-suffering Marilyn Isler as she went in and out coming back to sit on ‘her seat’. When she got older, and my neighboring seatholder, Amy Wolf, had gotten married and had moved to Riverdale, I got permission from Amy to re-dedicate her seat (if I left the plaque with her father’s name on it) for Karen. We were confirmed ‘upstairs’ people, and I only used ‘my’ seat on chagim. I still have visions of Devorah and Yehuda Cohen playing Hide and Seek through Rabbi Cohen’s tallit.

That same year, 1980, Norman and I were named Dinner Journal Chairmen and Rabbi Riskin compiled a list of the 19 Pioneers who had created Lincoln Square. Oy vay. A woman with blonde curls accosted me after shul screaming that we had left her parents off the list. All I could say was, “We didn’t make the list. Rabbi Riskin made the list”. Rabbi Riskin confirmed that Mr. and Mrs. Weidberg had, indeed, been early parishioners but were not among the planners and prime movers. The blonde, who stoppped yelling and was subsequently identified to me as Suzanne Davis, A”H, became my friend until her death twenty-five years later.

My late mother-in-law, Greta Weinman, was well-known for not following recipes – the first thing she did to create her delicious gefilte fish was to tear off and discard the parchment paper wrapper. Similarly, she was the only person I knew who made Toll House cookies with Rice Krispies as a primary ingredient. They were Rabbi Riskin’s favorites. Even after he moved to Efrat, every return trip he made included a stop at Greta’s for cookies to take back ‘for his kids’. I always wondered whether they ever actually made it to Efrat or were consumed en route. When Rabbi Berman assumed the bimah, my mother-in-law was unhappy with the state of his tallit. So she bought him a new one.

When Norman died (I never called him ‘Tuly’. Conjured visions of a yeshivah bocher with tzizis flying in the wind)), Rabbi Nasanayl Braun, who had succeeded Rabbi Herschel Cohen as spiritual guide of the late minyan, was our family’s support. The shul needed Rabbi Braun to ‘step up’ that year, and I started coming to the regular minyan to give Rabbi Braun chizzuk. I stayed when Rabbi Braun left because the chazzan asked me to. (Who could say no to the Chaz?) I’m glad I did. Rabbi Robinson has certainly filled the void left when Rabbi Riskin left. It’s taken us a long time to straighten ourselves out – but here we go ‘mi-chayil le-chayil’ – from strength to strength. We’ve come a long circuitous way from white draperies.

Sat, June 22 2024 16 Sivan 5784