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Recollections of Glenn Richter

On the morning after 200 Amsterdam Avenue was first put to use, slichot night 1969, I walked into the shul office. Mrs. Martha Cohn asked, “How did it go?”. I replied, “The sanctuary (which didn't even have pews yet) was overflowing – we just opened and we're already out of date!”

Lenore and I had moved into the Upper West Side in 1968 to be at LSS. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin had been a transformative influence on me as a teenager. Lenore and I were married at the old shul in the apartments at 150 West End Avenue. Rabbi Riskin was the chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, which I helped to run.

Now that we take leave of 200 Amsterdam Avenue after 43 years, I have so many memories....

  • The elation of being in a brand new building with so many possibilities for use. I saw in the building's “wings” arms stretching out, consistent with Isaiah's bold declaration of God emblazoned on the front, “Return to me for I have redeemed you.”
  • Rabbi Riskin's electric, warm energy, bursting forth best on Shabbat and the wildly popular Wednesday night lectures.
  • Dancing from the shul, around 72nd Street, and through Lincoln Towers on Simchat Torah; Rabbi Riskin dancing with the doorman of 150 West End Avenue.
  • A new sense of a chazan, Sherwood Goffin, drawing us in to daven with him, and not davening at us.
  • The intense involvement of so many shul members in activity to free our brethren from the USSR, and the enormous excitement to greet Leonid Rigerman, a Moscow refusenik. The campaign for his release was spearheaded by Rabbi Riskin, Danny Greer, and Richard Joselit after meeting him in the USSR.
  • The many eager faces in shul of those who might not have found a home in another synagogue.
  • Acting as usher on Shabbat, beginning at 150 West End Avenue. When I'd groused to Rabbi Riskin about talking in shul, his response was, “You complain, you volunteer”.
  • Kids sneaking up to the roof on Simchat Torah and dropping water on the Chaz through the cupola's glass hatch as he pronounced “mashiv haruach u'morid hatal”.
  • The intensity of our Yom Kippur davening in 1973 after learning in shul that Israel had been attacked.
  • The grief-stricken “levaya” in LSS of the popular Rabbi Pinchas Bak after he suddenly collapsed in shul.
  • A psychologically-deteriorating local kosher restaurant owner suddenly making a move towards Rabbi Riskin in the midst of a bar mitzvah of a friend's son, the perp being tackled by a police officer and burly congregant Les Hinson on the steps to the aron kodesh.
  • The grand dame of LSS, Mrs. Martha Cohen, who was far more than a mere shul secretary, and personified the indomitable determination that the shul survive and thrive.
  • Chazan Goffin's determination to lead us in High Holidays davening despite the tragic death of his daughter Nisa Chaya. When he just couldn't go any further, Moshe Sokolow stepping in.
  • Rabbi Riskin's acceptance of a neighborhood eruv which allowed us to carry necessary items and push baby carriages to shul. And later, actually constructing parts of a successor eruv in the annex.
  • Standing at the lecturn on Shabbat with my vegetative daughter Talya in my arms to ask for – and getting – volunteers to help perform neurological “patterning” exercises.
  • The “Buy the Bank” campaign, complete with campaign buttons, followed years later by our spoof “Sell the Bank”.
  • Emotionally welcoming firefighters from the local firehouse down Amsterdam Avenue on Rosh Hashana, days after 9/11. Several of their mates in the firehouse had perished in the Twin Towers' collapse.
  • Saying goodbye to Rabbi Riskin on his aliyah in 1983, and beginning a whole new chapter in the life of the shul.
  • Rabbi Saul Berman's parables of biting bunnies and other jungle animals.
  • Rabbi Herschel Cohen and the Chaz being the steady constants through the years of rabbinic and staff changes.
  • Rabbi Simcha Weinberg donning his Kohen Gadol outfit to show us the order of “karbanot” in the “beit hamikdosh”.
  • The march of wonderful, bright assistant rabbis and rabbinic interns who went on to successful careers, with our recalling, “remember when?”
  • Forging long-term friendships with fellow congregants. Our special “second row” of guys who've now moved through life together for several decades.
  • The airconditioning that somehow didn't recognize summer heat.
  • Charlie "Buttons" Nasofer.
  • The never-ending cycle of simchas, “mi sheberach”s for health, levayot. The pleasure of seeing members' children, from bris mila to bar mitzvah to chupa, and beyond.
  • The pure pleasure of hearing the LSS vocal chorale.
  • Harry Hutmacher, and his successor Arthur Rogers, the candymen extraordinaire. The look of dejection of little children's faces when they looked in vain to the familiar seats when each candyman had passed on.
  • The renewed sense of energy and purpose in the shul when Rabbi Robinson came aboard.
  • The sinking feeling in the pits of our stomachs when we gathered in the sanctuary to learn of the enormity of our new shul's cost, and the wonderment later of the miraculous $20 million anonymous donation to stave off bankruptcy.
  • The advance of years, as the little children who played in the sanctuary and hallways grew older, celebrated bar and bat mitzvahs, went off to college, married, and brought their own children to shul.
  • Wrestling with texts, concepts, and opinions in LSS' many lectures and classes (and snoozing through some of them at the end of a long day...).
  • Seeing – and accepting – and advancement of women in the shul over the course of 4-plus decades, and marveling at Elana Stein Hain's intellectual incandescence.
Sat, March 24 2018 8 Nisan 5778