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In 1932, forty-two families residing in Marine Park joined together and decided to establish a synagogue. A store was rented at 3311 Avenue S. An eyewitness reported, “On a day in September [1932], carrying two Torahs, with flags flying and a band playing, the Jews of Marine Park paraded through the streets to the synagogue for the official dedication.” A Hebrew day school and youth groups soon followed. Merkaz Yisrael of Marine Park – The Marine Park Jewish Center (MYMPJC) has served as the focal point of Jewish identity in its community ever since. It was, for many years, the only shul in Marine Park.

The shul attracted Jewish families to the Marine Park area. When the shul was established, about one hundred Jewish families lived in Marine Park. By 1939, the number of Jewish families residing in Marine Park had grown to over 400. In 1938, two additional storefronts were rented. Title to all the stores was taken on June 1, 1939. The stores were consolidated and a central brick front was constructed. A celebration in honor of the property acquisition and structure dedication was held on April 14, 1940.

As the Jewish community in Marine Park grew, the shul engaged its first rabbi, Dr. Jack Tauber (of blessed memory), in 1944. Rabbi Abraham Besdin (of blessed memory) followed Rabbi Tauber. Rabbi Besdin, who served the synagogue from 1948 until 1969, led a very active congregation. Rabbi Besdin was among the first to popularize the work of the Gadol Ha-Dor, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik.

The shul was refurbished in 1951, and the Hebrew day school building was erected in 1969. The Hebrew day school served the neighborhood’s Jewish community until the late 1980’s when, due to demographic changes, it closed its doors for lack of students. During its active years, it educated hundreds of Jewish children.

In the summer of 1969, Rabbi Dr. H. Norman Strickman was hired. Rabbi Strickman, an alumnus of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, received his s’micha from Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon, Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. He joined the shul when most believed its best years were behind it. During his tenure of close to four decades, his hard work and constant dedication helped maintain the shul’s yiddishkite and enabled the growth that the Marine Park community has seen over the past few years.

In September 2008, Rabbi Strickman retired to spend most of the year in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Strickman passed the torch to Rabbi Elisha Weiss, who also received his s’micha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and who is currently a rebbe at the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR). With Rabbi Weiss’s excitement and drive, the shul and the Marine Park Jewish community will, hopefully, achieve even greater heights.

The shul has also enjoyed the services of three chazzanim: Cantor Pinchas Zuckerman (of blessed memory), Cantor Zundil Saposnik (of blessed memory) and Cantor Leibel Levine.

The shul has always employed orthodox Rabbis to impart the message of Torah Judaism. The shul has maintained an affiliation with Yeshiva University. It held annual fundraisers for Yeshiva University, where it established a scholarship in Rabbi Strickman’s name. In its early years, the shul did not have a mechitzah. However, in 1986 a mechitzah was erected through the dedication and efforts of Mr. Joseph Ross and Mr. Joseph Langweber (of blessed memory), the president and vice president at that time. Both of these men supported Rabbi Strickman as he convinced the congregation of the need to erect a mechitzah. Mr. Langweber saw to it that the mechitzah was erected immediately after the membership’s unanimous vote. He also arranged for a bimah to be erected in the center of the shul as soon as possible. After the mechitzah came the Marine Park eruv. Mr. Ross ensured that funding was available to construct the mechitzahbimah and eruv. In general, Mr. Ross did everything possible to keep the shul economically viable during the years when its survival was at stake.

The mechitzah and eruv were instrumental in the growth of the Jewish community in Marine Park. Whereas before 1986, young Jewish families tended to move out of Marine Park, after that date, they slowly started to move back in. It took about a decade for word to spread that Marine Park was a wonderful place to live and bring up a family. The shul has grown substantially, and it now offers a raised mechitzah, an extended eruv, numerous shiurim, Shabbos groups for children and a Motzei Shabbos father-son learning program. Today, a vibrant young Torah community exists in Marine Park. Marine Park has all the hallmarks of a Jewish community, including kosher supermarkets and restaurants as well as many other Jewish-owned businesses.

MYMPJC recently celebrated its 82nd anniversary. It has served as a center of Judaism in the community during those nearly eight decades. It is no longer the only shul in the neighborhood; however, it was the first. It, alone, maintained Judaism in the area when there were no other shuls and is the primary reason that Marine Park continues to attract young Jewish families to the neighborhood’s now thriving Jewish community. It has been, and continues to be, a place of limud Torah, chesed and tzedakah.

Sun, April 21 2024 13 Nisan 5784