The name of the game at Young Israel of White Plains is diversity. Sim Shapiro, president of YIWP, likes to tell people, “There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ YIWP member.” YIWP is a diverse shul, made up of people from varied backgrounds. Members do not have a single hashkafa or ideology. Children attend a wide variety of schools as well as camps. You can even root for whichever sports team you like, as do the rabbi and rebbetzin, and still come together to enjoy the uniquely close-knit and warm community that exists at YIWP. The diversity is something of which to be proud; the inclusiveness is something to be celebrated.
YIWP was founded in 1986 when three White Plains families met and held Shabbat services in a private home in the area. A sefer Torah was borrowed from the Tannersville Jewish community. On a beautiful fall Shabbat, kiddush was held in the backyard and neighbors could hear the lively zemirot blocks away. A more permanent facility was located a few weeks later in the social hall of Sam’s of Gedney Way, and a wardrobe purchased and converted to an Aron Kodesh. In 1987, Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg was hired to be the rabbi of YIWP. He rented a house at 84 Gedney Way with a walk-in apartment attached to the house, and the Aron Kodesh was moved to its new home.
As the congregation grew, it became time to look for a new home and in 1991 YIWP purchased a house at 2 Gedney Way, called ”The Shoebox Shul, its “cozy” home for the next nine years. In December of 1998, YIWP broke ground at 135 Old Mamaroneck Road, the current home of YIWP, and held its first Yamim Noraim services in an unfinished sanctuary in September, 1999. The congregation now numbers 145 families.
Rabbi Greenberg, who has semicha from Rav Moshe Feinstein as well as an MBA, together with his wife, Ahuva, have seven children and many grandchildren. The qualities of diversity and inclusiveness have been established by this revered couple. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Greenberg, known for their humility and non-judgmental manner, have consistently led the way in embracing klal Yisrael. The extraordinary acts of chesed performed by the couple set the tone for YIWP members who clean and reset the shomer Shabbat guest rooms at Westchester Medical Center, regularly visit patients at Burke Rehabilitation Center and other area hospitals and raise money for disaster victims and community needs.
Mark Levenson, vice president of YIWP, moved to White Plains and joined the shul in 2008 because “we were attracted by the heimish feeling, tremendous friendliness of the congregation and lots of families with young children.”
The shul’s expanding youth program includes family learning nights, shofar jams and teen minyanim. Youth groups start with infants and toddlers, with a large, active core of 13- to 16-year olds who lein and lead davening in the main shul. In fact, to make sure children are comfortable being with the rabbi, Rabbi Greenberg is the shul’s official candyman.
Adult learning opportunities at YIWP include Gemara and Chumash classes, resident and guest scholar programs and a Yoetzet Halacha. This staunchly Zionist shul supports programs about Israel and encourages its young people to live, study and serve in Israel. Not to be dismissed are the shul’s kiddushes. Reflecting the diversity of the community, the YIWP Kiddush Summer Series presented varied cuisines as its theme, with South American, Japanese, Memphis and Yemenite fare, among others, served on different Shabbatot.
YIWP is a shul composed of members of very diverse backgrounds, but there is one unifying theme: Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh. We are all responsible for one another. When Yael Rosenberg, vice president of YIWP, suffered the unexpected losses of her mother and father-in-law within days of each other, “the community surrounded us and held us up when we did not think we could support ourselves.” When she went to say kaddish, she was made to feel a part of the kehilah. Each and every Jew is welcome and made to feel comfortable at YIWP. Members are united by friendship, a love of the state of Israel and a commitment to the community, and are grateful to Rabbi Shmuel and Ahuva Greenberg for consistently leading the way. For further information about YIWP, please visit www.yiwp.org.
By Yvette Finkelstein