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Great Neck synagogue leaders discuss community
Editor’s note: All week long, Brittany Wait is profiling people around Great Neck, from community leaders to residents she bumps into around town.
Seth Adelson, 42, is associate rabbi at Temple Israel of Great Neck on Old Mill Road. He has lived in Great Neck for five years with his wife Judith, 44, daughter Hannah, 5, and son Zev, 3.
Alan Klinger, 56, comanaging partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan on Wall Street, has lived in Great Neck Estates for 22 years. He is also president of Temple Israel of Great Neck.
Tell me some interesting facts about Temple Israel of Great Neck.
Klinger: Mordecai Waxman was the rabbi at Temple Israel of Great Neck for a little over 50 years [1947-2002] and a prominent figure in Great Neck and nationally, dealing with interfaith matters. The temple was constructed in 1947, but the congregation formed in 1941. The temple offers adult education, youth school, Beth HaGan and religious school.
Adelson: These stained glass windows were dedicated to the rabbi’s wife Ruth Bilgray Waxman and have special readings from holidays on them.
Klinger: One of the things that make us special is that we strive on the diversity of cultures learning from each other. One-third of our congregation are Sephardic Jews and two-thirds are Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe descent. There are a lot of synagogues in Great Neck, but we are prominently one with a blend of both groups.
Adelson: We recognize the importance of both groups and their traditions and cultures. We are also egalitarian, which means we believe that women have the same rights as men.
Klinger: We have 950 families and our temple seats 3,000 people on holidays. We have the largest conservative congregation in the area.
What brought you both to Great Neck and what has kept you here?
Adelson: My wife is a Manhattanite and for us this was a good compromise [to live in Great Neck]. We were close to the train and there were great schools and parks. This is a strong synagogue in a strong community. There are kosher restaurants and it’s a good place to live a Jewish life. I was captivated by the unusual demographics of Jews in the area when I moved here.
Klinger: I was looking for a place with good schools, parks and proximity to Wall Street. I have three children and me and my wife wanted to move to a place where we’d feel comfortable raising our children with a Jewish identity. It was important to raise our children in not only a secular, but also religious world.
In your opinion, what’s great about living Great Neck?
Adelson: The diversity of the Jewish community and the history of the temple is illustrious. Great Neck is a well-educated community, too.
Klinger: Great Neck has historically been a community of prominence.
Above: Seth Adelson