The center of the Jewish community in West Hempstead has been expanding in every direction, and all shuls, shops, and schools have been experiencing the need for more space. For Bais Torah U’Tefilah, or BTU, the relocation to a bigger facility is a walk across the street. “We have been getting ten to 15 new families joining each year, and we initially made plans to expand our current building before the opportunity came to move across the street” said Rabbi Uri Lesser, mara d’asra of BTU.
Among the shuls of West Hempstead, BTU is unique for its Nusach S’fard davening that is serious and free of talking. “We’ve had solid and steady growth since we started six years ago, and today we have 75 families as members,” Rabbi Lesser said. Three years ago, the shul purchased a house on the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Chestnut Street. The space allowed for one minyan at a time and parking for four cars. “We knew that we needed bigger space,” said Matt Avigdor Saunders, a gabbai at BTU. “Over the last few years, there were storefronts considered, but it was merely a thought.”
This past week, Saunders took a tour of the Pompei catering hall across the street, which was listed by Sharona Beck and will serve as the new home of BTU. “There are a lot of rooms there. The party room will serve as the shul and other rooms will be used for kiddush, classes, and a daycare operating during the week,” he said.
Moshe Nisenboym started davening in BTU for its nusach and proximity to his home. “Right now, there are five to six Bukharian families in West Hempstead, and more will come,” he said. “There are also Israelis and other Sefardim who are part of this growing community.”
Rabbi Lesser expressed gratitude to the membership for raising enough money to purchase Pompei. For now, architectural plans are limited to installing and removing walls where needed. The exterior is not expected to change in the near future.
“We hope to start groups on Shabbos and shiurim after the pandemic. We don’t even know how much we can do here,” he said of the 9,000 square foot facility that also has a parking lot for 60 cars. He added that other shuls in West Hempstead have expressed support for the expansion of BTU and the feeling is mutual. “We are happy with their growth and they are happy with ours,” Rabbi Lesser said.
At this time, the Young Israel of West Hempstead and Anshei Shalom have plans to expand, and Eitz Chaim of Dogwood Park is conducting a campaign to transform its house-turned-synagogue into a full-service facility that includes a beis midrash, social hall, lobby, and shul. “There are also multiple house minyanim in West Hempstead that you will not find on GoDaven,” Saunders said. “That’s how much this community has grown.”
By Sergey Kadinsky