On Sunday night, amid a packed shul that included shul members, county representatives, and rabbanim from every shul in the neighborhood, the Young Israel of West Hempstead installed Rabbi Josh Goller as their newly appointed Rabbi. “Newly appointed” is a bit of a stretch, though. Rabbi Goller has been serving as the mara d’asra for over a year now. However, with the community mourning the loss of the much beloved and revered Rabbi Yehudah Kelemer, as well as the global pandemic, the celebration was postponed until this week.

Representing the Town of Hempstead were Councilman Tom Muscarella, Receiver of Taxes Jeanine C. Driscoll, Town Legislator John Giuffre, and representing County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Rabbi Yehuda Kamenetzky. Each representative presented Rabbi Goller with a framed Citation (which in this case was a good thing).

President Arthur Cooperberg served as the Master of Ceremonies and highlighted the growth of the Young Israel as well as Rabbi Goller within its walls. Cooperberg explained that the Goller family moved into West Hempstead when a young Josh Goller was only one. The 800 family members makes the Young Israel of West Hempstead the second-largest Young Israel in the country. Speaking exclusively to the Queens Jewish Link, President Cooperberg said, “The Young Israel of West Hempstead is extremely excited to formally install Rabbi Joshua Goller as its Rabbi. We look forward to having him lead us into this next chapter for our Shul, and we wish him much brachah and hatzlachah.”

A heavy emphasis was placed on the impact of Rabbi Yehudah Kelemer’s role in shaping the shul, the community, and Rabbi Goller himself. Rebbetzin Rochi Kelemer attended the installation and received well-deserved accolades from many of the speakers. It is hard to have such a ceremony without acknowledging Rabbi Kelemer’s impact on the community, and all speakers involved were able to do so without taking away from the celebration for Rabbi Goller.

The theme of the night was “community,” specifically that despite the tremendous growth the community has seen over the years, West Hempstead has been able to maintain its small-town feel, where everyone knows or at least has heard of just about everyone else. Rabbi Kamenetzky illustrated this with a story from his time in Little League, and when he mentioned the name of the boy he had played against, a sound of recognition swept through the audience.

Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, under whom Rabbi Goller had served as an intern and assistant, spoke about Rabbi Goller’s propensity for being personable; and Rabbi Baruch Simon, rosh yeshivah at RIETS, under whom Rabbi Goller learned in Yeshiva University, delivered a tremendously heartwarming speech.

Rabbi Goller himself acknowledged the impact of many in attendance, including Rabbis Hochberg and Simon, as well as Rabbi Kelemer and Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, who was unable to attend. But as mentioned earlier, the theme of the evening was “community.” Rabbi Goller emphasized that the night was not a celebration of him, but a celebration of the community as a whole, and highlighted the rabbanim of the community who were present.

Rabbi Goller highlighted several points during his speech. Shuls cannot be shifted to the right or to the left, only up. He reminded those in attendance that the shul was born out of a yeshivah, and the importance of talmud Torah as well as t’filah, and to never stop trying to uplift the level of prayer. Lastly, he explained that the name Young Israel is chosen for a reason, and that the promise of Eretz Yisrael should be what we all strive for – keep the eye on the prize.

We here at the Queens Jewish Link wish a mazal tov to Rabbi Goller, the Young Israel, and the entire West Hempstead community for this simchah, and we wish Rabbi Goller much success in his new role.

 By Izzo Zwiren