Rabbi Elisha and Rebbetzin Yamit Friedman are excited to start at the Young Israel of Forest Hills this Friday, July 8.
“I was really impressed with the people,” said Rabbi Friedman, who tried out for the position during the Shabbos of May 20-21.
“We found the community warm and welcoming for everybody,” said Rebbetzin Friedman. They enjoyed the diversity of ages and cultural backgrounds.
“It also seemed like people there were pretty committed to Judaism and committed to learning and growing,” said the Rebbetzin.
Rabbi Friedman first wants “to plug in” teaching the existing classes and with the minyanim. The Rabbi wants to create “a nice array of classes” with “a little more philosophical or a little bit off the beaten track.” Rabbi Friedman creates podcasts that “promote complex, more analytical ideas and make them more accessible.”
The Rabbi also wants to create “opportunities for people to meet each other, to get to know each other.”
Rebbetzin Friedman wants to continue and to grow the learning opportunities. She “would like to work with the community and build that, as well.”
Rabbi Friedman received his rabbinical ordination and a master’s degree in Modern Jewish Philosophy from Yeshiva University the last time he was in New York. His goal is to finish his PhD in the same subject within a few months.
Rabbi Friedman said the Brisker way of studying Talmud, developed by Rabbi Soloveitchik’s family and students, influences “how he analyzes.”
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik “is a towering Jewish thinker. He blends the Brisker methodology with modern philosophy. I think that’s a very powerful combination.”
The Musar tradition teaches the rabbi “a certain responsibility for the Jewish community, the Jewish world at large.” Both traditions show how “Torah, as a text or a form of study, can really transform individuals and communities and elevate them.”
The Rebbetzin earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education from Barnard College. She taught first grade in Harlem the last time she lived in New York. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree at Penn State.
The Rebbetzin said she “is very social. I like to spend time with other people.” Her children Eden, Tania, and Emanuel are central in her life.
The Friedman family walked around Forest Hills and Rego Park during their tryout Shabbos. They liked the area’s “different feels.” Parts had large apartment buildings, parts had cute, little shops, and parts had a suburban feel.
The family enjoys hiking in their spare time. One of the advantages of living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was living near the Appalachian Trail. They hope to continue hiking in New York.
Rabbi Friedman enjoys exercising, being outdoors, and just “enjoying the quiet and the peace” while hiking. They also like traveling, added Rebbetzin Friedman.
The Rabbi and Rebbetzin both lived in Washington Heights while dating for a year, and for two more years after marrying.
Rabbi Friedman grew up the son of a rabbi. Born and mostly raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, he still has family living there. He lived in Israel as a child, in Durham, North Carolina, and other places. The Rabbi’s parents currently live in New Jersey, not far from the City.
Rebbetzin Friedman grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, where her parents still live. The Rebbetzin went to Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem for a year after high school.
Connecting to family and friends, participating with the larger Jewish community in the New York area, and seeing the sites in the City are goals, as well, for the Friedmans.
In the six years that Rabbi Friedman was at Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he is most proud of getting a new shul building built. He is also proud of keeping the learning and minyanim going during COVID.
The prior rabbi and the lay leadership of the Young Israel of Forest Hills “did a really good job” during COVID, said Rabbi Friedman. “You can just feel that the shul carried through it in a very strong way.”
By David Schneier