Ephraim and Erica came to Judaism in different ways, and to CSAIR almost accidentally. They both grew up on Long Island--Erica was raised in a home that gradually became more observant and involved in synagogue life throughout her childhood, while Ephraim essentially grew up in the synagogue, since his father was the pulpit rabbi for a large Conservative congregation.
As a youth, Erica led junior services, spent summers at Camp Ramah and worked in the synagogue’s Hebrew School. After attending public schools, Erica felt a need for more Jewish education, and therefore, she enrolled in List College where she received a degree in Tanach from JTS and a degree in Religion from Columbia University, followed by her Masters in Education from Hofstra University.
Ephraim also went to Camp Ramah and spent Shabbat at shul surrounded by a small posse of friends, reading Torah and contributing to the service from the time he was ten years old. He went to Binghamton University and found his way into the Business School and received an MBA from Columbia University.
Indeed, Camp Ramah brought Erica and Ephraim together. The two met on staff at Ramah while Erica was in college and Ephraim had already graduated. After marrying, they lived on the Upper East Side for three years, participating in a number of services, mostly Orthodox, but not settling or becoming involved in any one synagogue. They moved to Riverdale in 2002, primarily for convenience (Ephraim works in Stamford, Connecticut), not certain where they would settle. They clearly found their home in Riverdale and at CSAIR. Except for a nearly two-year stint in London, they have been living here ever since.
The Edelmans’ involvement in CSAIR, substantial from the start, has grown over the years. Before London, they served the CSAIR community in areas of shul life where they felt most comfortable. Ephraim served on the Ritual Committee and often volunteered to leyn or serve as shomer; Erica led the Young Family Children’s Program, creating and illustrating one of her proudest accomplishments, the “Siddur,” which is still used today.
After London, their commitment to CSAIR deepened. As an educator, Erica teaches Kindergarten at SAR Academy, where their three children (Avishai 13, Nadiv, 11, and Shefa, 8) attend. It was natural that she could help vet rabbinic interns focusing on their classroom lessons. She serves on the Inclusion Committee and has worked closely with Joel Einleger to develop and bring to life the Passport to Jewish Education, an innovative packaging of scholarships and opportunities for children to participate in Jewish day schools, camps, and Israel trips.
Meanwhile, Ephraim joined the Board of Trustees, the Finance Committee, and has served as CSAIR Treasurer for the last four years. He may be a “numbers guy,” but he prides himself in bringing a unique ability to tell a story with numbers, not just so board members can understand the shul finances, but also to understand how the way we raise and spend money reflects the values of our community.
In the last year, Erica, Ephraim, Avishai, Nadiv, and Shefa moved even closer to the synagogue, merging geographical proximity with spiritual connectedness. This intimacy between home and shul is mirrored by Erica and Ephraim’s commitments to CSAIR, by the familiarity with which their children mingle within its warm embrace, and by the importance of their practical contributions to its mission.
Since moving to Riverdale seven years ago, Elisa and Dror have made CSAIR their home, strengthening our community through their involvement.
Elisa grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where her family was actively involved in a Conservative synagogue. While growing up, participating in shul life was a given for Elisa, and Shabbat meant going to synagogue and being with family and friends. She attended Hillel Academy of Dayton from kindergarten through high school. She then went to Washington University in St. Louis, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Elisa moved to Chicago upon beginning her career in education as a kindergarten teacher at a local Solomon Schechter school. Three years later, she moved to Israel to participate in the Senior Educators Program at Hebrew University. There, she completed her master’s degree in Jewish Education, and after two years, she moved to New York where, over the course of the past eighteen years, she found her most meaningful work--as a teacher and division head at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan.
Dror took a different path to Jewish involvement. Born in Berkeley, California to Israeli parents, then living in Brookline, Massachusetts, Dror was not particularly involved in formal Jewish life. While he was studying at Brandeis University, his interest in Israel and Jewish life awakened. He began to frequently travel to Israel, and after completing law school, he worked as a Foreign Judicial Clerk for the Supreme Court of Israel. Dror also became involved in the Israel martial arts scene. Krav Maga, a martial art developed by the Israel Defense Forces and adapted for civilians for self-defense, became his refuge. He trained in Israel, reaching the black belt level, and continued training and teaching in New York City.
Dror and Elisa found themselves and each other on the Upper West Side, where their friendships and involvement in the community of young Jews brought them together.
Fast forward to Riverdale and CSAIR. Through Mason Voit, CSAIR Director of Education and Family Life, whose children attend Schechter Manhattan, Elisa was drawn to serve the shul. For three years she led the Young Children’s Family Program and joined the Board of Trustees. She played an important role in a three-year review of the synagogue’s mission statement. Elisa currently serves as the Vice President for Education where, as Chair of the Education Board, she prides herself in providing Mason with a supportive community for developing a full range of programs and opportunities for all youth and their families at CSAIR.
Dror’s passion for Krav Maga first led him to teaching evening classes in the synagogue, then to answering a call by CSAIR president Abby Pitkowsky and Rabbi Katz to lead CSAIR’s security program. He reached out to neighboring Jewish institutions to understand their approach to security. His work led to the hiring of a security consultant to help with the acquisition and implementation of $100,000 in grants to improve the building’s access control, physical structure, and communication system. Most recently, Dror led the initiation of CSS (Community Security Services) to provide perimeter security to the building during times of heavy use. CSS trains community volunteers in professional security techniques with the goal of creating a safe and welcoming community.
The character of the community is something Dror and Elisa care deeply about. Their children (Ariel, 9, and Liat, 7) love being in the building, attending services, and have developed great friendships. From the beginning of their involvement, Elisa and Dror have been struck by the degree to which people care about CSAIR and want to be involved, and they are proud to be part of this positive energy.
Sheila Reinhold and Richard Sacks moved to Riverdale in 1991 with their children Eli, Rachel and Deborah (then ages 10, 7 and 4). For over 20 years, Sheila and Richard have been increasingly active participants in the CSAIR community, though via different paths, given their dissimilar Jewish backgrounds.
Sheila grew up in Manhattan in a Modern Orthodox home with Holocaust survivor parents from Belgium. She attended Manhattan Day School through fourth grade when, having given her first performance as soloist with an orchestra (at the 92nd Street Y), she switched schools to further pursue her violin studies. At age 15 she went to Los Angeles to study with world-famous violinist Jascha Heifetz, with whom she worked – and had all her Seders – for five years while living with a non-Jewish host family. She then moved to Cambridge and was a Resident Musician at Harvard, where she had the opportunities to re-immerse herself in Judaism, and where she met Richard whose Jewish trajectory had been rather different.
Richard grew up in Albany in a secular family, never had a bar mitzvah ceremony, and never attended a Shabbat service from the age of 14 through graduate school – even when he and Sheila were dating, though he used to walk her to Shabbat services. They were married in 1977, and moved to NYC in 1978 when Richard finished his PhD and began teaching at Columbia, where he specializes in ancient myth and literature. He also regularly teaches Columbia's core great books course for first-year students, and it was this course that gave him his first experience of the joys of teaching biblical texts. Couple that with Sheila and all three children loving both CSAIR and talking Torah, and Richard's fate was sealed.
At CSAIR, their shared passion has been the quiet mitzvah of helping with shiva needs and logistics. They both have served on various committees as well. Sheila also loves to speak with children (at CSAIR and elsewhere) about the acts of goodness her mother witnessed in Auschwitz. Most of us think of music when we think of Sheila. She frequently plays violin at CSAIR's Yom Hashoah observance. And Sheila has brought her performing career to CSAIR as founder and music director of Intimate Voices, now in its eighth year of bringing world-class chamber music to Riverdale and offering outreach concerts to CSAIR's greater community, including the Bronx VA Medical Center and area nursing homes. Richard served a term as CSAIR's Treasurer and loves giving divrei Torah. Their children – who first learned the value of community at CSAIR – live in Denver, Chicago and New Orleans where, along with their spouses, they are all deeply involved in their Jewish communities.