From the moment the Semers moved to New Rochelle and joined Young Israel 15 years ago, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. As a couple and as individuals, Simone and Mark have tackled projects, big and small, and have immersed themselves in numerous aspects of communal work. Their impact on our shul has been so profound that it is hard to imagine what YINR would be without them. Perhaps more important than any of their direct contributions to our community, the Semers have inspired us to volunteer more of our own time and to give more of ourselves on behalf of the shul and the broader Jewish community.
Simone, a native of the Upper West Side of Manhattan and a graduate of Barnard College and Columbia’s Teachers College, has been active in many shul programs and projects. She co-chaired the Hospitality Committee, organized the Chag HaSiddur and Chag HaChumash for our first and second graders and served on the graduation Kiddush Committee.
From 2007 – 2009, Simone served as co-President of Women’s League, the crown jewel of leadership
at YINR. She brings an infectious enthusiasm, creativity and warmth to all her volunteer work.
Simone is perhaps best known for her love of learning. She can always be counted on for a beautiful Dvar Torah at a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal, and is an enthusiastic participant in Rabbi Fink’s weekly Parsha shiur.
Outside of shul, Simone is the founder of Swagtime, where she uses her creative energy to produce custom logo wear, personalized party favors and school spirit wear. She has also taught at our local yeshiva day schools and is a highly popular dance teacher at Westchester Summer Day.
Mark, a native of Chicago and a graduate of Columbia University, has served in nearly every leadership position at YINR, in addition to running countless projects and programs. He brings energy, enthusiasm and meticulous attention to everything he takes on, and doesn’t stop until the job is done. His standard is high, and he raises the bar for those around him.
Mark is an extraordinary writer, and he has generously lent that talent to the shul. His thorough and careful review, a process affectionately referred to as “Semerizing,” has improved the quality of all shul communications, from weekly announcements to dinner journals. Soon after moving in to the neighborhood, he was recruited to co-chair the shul’s Commemorative Journal, a beautiful compilation of our history, becoming our de facto historian. He served for 9 years on the executive board, including three as president.
During that time, he oversaw the search for our assistant rabbi, ultimately engaging our beloved Rabbi Axelrod. His experience in the broader Jewish community helped raise YINR’s awareness of the need for outreach to the communities around us. In his “retirement,” Mark continues to be active in shul programming, stepping up wherever there is a need.
While we are familiar with Mark’s efforts on behalf of Young Israel of New Rochelle, his work on behalf of the community extends far beyond the walls of our shul.
He has been involved in communal work for many years. He served as co-chairman of UJA-Federation’s New Rochelle Campaign for three years and is involved in other causes and organizations as a volunteer and pro-bono advisor.
In recognition of his efforts on behalf of the broader Jewish community, in 2007, Mark was selected to participate in the Wexner Heritage Program, a prestigious Jewish learning and leadership development initiative for volunteer leaders in North America.
Mark has even found a way to combine his passion for long distance biking and running with his passion to help causes and organizations that are near and dear to his heart. He is a founding member of Skippy’s Team and regularly participates in triathlons and long-distance bike rides to raise money for these vital organizations and charitable causes. He literally offers his blood, sweat and tears for these fundraising campaigns.
While it might be hard to believe, YINR is not Mark’s only “client.” Mark is a Managing Director and co-head of the Alternative Investments practice at Kekst CNC, a leading global strategic communications consultancy. Mark has 25 years of experience providing counsel to clients across a range of industries on corporate and financial communications matters. In addition to his corporate clients, Mark is proud to represent numerous national and local Jewish institutions and organizations.
Somehow, Mark and Simone also found the time to raise an incredible family. They are the proud parents of Eli, Yonina, Yamin and Shaina, each of whom is following in their footsteps by already making their own contributions to YINR and the broader Jewish community. The three older Semer children have served as group leaders for the YINR Youth Department and Yamin is a stellar Baal Koreh for the Hashkama Minyan. Eli, who made Aliyah this past year, is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
It is with deep admiration and a spirit of overwhelming Hakarat HaTov that we recognize the numerous contributions that Simone and Mark have made to the YINR community. We salute them on this much deserved honor.
In their five years since joining the Young Israel of New Rochelle, Michelle and Rafi have had an outstanding impact on our community. The Halperts have been extremely involved in multiple aspects of the shul and have been eager to volunteer from the moment they moved in. The shul is a central component of the
Halperts’ personal, spiritual and communal lives.
Rafi grew up in Hillcrest and attended SAR, MTA and Yeshiva University where he developed a deep connection with and understanding of the importance of Jewish education and community service. In his role as coach of the SAR High School basketball team, Rafi has furthered his commitment to educating many of the young people in our community in the importance of team building and athletic skill. Michelle grew up in Riverdale and attended SAR until her family moved to Hollywood, Florida. Michelle returned to SAR to teach Early Childhood where she has been a beloved Morah of 4 year nursery since 2005. As active SAR employees and parents, establishing a home in a community where they have educated
a large percentage of the community’s youth was something special and important to them.
Upon moving in to New Rochelle in 2013, Michelle and Rafi instantly took on active leadership roles. Rafi helped develop programming for the weekly Seuda Shlishit program and the Youth Department. He was responsible for spearheading the exciting Shabbat afternoon parent-child learning program and is an active member of the Kiddush Committee. He has also organized the annual Thanksgiving Day Meals for New Rochelle Police and Firefighters. Most recently, Rafi has been integral in bringing food trucks to YINR in response to the growing need for exciting kosher restaurants in the area. Rafi can often be found coaching our community’s youth as well as his children’s sports teams, running the YFFL (youth flag football league) and playing in the Thursday night community basketball game.
Michelle assumed the chair of the Hospitality Committee for a number of years where she warmly welcomed many new YINR families. Currently, she helps and organizes the annual Mikvah Bake Sale. Michelle is always eager to participate in shul chessed opportunities and is often one of the first to volunteer to cook a meal for a new mother, bake for a shalom zachar, invite a new family to a Shabbat meal or house Shabbat guests. Michelle also worked on the YINR Dinner Journal for several years.
Michelle and Rafi are known for their open home filled with Shabbat guests, delicious meals and lively discussion. Their warmth and positive energy are felt by everyone at YINR, evident by the friendships they have forged throughout the years. You can often find them out socializing with friends or participating in their children’s after school activities. Michelle and Rafi are the proud parents of Ari, Alyssa, Ben and Josh and are fortunate that Rafi’s parents, Aviva and Jonathan Halpert, moved to New Rochelle this past summer.
In making the shul a priority in their lives, Michelle and Rafi have created an opportunity for their children to learn the importance of chessed, Torah, tefilla and community service.