With housing values in West Hempstead approaching the prices of Queens, young families are branching out in all directions across the suburban landscape. Fortunately, earlier generations of rabbis envisioned the growth of the community far beyond Hempstead Avenue, the town’s main road.
When Rabbi Sholom Gold of the Young Israel of West Hempstead announced the community eruv in 1972, it encompassed most of his community and extended a mile west into Franklin Square. Nearly 40 years later, his successor, Rabbi Yehuda Kelemer zt”l, spoke to Rabbi Dov Greer about establishing a minyan on the northern side of town. “At the time, I was an interim rabbi at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park. He suggested that as the k’hilah is growing, there should be a new shul on the outskirts of town,” he said.
Rabbi Greer “tabled” the idea for a couple of years until a group of college students living in West Hempstead asked him to start a learning program, which was named the Beis Midrash of West Hempstead. “It began in people’s homes and then grew,” he said. The pandemic curtailed its activities, but it was a momentary disruption as new families continued to purchase homes along Nassau Boulevard and Dogwood Avenue. “The houses in Franklin Square have an aging population and are often sold off-market by the owners. These homes usually had only one owner since they were built in the 1960s,” said Rabbi Greer. “They are sold by word of mouth.”
Yussie Sokoloff moved to his home after Purim, a five-minute walk from the storefront shul. “It is important to have a minyan on this side of town. It is tremendously beneficial, especially during the cold months,” he said. “There is learning here throughout the week. I’ve met wonderful people here.”
With the easing of pandemic restrictions, the minyan now meets every other Shabbos with plans for daily services following Rosh HaShanah. The k’hilah is located in a Nassau Boulevard storefront, rented from its owner and neighbor, Sauly’s Pizza. “They have been very supportive, sometimes offering free pizza to our bachurim,” Rabbi Greer said.
“He’s reaching out to college graduates who, when they have families, will stay here,” said Avromi Gorokhov. “He reached out to me and we were on the phone all the time, just to chat. He’s a really approachable person.” Besides this Beis Midrash, Gorokhov said that the other options are house minyanim and Zichron Kedoshim, which only meets on Shabbos.
“This is the only learning center and shul on my side of town. I see a future for this shul.”
The Beis Midrash has the appearance of a storefront, but with the wall paint, tables, aron kodesh, curtains, all items were either donated or installed by the members. Gorokhov is designing its logo, which will soon appear. “We will soon be installing our sign with the logo,” said Rabbi Greer. Prior to West Hempstead, Rabbi Greer, his wife Sima, and six children lived in Mount Kisco, where he was the rav of Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation. He is also a mohel, a profession that runs in his family.
“I got into real estate and was networking,” said shul president Amir Barkhordar. “I met Rabbi Greer and appreciated his views. He was coming into a hot market with a growing community. I connected with him in our views. The process of starting a physical shul is the result of hishtadlus for making it happen and gratitude to Hashem.”
By Sergey Kadinsky