“The sign on the door of the synagogue office said ‘private,’’’ Rabbi Gropper recalled. “It was a dark wood door with no window. I thought right then and there that this is a good indication of what needs to change. It needs to become more transparent, accessible and flexible.”
That’s precisely the objective Rabbi Gropper has instituted since joining the synagogue in 2003. Rabbi Gropper said the most compelling distinction between Community Synagogue of Rye and other places of worship is its clear focus on its mission.
“We’re a caring Jewish community that adds meaning to your life,’’ Rabbi Gropper said. “Everything we do is centered on trying to fulfill that mission. We want to foster sacred relationships, grow spiritually and be God’s partner in healing the world.”
The synagogue strives to achieve its mission through lifelong learning, worship services and a commitment to seek social justice through individual and communal acts of righteous giving.
The synagogue’s lifelong learning programs include an Early Childhood Center that includes a pre-kindergarten program; classes for children of all ages; a College Connection program that sends care packages to students; and Adult Engagement classes that include yoga, a Moms’ Group, Book Club, Torah Study and Men’s Group.
Rabbi Gropper added the synagogue leaders “get to know our congregants. We connect them with other congregants. We are far from a pay to play synagogue. We really care about everyone who walks in our doors.”
The synagogue’s roots trace back to December 1948, when a local family sought to establish a Jewish Religious School in Rye. The first religious services were an interfaith event in February 1949. The synagogue purchased a mansion at its current location, 200 Forest Ave. in Rye, with rooms that could house both the synagogue and school. With the synagogue’s growth to more than 200 families, a new structure was built in 1961. A new education building opened in 2004, and a capital campaign to upgrade and modernize the synagogue is underway and has reached 75 percent of its $6.2 million goal.
Rabbi Gropper energized the congregation to become a Shabbat-centered congregation and to initiate new projects, including a committee to focus on the needs of the ill and homebound, a program for senior citizens, more family-based education and the revitalization of the youth club.
“In the marketplace of religion, you need flexibility,’’ Rabbi Gropper said. “But you have to hold on to your mission to be a caring community. We can be flexible while staying true to ourselves. We strive to give service back to each other, and the community.”
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