History - Young Israel of White Plains
On November 1 , 1986, Shabbat Parshat Bereishit, a small segment of the White Plains Jewish Community met and held Shabbat services in the home of the Eisenbergers at 54 Albemarle Road. This was the first home of the Young Israel of White Plains.
The dining room was the women's section and the living room was the men's section. A sefer torah was borrowed from the Tannersville Jewish community by Asher Fensterheim. (Since they only held services during the summer months, they had no problem lending us their sefer torah.) Our ba'al koreh was Rabbi Reuven Flamer. It was a beautiful fall day and we held kiddush in the back yard. It was like a farbrengen - plenty of Vodka and singing and the neighbors could hear the lively zmirot blocks away. All told, it was a joyous shabbat. For the next four weeks we held Shabbat services at the house until we located a more permanent facilty, the social hall at Sam's of Gedney Way.
We purchased a wardrobe and converted it to an Aron Kodesh. We reinforced the base with plywood and put wheels on the bottom so we could move it in and out of the closet at Sam's social hall. We kept the sefer torah and all the siddurim in this closet for about a year until we hired Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg in 1987.
The Rabbi rented the house at 84 Gedney Way and the shul decided to move into the walk-in apartment in the house. So on moving day (actually motzei shabbat) a few of us wheeled the aron kodesh out of Sam's social hall down the street to 84 Gedney Way and that became our new home. For those present, it felt like the Jews in the Desert repositioning the mishkan. After a number of years cramped into tight quarters it was once again time to search for a new home, and in 1991 the YIWP purchased the house on the corner of Gedney Way and Old Mamamaroneck Road.
The house at 2 Gedney Way was to be the home of the YIWP for the next nine years. By comparison to our previous locations, this was a very spacious facility. It had bedrooms upstairs which were rented out to tenants and a basement for kiddushim. We even had a driveway where we could park 4 or 5 cars. Who had it better than YIWP?! Little did we realize how small the place actually was. It was even given the nickname 'The Shoebox Shul'. But to members of YIWP this was a cozy place, complete with a fireplace in the women's section - the dining room. (Something about dining rooms and the ezras nashim).
For nine years this facility fulfilled the needs of our small but burgeoning community. We put up a succah every year in the back part of the driveway that could accommodate perhaps ten people at a time to make kiddush and rotate out to get the next ten people. We held Yamim Naroim services to an overflow crowd of members, family and visitors. The space worked but we knew were outgrowing it rapidly. We all new that once we were uncomfortable enough the motivation to find property to build a proper building would come naturally.
After a period of fund raising and getting commitments from a core membership for promissory notes to build a new facility, an architecture firm was hired to design conceptual drawings and a building committee worked on the details of the design with the architects. In December of 1998 we broke ground at what was to become 135 Old Mamaroneck Road, the new home of the YIWP, and we held our first Yamim Naroim services in an unfinished sanctuary in September 1999.
As the the line from a famous movie once said - 'If you build it, they will come,' and this was true in our case as well. As soon as the shul was completed in early 2000, buzz about our shul, and about the White Plains Jewish community in general began to build, and our shul began to experience rapid growth. In the last decade shul membership has more than tripled from the days of 2 Gedney Way.
As our membership has grown, so have other aspects of our community. Our youth programming went from a parent-run program for the handful of kids in the shul to having hired a Youth Director to run programming for nearly 100 children ranging in age from toddlers to pre-bar/bat mitzvah age. Some of these groups are now run by that very same handful of children, whose parents can't believe the sheer numbers of children running around the shul. Our social hall, which once seemed large and spacious, now seems to be getting a little bit cozier with each subsequent Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
As a result, our board has taken several steps towards expansion. At our annual meeting in January 2010, we unveiled architectural plans for our expansion (The plans are on display in the shul lobby). Although we are only at the beginning of writing the next chapter of our shul's history, maybe you can help us write it. If you are interested in the White Plains Community and our Shul, please feel free to contact us to answer your questions or to arrange a visit.
(Special thanks to our esteemed member George Eisenberger for the providing the bulk of this article).