Did you know that Rosh Hashanah falls on Labor Day this year? That’s right, the High Holy Days are right around the corner — and so is Stephen Wise Free Synagogue!
Conveniently located on West 68th Street, between Columbus and Central Park West, the historic Reform congregation is gearing up to ring in a sweet new year with a full schedule of in-person and virtual services and programming for members aged one to 100.
“Jews cannot sustain a strong Jewish identity while physically distanced from each other. We were one of the only synagogues to open for the High Holy Days last year, to teach students in actual classrooms and to celebrate b’nai mitzvah in front of our holy ark. And I’m pleased to report that not a single case of COVID-19 transmission has been linked to our building,” says Senior Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, whom The Jerusalem Post recently named among “The 50 Most Influential Jews of the Year” and who was described by City & State as “the borough’s most influential voice” for Manhattan’s more than 300,000 Jews.
The synagogue takes the responsibility of educating the next generation very seriously, and strives to invigorate Judaism through a hands-on curriculum that’s engaging, innovative and dynamic and involves the entire family. It boasts a world-class early childhood center for children 18 months to five years and a religious school that prepares its students for what their executive director Sandra Divack Moss calls “the best bar and bat mitzvah services in town.”
Committed to sustaining and deepening ties with Israel, Stephen Wise regularly hosts programs with Israeli diplomats and leaders — and runs annual missions for its congregants to experience the Jewish homeland for themselves.
Stephen Wise Free Synagogue has a rich history of leading social change. Their founder and namesake, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, also co-founded the NAACP — and it was from the bimah in their sanctuary that Martin Luther King Jr. made one of his first speeches to the Jewish community. Their community continues to manifest the central Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) through social action programs — including an on-site food pantry — and social justice groups.
“Everyone engages with their Judaism in a different way. At Stephen Wise, there’s something for everyone,” says Director of Membership Engagement Isaiah Benedek. To learn more about joining this welcoming and caring Upper West Side community — and celebrating the High Holy Days — visit swfs.org or contact Isaiah at (212) 877-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.