On Sunday, March 15, the Young Israel of New Rochelle will be recognizing Rachel and Gary Berger as Guests of Honor, and Jewish Link of Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut Community Editor Yvette Finkelstein as recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award at its 53rd annual dinner.
A letter to the YINR community explained: “Our shul has been blessed and enhanced by Rachel and Gary’s dedication and leadership in innumerable ways, as they find no cause too big or too small.” Over the past 20 years, Gary served as a YINR Trustee during the critical period of the new shul’s construction. He organized shiurim for kohanim, supervised the installation of the shul’s sound systems and managed audiovisual aspects at shul events.
“More recently,” YINR stated, “he is one of the masterminds behind the most successful series of community events in YINR history: his piece de resistance, Panoply. His attention to every detail may border on obsessive, but that is probably why Panoply has been a perennial favorite.” However, Gary may be better known as the local plastic surgeon, treating many children and adults, often on a moment’s notice, no matter the extent of an injury.
When asked for his most notable experiences, Gary reflected, “Panopoly events are most enjoyable from a creative standpoint because it involves technical aspects of designing questions, as well as putting on a show for the actual event. Each of these very comprehensive events takes a year of planning.” However, Gary added, “Being involved with new building’s construction and other changes I have effectuated are the most gratifying in the long run.”
Rachel’s involvement in the community has included serving as YINR’s Women’s League president and co-chair of the New Rochelle Mikvah Bake Sale. She was also involved in the Women’s League mishloach manot project, YINR Chanukah chagiga, YU/Rabbi Sacks Shabbat, and Sharsheret Pink Shabbat. Rachel was a member of the Simcha Committee and has worked on multiple YINR Women’s League cookbooks. Now, as The Kosher Dinner Lady, she bakes extraordinary desserts for many shul events.
Rachel explained, “I like being part of my community. The way to do that is by participating where you are needed. I started doing whatever I was asked to do, always saying yes. It‘s gratifying to be recognized and appreciated for what you’ve done for the community.”
In recognizing Yvette Finkelstein’s leadership, YINR explained, “Yvette is a force. When she sees an opportunity or a need, there is no stopping her. She creates, organizes, researches, spearheads, executes and leads in her soft, elegant, charismatic, get-it-done way, collecting committed volunteers from different age groups and circles. She leaves no communication unanswered, and her emails are always thorough, eloquent and tactful. People love working with her!” Finkelstein started YINR’s first Bikur Cholim Committee, served as a YINR Trustee and is a Shiva Committee member. She helped create the Women’s Initiative for Jewish Studies (WIJS), inviting Jewish female scholars to YINR for monthly lectures, and I-Shine of Westchester/Riverdale, a unique after-school initiative for elementary and middle school children living with illness or loss in their families.
In her spare time, Finkelstein is the community editor of the Bronx, Westchester, Connecticut Jewish Link.
“Anyone who knows Yvette would not be surprised at this honor. Yvette and her husband (Jack) literally live to serve their shul and community, and her writing and involvement with our paper, The Jewish Link, is an extension of her service to her special home community and shul,” states Moshe Kinderlehrer, co-founder and co-publisher of The Jewish Link. “She loves to be involved and help and do as much as she can to help her family, friends and her shul. Yvette is also one of the sweetest, most sensitive and most giving people I know and it shows in every interaction we have.”
Finkelstein explained, “Being involved requires 3 ‘P’s: persistence, passion and patience.” When her children wanted to play basketball in elementary school, the Westchester Day School did not yet have a basketball team. She asked, “Why not?” and reached out to others to open a basketball program. With a passion for art, she helped institute art appreciation through WDS’s “Learning to Look” curriculum; the first among Orthodox Day Schools.
“Truly, the honor so kindly bestowed on me by YINR belongs to our community of amazingly supportive and encouraging people.” Finkelstein said. “It’s easy to say that we want to be role models to our children, but seeing programs grow and take root within our communities is the way our children learn. We have almost 100 volunteers in the I-Shine Westchester/Riverdale program. It’s almost unbelievable!
Information about ads/donations and tickets can be found on the dinner website: https://www.wizadjournal.com/yinrdinner2020/?id=4415.
By Judy Berger