By SHARYN PERLMAN
The Chabad of Port Washington logo is a sailboat floating on calm waters. The logo hits it just right, representing not only the essence of the synagogue, but also of its spiritual leader, Rabbi Shalom Paltiel, who, together with his wife Sara, has spent the past 18 years building the community.
The synagogue is perched on the shore of Manhasset Bay, whose calm waters teem with marine life beneath the gentle waves. It’s the perfect metaphor for the Chabad of Port Washington, as well as its spiritual leader.
When the Paltiels wed, in 1990, they knew that they wanted to open a Chabad house in a community where there were a lot of Jews, “which meant either New York or Florida,” says Paltiel, only half in jest. But in fact they considered moving to a suburb of San Diego, where Paltiel would have been the assistant rabbi, and “wouldn’t have had to worry about fundraising.”
“We wrote to the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, head of Lubavitch] to ask his advice about San Diego. His response was, ‘If you want to, then go.’ It wasn’t the response we wanted to hear,” says Paltiel.
So they looked around in New York and someone mentioned Port Washington, located on the Gold Coast of Long Island’s north shore, about 17 miles east of New York City.
“Rabbi Yosef Geisinsky, [spiritual leader] of Chabad of Great Neck, introduced us to Dr. Martin Brownstein, who was very enthusiastic about creating a Chabad in Port Washington and actually supported us single-handedly for the first year and a half,” says Paltiel.
At which point he knew he had to expand the synagogue’s reach. “The same way a community needs a Chabad house, it also needs a school,” he says.
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