The Young Israel of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, honored Rabbi Efraim and Chanie Zaltzman recently for their 10 years of dedicated service to the Shul and community. Over 150 people attended the lavish event, including various dignitaries such as Mr. Shlomo Mostofsky, President, National Council of Young Israel. Mrs. Zaltzman’s parents, Shluchim to Toulouse, France – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok and Esther Matusof, flew in especially for the occasion.
The 65-year-old Young Israel of Brighton Beach, although a thriving congregation some 40 years ago, had dwindled to barely a minyan, as congregants passed on with no younger generation to replace them. In the 1970s the neighborhood experienced a large influx of Russian immigrants, yet the Shul did nothing to try to attract them. In 1998 the Shul’s board of directors, led by Mr. Steven Frohlich, realized that if they didn’t take action, the shul would be forced to close its doors. They agreed that they needed a Lubavitcher Rabbi to bring new life to the place, so they contacted Rabbi Kasriel Kastel from the Lubavich Youth Organization. And so Rabbi Efraim and Chanie Zaltzman became the new Rabbi and Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Brighton. The Zaltzmans are also the Directors of Chabad of Kingsborough College.
“When I came to the Brighton shul I realized the immense task that I was facing,” said Rabbi Zaltzman. “The congregation was mostly people in their 70s and 80s, and the situation was deteriorating quickly.”
Through the efforts of the Zaltzmans, the situation began to turn around. Today there is a large group of young Russian Jewish families that are involved in Yiddishkeit, beginning with Bris milah and teffilin, some even keeping Shabbos, Kashrus, and Mikvah.
“When the shul first called me to find a new Rabbi, I never imagined that we would be celebrating its rejuvenation 10 years later like this,” said Rabbi Kastel.
At the dinner, Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman, father of Rabbi Efraim Zaltzman, related the sacrifices of the Zaltzman family in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s and -60s, to maintain and spread yiddishkeit under very dangerous circumstances.
Rabbi Zaltzman spoke about their success in turning the shul from almost closing down to a thriving center of Torah and yiddishkeit. “The secret of our success is the great faith the Rebbe instilled in us for Hashem and in our fellow Jew,” he said.
Rabbi Zaltzman also thanked his colleagues and fellow shluchim in the area for coming and for their partnership work in brightening Brighton with the light of Torah and Chassidus. “This event was a true kiddush Hashem and Kiddush Lubavitch, and I hope that it will inspire young couples to include pulpit positions in their search for shlichus,” he said.