Chairman of the Board's Remarks at the Dedication of the Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center

Words of Welcome and Gratitude
Art Penn

Barukh atah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam sheheheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi·anu la-z’man ha-zeh. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of time and space, for granting us life, for sustaining us and for bringing us to this moment.

We are indeed blessed to reach this day.

Park Avenue Synagogue was founded in 1882. We originated from different congregations, including a converted church on 86th Street that was known as 86th Street Temple and the 72nd Street Temple, which was on 72nd and Lexington. In 1923, the two synagogues merged and became the Park Avenue Synagogue. Ninety years ago, in 1927, our sanctuary was dedicated and was known as “the million dollar sanctuary.” The Milton Steinberg House, named in honor of our distinguished rabbinical leader, was dedicated in 1954 to serve the community and house the religious school. The Rita and George M. Shapiro House was dedicated in 1980, to house even more community and religious school activities.

It’s been 37 years since Park Avenue Synagogue added additional space or had a substantial renovation. Today we are dedicating this Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center. It is being dedicated to honor Leon Black’s father who was committed to Jewish ideas and Jewish education. This dedication also signifies an important milestone for Park Avenue Synagogue.

Here in 2017, the building of the Eli M Black Lifelong Learning Center and our entire space program was undertaken because we were bursting at the seams! Our congregants have become increasingly more involved in the community. We named our campaign “A Synagogue in Action: Building the Future” because it accurately reflects Park Avenue Synagogue today. We needed additional classroom, worship, meeting, programming, and celebration space.

We have benefitted from those who came before us and I am thrilled that our generation has taken the next step. The campaign to raise capital for this project has been supported by the vast majority of our synagogue families. Never before in our 135-year history have so many of our members come together to support our synagogue. The community has come together so powerfully because we want the future to be influenced by our Jewish faith and values. The synagogue, more than any other institution, plays a unique role in our lives and we are paving the way for our future.

Because of this journey together, today we have the new Lifelong Learning Center here on 89th street. About two years from today we will have a revitalized home on 87th street. The overall campus will match the vibrancy of our community and address the needs of the future. As the Sheheheyanu says, we are so thankful and have so much gratitude, to have reached this day

Our published program highlights the enormous number of people to thank and show our gratitude to on this day. I want to highlight a few.

  • • First, we thank the Honorary Chairs of the campaign, John Hess, Leon Black, Ralph Lauren, and David Simon for their inspiring leadership
  • • We thank our Officers, President Paul Corwin, Heidi Silverstone, Mel Schweitzer, Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Andrea Baumann Lustig, Marc Becker and Natalie Barth for all their hard work each and every day.
  • • Thank you, Marc Becker and Craig Solomon, Co-chairs of the Space Committee, and our Executive Director, Beryl Chernov. Your enormous commitment, dedication, and expertise along with countless hours spent has resulted in a magnificent new building.
  • • Special thanks to Natalie Barth, Eric Feuerstein, Susanna Sirefman, and the rest of the Space Committee for their extra contributions to the building effort.
  • • With regard to our successful capital campaign we thank our Capital Campaign Chair Andrea Baumann Lustig. Andy’s brilliance, strategic thinking, processes and procedures, thoughtfulness, and hard work have been the backbone of the campaign. We thank our hardworking and organized Director of Development, Laura Yamner. We also thank our Campaign Cabinet, our Community Outreach Committee, and our Executive Council of former Synagogue Chairmen who all made this possible.
  • • A special thanks to Jeanie Rosensaft and Susan Silverman for their leadership in organizing this wonderful dedication.
  • • Of course, we thank Rabbi Cosgrove, whose spiritual and rabbinical vision has been the cornerstone of everything we do.

Most importantly want to thank our overall community, those of you who contributed to making this campaign and project so incredibly successful!

One of my favorite Rabbi Cosgrove sermons from a few years back is titled “Attitude of Gratitude.” It is memorable to me in three ways. First, Rabbi Cosgrove started the sermon by invoking a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, which of course, to me is always a good way to start anything. Second, the sermon is extra special to me because it was delivered on the Bat Mitzvah day of my youngest daughter, Eliza, about three years ago. Third, in this wonderful sermon Rabbi Cosgrove said that “tzedakah, or giving on the High Holidays . . . is the act . . that announces to God and the world that we are indeed thankful for the blessing of our lives and thus stand ready to enter the year to come.” This statement perfectly describes our synagogue today. We are indeed grateful for the blessings of our community and we stand ready to enter the year and the decades to come.

We are a Synagogue in Action that is Building the Future, uniquely positioned to address the needs of our community. Thank you.

Before I call up Leon Black to the podium, I want to announce that the building will be open starting tomorrow morning for everyone to visit and enjoy.

Now, I’d like to call Leon Black up to the podium.

Leon, it gives me great pleasure to present you with this commemorative artwork by renowned artist Alain Kleinmann. This is a beautiful, artistic bronze cover enclosing Pirkei Avot, the ethics of our fathers. We hope you will treasure this as a memento of our gratitude on this important day.