In August 2020, Rabbi Yaakov Lerner, the original Rabbi of the Young Israel of Great Neck (YIGN) synagogue, retired after 45 years of leading the house of worship, building it from the original membership of six families, to one exceeding 300 families. Until that point, he was the only Rabbi to ever lead YIGN.
Rabbi Shmuel Ismach, the assistant Rabbi of YIGN for 15 years at that juncture, took over as Rabbi in August 2020, but since the timing coincided with the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lock down, Rabbi Ismach’s formal installation had to be postponed until now (a delay of approximately a year and a half).
Due to his engaging personality, the ability to connect with a multi-generational audience, a vast knowledge of scholarly texts and contemporary culture, and exceptional public speaking and pedological skills, he has endeared himself to the synagogue and larger Great Neck community during his 17-year relationship with YIGN.
With the onset of COVID-19, he was presented with a set of challenges that most clergymen were never prepared for. He responded with creativity and innovation and played the pivotal role for keeping the YIGN community united and engaged (even remotely) beginning in March 2020 while still serving as Assistant Rabbi. Thankfully, the recent weeks have seen a return to normalcy to synagogue attendance and programming participation.
Rabbi Ismach has been enhanced and complemented by his wife, Dr. Malka Ismach, throughout his tenure. She is an accomplished child psychologist and has partnered with Rabbi Ismach in many of his initiatives.
On Sunday, May 8, 2022, YIGN will hold its 47th Annual Dinner, at the event facility of the Chabad of Great Neck in Kings Point, which will serve as the means of both honoring Rabbi Shmuel and Dr. Malka Ismach, as well as the formal installation Rabbi Ismach as the synagogue’s “Mara D’asra” (the ancient Aramaic term for congregational leader).
The well-known scholar and educator Rabbi Menachem Penner will be conducting Rabbi Ismach’s installation at the banquet. Rabbi Penner is the Max and Marion Grill Dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He is also the Dean of Men’s Undergraduate Torah Studies Program at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Penner is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Holliswood, Queens.
Those interested in either attending the dinner, or placing a journal ad in the Ismach’s honor, are invited to visit www.yign.org or call the YIGN office at 516-829-6040.
—Submitted by Young Israel of Great Neck