At the Angel Orensanz Center Tuesday evening, members of the Lower East Side’s Jewish community came together to officially welcome Rabbi Aviad Bodner to the Stanton Street Shul. He actually joined the synagogue, located at 180 Stanton St., a year ago, but this week’s installation event made the transition official. Bodner was joined by his wife, Lindsey, for a cocktail reception followed by a speaking program.
The modern Orthodox synagogue, founded in 1913, is one of the last tenement-style shuls remaining in New York. It’s always had a reputation as a welcoming place that attracted an eclectic mix of worshipers from the downtown community. Bodner has embraced that spirit of openness, reaching out to the broader Lower East Side community during his first months in the new position.
There was, of course, a big turnout from the congregation, but many others came to the Orensanz Center Tuesday to wish Rabbi Bodner well. They included Rabbi Zvi Romm from the Bialystoker Synagogue, Rabbi Gavriel Bellino from the the Sixth Street Community Synagogue and even Captain Steven Hellman of the 7th Precinct. Bodner was introduced by Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, who had guests dancing in the aisles.
Bodner was born in Forest Hills, New York, but moved with his family to Israel as a child. He previously worked as a corporate attorney. Lindsey is executive director of the Naomi Foundation. They live a few blocks to the north of the shul, just above East Houston Street.
When it was Bodner’s turn to speak, he noted that the Stanton Street Shul has survived on the Lower East Side, while hundreds of other synagogues moved uptown or faded away entirely. Referencing the building’s “squeaky wooden floors, peeling paint and flickering lights,” he said the synagogue has endured due to its “unconditional love for everyone.” Bodner said he believes in the shul’s dedication to “Big Tent Judaism,” focused on “bringing people in rather than keeping them out.”
Bodner replaces Rabbi Josh Yuter, who moved to Israel last year.