‘Glenhazel Shul’: many names for this stalwart
Pictured above left: Shachrit in the Glenhazel shul with Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren (centre) with Dave Slasky, Rabbi Avraham Tanzer and Solly Sacks.
Still among the largest and most active of these communities is the Great-Granddaddy of them all, the Yeshiva College Hebrew Congregation. That name is actually quite recent. For most of its 50 year-plus history, the kehilla has been known officially as the Glenhazel Area Hebrew Congregation. It continues to be commonly referred to simply as the Glenhazel Shul.
The change of name is nevertheless justified. From the very beginning, there has been a symbiotic relationship between shul and school, which not only share the same campus but, remarkably, have been headed for over half a century by the same person, Rabbi Avraham Tanzer.
Yeshiva College preceded the shul, having relocated there in January 1961 after operating for its first three years in the communal hall of the Berea Hebrew Congregation. Two years later Rabbi and Marcia Tanzer, both still in their twenties, arrived from the United States. Rabbi Tanzer took over as dean of the school, and within a year was appointed rosh Yeshiva following the death of Rabbi Michael Kossowsky.
It was through Rabbi Kossowsky that, when plans for the school were being drawn up, provision was also made for a shul to be built, both for the residents of the Yeshiva and for those who would eventually live in the vicinity. This was long before most members of the congregation had moved into the Glenhazel area.
Shortly after the Tanzers’ arrival in early 1963, it was decided to have a Yomtov minyan on the school premises for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some 25 couples and several more individuals took part in the inaugural services, which were held, as they would be for the next three years, in the Yeshiva College dining room (today the school library).
The kehilla grew rapidly, attracting increasing numbers of young families. Just as the congregation’s membership increased through association with the school, so did it in turn help to increase the school’s numbers. In 1963, Yeshiva College was no more than a small boys’ high school, but by the end of the decade, it included a primary, nursery and separate girls’ school as well.
The Yeshiva College Hebrew Congregation is today just one of a number of permanent minyanim operating on the YC campus. The latter include the Mizrachi congregation, in its own synagogue built alongside the main building, Shabbat youth services and daily services run by Bnei Akiva and by Rabbi Dov Tanzer.
The membership of the main shul comprises some 300 families. Through long-standing member Lionel Stein, it puts out a hefty 50-page weekly newsletter comprising, in addition to congregational news, Divrei Torah and items of interest from the global Jewish press. Among its 500-plus subscribers are many non-congregants.
The shul now has an assistant rabbi, Rabbi Alon Friedman. However, Rabbi Tanzer continues to head up the congregation more than 50 years after that first Rosh Hashanah prayer gathering, which makes him, by some distance, the country’s longest serving Jewish spiritual leader.