When people think of YU alumni living in New Jersey, Teaneck is probably the first town that comes to mind. But in the past decade, another community has been experiencing a revival, and the number of its residents who are alumni is growing rapidly: Fair Lawn.
The Back Story
In 2005, some members from Shomrei Torah, the main Orthodox shul in Fair Lawn, met with representatives from YU’s Center for the Jewish Future to discuss a plan to achieve community growth in Fair Lawn. Lay and community leaders were eager to attract more young Jewish families to their neighborhood, which featured many amenities typically found in religious Jewish communities – an eruv, mikveh, kosher eateries, as well as affordable real estate and close proximity to Manhattan.
William Hochman ’77YC, who has lived in Fair Lawn for the past 30 years and formerly served as president of Shomrei Torah, works in recruitment and knew that to help Fair Lawn flourish, the community needed to market itself. He was a key member in the ambitious plan for community revival, along with Rabbi Benjamin Yudin, the longtime spiritual leader of Shomrei Torah (and current professor of Bible in YU’s Mechinah program). Rabbi Yudin and his wife Shevi have been mainstays in the Fair Lawn Jewish community for decades – since 1969, when there weren’t even 20 observant Jewish families in town. In fact, Rebbetzin Yudin points out that she and her husband originally heard about the Fair Lawn community right out of college, from a YU initiative whose goal was to establish an Orthodox synagogue there.
Following the meeting in 2005, community leaders decided to subsidize the rent of three young couples with the goal of having them energize the community and network with their friends and larger social circles to introduce other young couples to Fair Lawn. Within two years, 16 new couples visited and moved in, and supplemental funding allowed for two additional couples to expand the initiative. In 2007, Fair Lawn inaugurated the Torah Enrichment Center (TEC) to enhance the Torah environment with classes and programs.
Overall, nearly 70 families and counting have since made Fair Lawn their home, many of them YU graduates.
The Fair Lawn Shomrei Torah Beis Medrash was created in 2011, with Rabbi Eli Belizon ’07SB, ’10RE, as its director. Rabbi Belizon and his wife Rebecca arrived in Fair Lawn last year with four Beis Medrash Fellows, all YU graduates: Rabbis Yaakov Ehrenkranz, David Glassberg, Michael Hoenig and Ari Pruzansky, and their families.
The Beis Medrash strengthens the environment of Torah study in Fair Lawn and has greatly enriched its spiritual and intellectual environment. The Beis Medrash provides shiurim, chavrusas, chaburas and individual learning, Monday through Thursday evenings. Various levels of shiurim are offered and learning groups include topics on contemporary halachic issues and the weekly parsha.
“Fair Lawn is a beautiful place,” said Rabbi Belizon. “It’s not too out-of-town and not too in-town, and we’re working to spread Torah through the community and create an even greater spiritual atmosphere.”
Rabbi Belizon noted that while Shomrei Torah has spearheaded the Fair Lawn Beis Medrash, members of other Fair Lawn shuls are welcome and encouraged to participate.
This past summer Fair Lawn officially welcomed 35 new families to town at a picnic that brought together nearly 300 people meet, mingle, and learn, truly epitomizing the community’s success.
“It has been wonderful watching Fair lawn grow from a small, fledgling community where the shul was in our basement and then an addition to a house, to see it now a large, full shul right across the street and maintain its friendly, non-judgmental nature that welcomes all types of Jews,” said Rebbetzin Yudin.
For more information about the community or to spend a Shabbat in Fair Lawn, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.