Monday, June 19, Congregation Keter Torah will hold its annual dinner at the shul. This year’s guests of honor are Jonathan and Alisa Gellis. Howard and Sara Gruenspecht will be the recipients of the Esther and William B. Manischewitz Community Service Award.
“As our shul continues to see rapid growth both in numbers and in Torah programming, we use the dinner as an opportunity to acknowledge the role that exceptional individuals have played in this process,” said Rabbi Shalom Baum, rabbi of Keter Torah. “Alisa and Jonathan Gellis, amongst their many contributions, have engaged members of all ages with warmth and friendship. They have great respect for the central role that talmud Torah must play at our shul. Sara and Howard Gruenspecht are pillars of our day-to-day operations. Howard, with the support and the encouragement from Sara, has made Keter Torah a central part of his life mission. More than working for the shul, they love the shul and take special pride in seeing the hundreds of kids and adults benefiting from the multiple services that we provide. More than just an important fundraiser, the Keter Torah dinner has always been a fun evening of friendship and we never allow money to prevent anyone from participating.”
Jonathan and Alisa Gellis have played an integral part in Keter Torah. Jonathan served as synagogue president for four years. He also served as the head of the catering committee, oversaw shul security, led the Yom Kippur appeal and was the shul’s financial secretary. Alisa is involved with Keter Torah’s ATARA hospitality committee and was involved in starting the Meet the Members Night, as well as the meals for new moms’ program.
Alisa is a licensed physical therapist as well as a yoga and pilates instructor. She serves on The Frisch Parent Association board, the board of Camp Morasha and volunteers for Yad Leah. Jonathan is currently employed at JH Darbie and owns Worldwide Stock Transfer. He serves on the board of trustees for The Frisch School, as well as on the Frisch finance and security committees. He serves on the executive committee of Yeshivat Noam and the board of the Orthodox Union. He is also actively involved in NORPAC, AIPAC and American Friends of Chevron and Beit Orot. He also owns a whole home-generator business with his father and is one of the owners of Teaneck Doghouse. Jonathan and Alisa live in Teaneck with their four children, Rebecca, Talya, David and Ma’ayan and with their dog, Shammy.
Sara and Howard Gruenspecht moved to Teaneck from Riverdale nearly 26 years ago, with their three young children—Atara, Ayelet and Zvi. After many years working in the kosher meat industry, Howard assumed the position of executive director of Keter Torah in 2007, where he and Sara found a new “home” in this warm and welcoming shul.
Howard’s tireless devotion and commitment to Keter Torah occupy most of his waking hours, but he makes it a priority to spend quality FaceTime with his grandchildren in Israel, as well as quality time with his adult children.
Howard has brought his life-long appreciation and love of chazanut and nusach ha’tefila to Keter Torah, as well as other area shuls. He is responsible for bringing professional chazanim to Teaneck to teach classes, lecture and to lead davening. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University Distinguished Community Leadership Award.
Sara was a local preschool teacher and now serves as executive assistant to the senior partner of a Manhattan accounting firm. She appreciates the unique atmosphere at Keter Torah, where everyone is respected and welcomed. Both Sara and Howard are Rangers and Yankee fans—they even became engaged at Yankee Stadium.
“While the word dedication is used so very often when talking about honorees at all dinners, the word personifies the two couples Keter Torah is honoring this year,” Keter Torah President Binyamin Rieder told The Jewish Link. “Alisa and Jonathan Gellis are well known for their involvement with organizations here in Bergen County and in Israel. However, their dedication to our shul has been consistent since they became members 15 years ago. So many of the programs and projects that are now a staple of our shul were started and led by the Gellises. The perfect pairing with the Gellises for our dinner honorees are Sara and Howard Gruenspecht. Since Rabbi Baum came to our shul 13 years ago, we have experienced tremendous growth both in terms of number of members and programs we offer. As executive director, Howard has been the operational shepherd of this growth with unparalleled devotion in the amount of time and care he puts into every aspect of our kehilla. Whether it be the physical structure of our building’s care being tended to, or ensuring smachot or other events we host go off without a ‘hitch,’ our shul runs like a well-oiled machine thanks to his dedication. We look forward to having the community support our congregation as we pay tribute to these most deserving honorees on Monday, June 19.”
To register for the dinner, visit www.ketertorah.org.
By Sara Kosowsky Gross