His voice strains to the women’s balcony as the balls of his feet bounce rhythmically with each punctuation. His congregation is captivated, eagerly awaiting the punchline.
The scene repeats itself week after week at the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton (YIPC), where Rabbi Yaakov Glasser skillfully mixes a cocktail of scholarship, inspiration and a dash of humor, and Rebbetzin Ruth Glasser nods with approval at her husband’s careful choice of words. It is this landscape that draws hundreds of people from the broader Passaic-Clifton community to Rabbi Glasser’s legendary speeches.
The YIPC selected the Glassers 11 years ago, after an exhaustive international search process, to lead what was a small congregation into what has emerged as a vibrant and growing, essential part of the broader Passaic-Clifton community. The YIPC welcomes a diverse group of members to a brand-new shul building for davening and shiurim, and is a hub for youth and adult learning alike.
Rabbi Yaakov and Rebbetzin Ruth Glasser were attracted by the shul’s values of Torah, tefilla, being a welcoming shul, respecting diversity and focusing on the entire family. These values, and the potential that a small congregation offered the young and effervescent couple, made it an easy choice to join the YIPC. “Growing up in California, shul was always a very big part of both of our lives; we were very involved in the youth programs there and that’s what we wanted to create—a warm, welcoming shul for everyone,” remarked Rebbetzin Ruth Glasser.
Under the skilled leadership of the Glassers, the YIPC’s membership has grown by 400 percent. But their impact has a much broader reach than the shul’s members alone. Their direction, guidance and involvement with the local day schools and community organizations in Passaic and Clifton have proven invaluable. “The shul has become much more integrated into the community at large. You see the shul playing a leadership role in the community, becoming a focal point for programming, shiurim and smachot,” Rabbi Glasser recently shared. Indeed, Dr. Jonathan Gold, president of a local yeshiva day school, YBH of Passaic, agrees. “It is breathtaking how much Rabbi Glasser, as rav of YIPC, has brought to our community and yeshiva since moving to Passaic.”
These sentiments were echoed by Gary Schaer, deputy speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly, president of the Passaic City Council, and member of the shul. “YIPC is a vital part of the growing Jewish community in Passaic-Clifton. Under the leadership of Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, the shul continues to distinguish itself through its many successful programs serving our community.” The Glassers’ contributions are felt not only at the communal level, but by individuals as well. Rabbi Aaron Cohen, rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Passaic, recently said, “I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Glasser on many issues in the community. They both bring an uncommon degree of common sense, insight and perspective, and an unpretentious aspiration to contribute to, and enrich the lives of, others.”
Rabbi & Rebbetzin Glasser demonstrate their never-ending supply of devotion to the Jewish community well beyond Passaic and Clifton, too. Rabbi Glasser is the dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, a division of YU that works with rabbis, educators and lay leaders to meet the increasingly complex needs of congregational and communal life, and Rebbetzin Dr. Ruth Glasser is the school psychologist at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, NJ, helping students in grades five through eight navigate their daily challenges.
This past fall, after years of fundraising and construction, Rabbi Glasser led his kehilla, and hundreds of celebrants from throughout the community, through the chilly streets, dancing with the shul’s Torahs to the congregation’s brand-new building at 200 Brook Avenue in Passaic, New Jersey. After placing the Torahs in the Aron, the rabbi led the overflowing sanctuary in Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, sharing his thoughts about a “first” tefilla in a new building and the opportunity it affords us all to grow and dare to be better, individually and collectively. The impressive turnout was a true testament to how the YIPC has become a spiritual and communal center for everyone. “The day we moved into the new shul building, we celebrated more than just the construction of a new building, but the potential within all of us to use the building to daven together, learn together, celebrate life-cycle events together and more,” noted Dr. Scott Goldberg, president of the YIPC. “Now, just seven months later, under the leadership of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Glasser, we’ve exceeded even our most ambitious hopes.”
The new YIPC building will serve as the location for the upcoming annual dinner, to be held on June 19, 2016, honoring Rabbi Yaakov and Rebbetzin Ruth Glasser for their leadership, guidance and friendship over the past 11 years. Reservations for the dinner, and information on placing an ad in the dinner journal, are available at www.yipc.org/dinner.