RABBI ISRAEL E. TURNER MEMORIAL AWARD
Since moving with his family to Springfield 30 years ago, Harry Czinn has been an unmistakable presence at CIS, working tirelessly to advance our Shul’s mission in myriad ways. One of our Shul’s most popular Shlichei Tzibbur, Harry is equally valued for his contributions as a masterful networker and fundraiser dedicated to promoting the growth of our Kehillah.
Harry’s initial focus at CIS was on bringing together the children of our community, by sponsoring snacks on the High Holidays—an act of chesed that proved so rewarding he felt compelled to extend his hosting duties to adults and families. For years now, Harry has delighted in preparing Kiddushim at his home for Shabbos Shuva and the first Shabbos of Pesach—days when Kiddush is not typically provided by CIS. Members of all ages flocked to these warm, intimate events featuring drinks and delicacies, including his famous Pesach cholent. Harry looks forward to resurrecting this tradition when the pandemic abates, and to connecting even more new members of CIS with longstanding Shul families.
Over time, Harry took on another critical role: along with Sol Greenfield and Sam Alexander, he was instrumental in establishing and managing one of our Shul’s most successful annual fundraising campaigns. Inaugurated in 2003, this initiative has grown into a highly anticipated High Holiday Aliyah Auction, now held annually both in person and online. A unique event blending camaraderie and friendly competition, the Auction has already generated more than $500,000 under Harry’s leadership as Co-Chair. After his retirement last year, Harry intensified his efforts to enhance the celebration of all Chagim at CIS by assisting with seating at the height of the pandemic—a project that prompted him to agree to serve as Co-Chair of the High Holiday Seating Committee with Sara Youner last summer. Their efforts were by all accounts a great success, as 885 seats were reserved for members and their guests at multiple minyanim held on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Retirement has also enabled Harry to contribute even more to CIS as a newly installed member of the Board of Trustees, and as an active participant in Rabbi Marcus’s weekly Mesilat Yesharim mussar shiurim, and Dr. Marc Herman’s weekly classes on the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot.
In addition, Harry now has time to deliver meals to Holocaust survivors under the auspices of Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey. Performing this particular mitzvah is especially meaningful, as Harry is the eldest of four children born to Holocaust survivors Albert V. and Doris Czinn z”l. He and his siblings Steven, Edward and Aliza of blessed memory grew up in Cleveland, where they attended the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, which Harry credits for his strong foundation in davening and learning. After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School and Yeshivas Adas, he went on to earn a B.S. Industrial Engineering at Purdue University, where he was active at Hillel, followed by graduate school at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he earned an M.S. Public Management and Policy Analysis. Soon thereafter, he embarked on a 42-year-long career at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he served in many managerial capacities before his retirement. In a twist of fate, 23 years to the day that he started his job at the World Trade Center, he survived the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, as he did the bombing of the buildings in 1993--for which he thanks Hashem every day.
Although he pursues a wide array of interests, nothing provides Harry with more pleasure than his children, who were raised in Springfield, thanks to a chance encounter with longtime members Emmy and David Hoffer z”l, who had already moved to our then-unknown Modern Orthodox community. Melissa and Aaron grew up at CIS, and their best friends were raised there too; and like their father, they took on leadership roles in the Jewish community at the University of Maryland, which they both attended. Today, Melissa works as an educator at the Cora-Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills and occasionally runs programs at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange as well. Aaron leads marketing research and customer support programs at Twitter, while his wife Elianna is a biostatistician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Last year, Aaron and Elianna welcomed their son Judah Zeke, making Harry a first-time grandfather who thoroughly relishes his new role.
Harry feels he was more than sufficiently acknowledged by CIS when he was named the Chosan Torah Aliyah last Simchas Torah; to be the recipient of the Rabbi Israel Turner Memorial Award is an unexpected honor for which he is even more deeply grateful. He plans to continue ensuring that Springfield’s now not-so-secret Modern Orthodox Jewish community remains vibrant and welcoming—and he looks forward to doing all he can to engage the next generation of CIS leaders.