Rabbi Dale Polakoff
This year Great Neck Synagogue commemorates the completion of 70 years since it opened its doors on Pesach in 1951 at 311 Middle Neck Rd. (above the former Squire movie theater). Much has changed over these past 70 years. Many of the people who were founders of Great Neck Synagogue have passed away and there are only a few who have memories of those early years. They were years of tremendous sacrifice, requiring resources that went beyond the capabilities of the small core of committed Jews who wanted to see the growth of orthodoxy in Great Neck. Those years required a lot of hard work and a sense of ownership developed among the cadre of people who laid the foundation of that from which we all benefit today.
There have been many changes in the professional leadership of Great Neck Synagogue over these past 70 years. Our community has been the beneficiary of extended periods of association with rabbis, cantors, youth professionals and educators, all of whom have left their imprints on Great Neck Synagogue and whose legacies we remember at a significant moment such as this.
As one might expect, there have been many changes to the membership of Great Neck Synagogue as well. Older families have downsized and moved to warmer (and more tax-advantaged) locations. Younger families have moved into the community and our shul buzzes with youth activity. When members who have moved away come back to visit, they often remark that there are so many new faces in shul that they don’t recognize. That is as it should be.
But as much as things have changed, Great Neck Synagogue remains the very same at its core. It is a center of spirituality, chesed, Torah learning and social interaction for its members. It is within these walls and among this family that joyous occasions are celebrated, and people support each other during times of sadness and loss. If we have learned anything over these past 70 years, it is that we need to be true to these core values and to continue to build a community around them.
Our 70th annual journal dinner takes place just a few days before the celebration of Purim. Since, for as long as I can remember, our journal dinner has always been connected to Chanukah, I don’t believe that the change this year is pure coincidence (although Covid hasn’t helped). There is a fascinating connection between Purim and the number 70.
The Gemarah in Masechet Chullin asks from where in the Torah is there a hint to Haman. It answers that the hint can be found in a pasuk near the beginning of the Torah. After Adam has sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he is confronted by God. God asks “Hamin ha’eitz” — From the tree (that I prohibited to you, have you eaten?). Here we can find an allusion to Haman that is a play on words. Since the Torah is not written with vowels, the word “hamin” can also be pronounced “Haman.”
But there is also a deeper connection. We know that the snake was the precipitator of Adam and Chava’s transgression. The Torah records Hashem’s punishment of the snake for his role in the unfolding of these events. Amazingly, the punishment for the snake is recorded at the conclusion of 70 psukim from the beginning of the Torah. Again, amazingly, if we count the number of psukim from Haman’s elevation until his death, we find that there are 70 psukim. Both the incident of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the rise and fall of Haman teach us of how much can change in 70 psukim. This year, the 70th year of Great Neck Synagogue, we reflect on how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.
We are particularly fortunate this year to be honoring two families that represent incredible longevity in our community. It’s very unusual for a community to boast of families that incorporate three or four generations. Tonight, we are honoring two such families.
Jack and Celia Lemonik represent three generations in our community and Davida and Marc Yehaskel represent four generations. They understand what it means to plant for the future and to express gratitude to those who have come before.
The Lemonik family has been a paradigm of community involvement, both with the Great Neck Synagogue as well as the North Shore Hebrew Academy. Jack and Celia started their connection to Great Neck Synagogue in 1987 and have been involved with the shul ever since. They’ve brought their own personal talents of computer savvy, creative artistic ability and determination to their involvement with the causes they believe in, whether it’s providing food for those in need or providing an additional spiritual resource for women.
The Yehaskel family is four generations who have lived here in Great Neck. Davida and Marc both come from families that are committed to building communities and supporting established communities. They have both grown up in communities that are from the best that we have to offer and have received not only solid yeshiva educations but family education in tzedakah and chesed. They have chosen to continue that tradition through their involvement with Great Neck Synagogue and Yeshiva Har Torah.
As we complete our first 70 years and transition into the next 70, we are grateful for all who have helped us reach this milestone and for all who will take us into the future.
Ellen and I are looking forward to sharing this special evening with all of you.
Dale Polakoff
Rabbi Ian Lichter
The Torah’s description of the details of the Aron Kodesh includes the taba’aot – rings made with the intention to insert the poles that were used to carry the Aron. Where did these Taba’ot go? The Torah explains, “V’natata al arba pa’amotav” – “Design the rings to go on the pa’amotav.” Rashi (Artscroll employs this definition) states these pa’amotav were the corners of the Aron. But Ibn Ezra counters that throughout Tanach, he has not seen any indication to suggest that pa’amotav connotes corners. Rather, Ibn Ezra suggests that they are the legs of the Aron. Meaning that the Aron does not lay flat on the ground as many books illustrating the Mishkan suggest, but it has legs, like a table does, and those legs, according to the Torah, are the appropriate location for the poles of the Aron.

This explanation of Ibn Ezra raises a fairly intuitive question. Why doesn’t the Torah just use the word for legs that we are familiar with and do away with all the ambiguity? Let the Torah say raglav and we’d all know – ah, the legs of the Aron, of course.

The Vilna Gaon explains there is a different connotation in using the word raglav than in the word pa’amotav. Raglav suggests legs that are stationary; they have a specific location on your body and do not move from that location. But pa’amotav – these legs signify legs that are constantly in motion – different locations – different venues – always moving forward. This is the message of the Aron – not ever to be complacent, not in Torah knowledge, not in mitzvot and not in understanding our purpose in the world.

As Great Neck Synagogue celebrates its 70th year, the vibrancy and dynamic energy continues to be its hallmark. It is the membership, known for their warmth and authenticity that provide GNS the capacity to inspire and enrich the lives of the people who share its space. You are the pa’amotav, the ever-forward moving drivers of the shul and supporters of its Aron.

Our honorees this year, Celia & Jack Lemonik and Davida & Marc Yehaskel are couples and individuals that serve as models who have helped to mold our community into the very special place that it is. Celia shares her flair and creativity in so many areas, including designing the Sisterhood Rosh Hashana cards and being an active force in Women’s Tefila. In his modest and quiet demeanor, Jack has enriched so many of the shiurim and classes he attends with his ability to construct and synthesize insights from so many different disciplines. Together, their devotion in undertaking all kinds of chesed, including an integral role in Hunger Initiative, have earned them great prestige in our community and beyond. Celia and Jack are always quick with a kind word and broad smile and have benefited from watching children and grandchildren learn from their leadership and lessons. 

Davida and Marc Yehaskel simply don’t know any other way. Their energy for Torah, tzedakah, chesed and thoughtful decision making is both inspiring and infectious. Davida continues her family’s well-known path of tremendous generosity in both time and resources, coupled with humility and love of the Jewish people that pervade her every effort. Marc does his best to keep up! There is no denying that it is Marc, with his boundless positivity, sense of camaraderie and deep love for Hashem who is the engine to the Beit Midrash Minyan. Katie and I watch Davida and Marc with a sense of awe in how they accomplish at a very high standard and yet never sacrifice a moment to be incredible parents to their children. It is pretty obvious that these qualities and so many more have been inherited from their parents and grandparents who have shaped families and communities for so many years.

Katie and I wish that these well deserving honorees and their families continue to receive great nachas as a result of their investment in communal life and that Great Neck Synagogue continue to radiate the light of its members for many years into the future.  
Chazzan Yitzy Spinner
70 years!!
I found myself staring at the faces of Great Neck Synagogue’s past presidents this morning. Their photos adorn the wall just outside our Beit Midrash. It’s really quite incredible to consider the legacy of our community. As the photos progress from grainy to crystal clear, black and white to color, I can’t help but to imagine what GNS was like during its infancy.
Communities evolve as they mature. They respond to changing needs and environments, and some years, decades even, are stronger than others. This is no different from any business, yet those presidents are the ones who kept things afloat as they each took their turns. Businesses will usually keep their senior officers for longer than just a few years, but a Shul is different. It’s constantly given the change to be reimagined by a new administration, and it’s that shift of command that defines its trajectory over time. 
Like the 70 unique nations mentioned after the flood in the time of Noah, each year carries a unique identity. Each was equally important to carry us to today. Yet, like the 70 Elders that were gathered by Moshe, each year can’t be viewed on its own, for our community continues to grow because of the groundwork laid by the past.
70 ‘faces’ of the Torah, 70 divine names of Hashem, and 70 years of Great Neck Synagogue history. Each one powerful and each one a part of a greater whole.
Celia & Jack and Davida & Marc - from the day we first met, we knew how much this community meant to you. You sought us out to make us feel comfortable and welcomed, and you truly made us feel special. We later found out that we were, in fact, not so special, as this is how you treat everyone!
The Lemonik and Yehaskel names are synonymous with Great Neck tradition. One doesn’t have to look too far to see how much your respective families have contributed to our communities success over multiple generations. How truly fortunate we all are to have entire families invested in the growth of our Shul. We have no doubt that you will continue to inspire your children and grandchildren to continue in the footsteps that you take each and every day.
Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do for us all. We’re excited to celebrate the big seven-zero in your honor, and we look forward to Great Neck Synagogue’s next chapters.
Chazzan Yitzy Spinner
March 2022
Jordan Wolf, President
The past two years have been extremely challenging, but despite the ever-changing rules and regulations and the need for separation we have supported one another and reached out to those who were isolated and alone.  We are and always will be one family.

At this year’s Dinner we are celebrating the 70th Anniversary of The Great Neck Synagogue. It was clear from the beginning that the honorees for this milestone dinner needed to be two outstanding couples who have deep roots in the shul community and embody what it means to be a “GNS Family”. It quickly became evident that the best and only choice was Celia and Jack Lemonik and Davida and Marc Yehaskel, who have graciously agreed to be the honorees. 
Celia and Jack Lemonick moved to Great Neck and immediately became involved in all facets of synagogue life. They volunteered their time and talents and became part of the fabric of the Great Neck Synagogue.  They passed their love of Yiddishkeit and the Great Neck Synagogue down to their five children whom they raised here.  Two of those children chose to move back to Great Neck and are raising their own children in our shul community.

Davida and Marc Yehaskel are also a multi-generational Great Neck Synagogue family.  Marc’s grandfather and grandmother lived in Great Neck, and his parents and his three siblings live here with their families. The Yehaskels do not take being a third generation family lightly.  They are involved in every aspect of Synagogue life and have made lifelong relationships with many members of our shul.  Davida and Marc make sure that their children understand the importance of doing chessed and being part of the GNS Family.   

Rivka and I wish both of our honorees a heartfelt mazal tov. Thank you to all of those who helped to make this Dinner such a beautiful, meaningful and successful event.
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