Congregation Ohr Torah


Congregation Ohr Torah began its congregational life in 1964 as the Highland Park Branch of Congregation Ahavas Achim. The driving force behind this Highland Park minyan was a trio of men with great foresight: Mel Wagshul A”H, Herb Kenter A”H, and Harold Levy A”H. Davening first took place on the second floor over the Berkeley Bakery. Yes, there was a second floor there until a fire destroyed the top half of the building. Mention should be made here of the courageous acts of Mel and Herb who ran into the building to save the Sifrei Torah. The Branch then relocated to a small room in the Workman's Circle building on Woodbridge Avenue for Shabbat and Yom Tov only. There were only about 25 mispallelim at that time. As the congregation grew, the Branch moved to a larger room in the same building. In 1978, after one more move to an office building, the Branch rented space from the RPRY elementary school and thus the famous "gymnasium shul" was born, with the backboard serving as an acoustical panel and the shulchan at the foul line. In 1981, on Yom Kippur, AA's Richmond Ave shul burned down and, two years later, the Branch made up primarily of newly-arrived families who were American-born and college-educated, became an independent shul, taking on the name Congregation Ohr Torah (OT). Initially, Rabbi Pesach Raymon Z”L, the Morah D’Asra of AA, was also the Mora D’Asra of OT. In 1983, Rabbi Yaakov Luban was selected as Rov of the Congregation and held that position together with Rabbi Raymon for a short period of time until Rabbi Raymon retired. Rabbi Luban has now served OT with distinction for 40 years.

History written by Rabbi Israel Poleyeff - edited and updated by Mel Barenholtz in 2020.