Century-Old Organization Undergoes A Transformation As A New Era Is Ushered In


ncyiWhen he joined the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) this past August as its Executive Director, Rabbi Perry Tirschwell hit the ground running. With his considerable experience in Jewish education and organizational life, Rabbi Tirschwell was tasked with overseeing and making Young Israel a transformative force in American Jewish life.

At the six-month mark of his tenure as the head of the National Council of Young Israel, which has ably served the broader Jewish community for over one-hundred years, the immediate impact that Rabbi Tirschwell made was extremely evident. Intent on cutting costs and achieving financial stability, accountability, and transparency, Rabbi Tirschwell and the NCYI Board of Directors were successful in significantly reducing the organization’s expenses, which have been cut by more than 50%.

Rabbi Tirschwell and the lay leadership of the National Council of Young Israel, including President Farley Weiss of Phoenix, Arizona, Chairman of the Board Bob Levi of Silver Spring, Maryland, and 1st Vice President Yosef Poplak of New York, initiated a thorough review of the organization’s finances and enlisted the services of an independent, outside comptroller.

Young Israel’s national office relocated from downtown Manhattan to Paramus, New Jersey. In addition to cutting the organization’s rent by 60%, the move signaled the Young Israel’s desire to work with the greater Jewish community. They are now housed in the same building as the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the regional Israel Bonds office, and the North American headquarters of Nefesh B’Nefesh. Rabbi Tirschwell has already begun discussions with these new neighbors about joint projects.

“With the assistance of our dedicated and forward-thinking board members and a talented and devoted professional staff, the National Council of Young Israel is taking a proactive role in order to strengthen our organization and renew our relationship with all of our branch synagogues,” said NCYI President Farley Weiss. “The Young Israel movement is deeply committed to furthering the vital role that synagogues play in Jewish communities all across the United States.”

As part of the organization’s efforts to strengthen the Young Israel’s relationships with its branch synagogues and members across the United States, Rabbi Tirschwell embarked on a “Young Israel listening tour.”

Rabbi Tirschwell has spent a great amount of time traveling to various Young Israel synagogues, where he has met with their rabbis, presidents, board members, and congregants, in an effort to ascertain how the National Council of Young Israel can be of assistance to them and to learn which innovative “best practices” they have to share with their sister branches.

In a relatively short period of time, Rabbi Tirschwell has already spent Shabbat at the Young Israel’s of Oak Park and Southfield, Michigan; Scarsdale, New York; West Hartford, Connecticut; Sharon, Massachusetts; Staten Island, New York; Stamford, Connecticut; East Brunswick, New Jersey; St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee, and Plainview, New York.

In addition, Rabbi Tirschwell has also visited the Young Israel’s of Brighton Beach, New York; Teaneck, New Jersey; Brookline, Massachusetts; Hollywood, Florida; Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Flatbush, Brooklyn; Houston, Texas; Fort Lee, New Jersey; Pembroke Pines, Florida; the West Side, New York; West Hartford, Connecticut; and Kingsbay, Brooklyn.

“The Young Israel of East Brunswick was honored to host Rabbi Tirschwell for Shabbat,” said Rabbi Jay Weinstein of the Young Israel of East Brunswick. “We gained a tremendous amount from his Divrei Torah and enjoyed hearing about his new vision for the National Council of Young Israel.”

“In his recent visit to the Young Israel of Scarsdale, Rabbi Perry Tirschwell delivered an engaging Shabbat morning presentation about the past, present and future of the Young Israel movement,” said Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern of the Young Israel of Scarsdale. “As the National Council of Young Israel resets its focus and priorities, we look forward to seeing Rabbi Tirschwell’s ambitious vision for our unique brand of Orthodox Jewish life realized over the coming years.”

“It was a pleasure to have Rabbi Tirschwell and his wife and we look forward to continuing to be a vital part of the Young Israel movement,” said Moishe Berkower, president of the Young Israel of Staten Island.

Aside from bolstering its synagogue services, the National Council of Young Israel has begun an intense effort to return the organization to its roots by putting the “Young” back in “Young Israel.” Young Israel was started a century ago by 25-30 year olds who were not connecting religiously. Rabbi Tirschwell has conducted dozens of meetings about services for, and with, members of this age group, which sociologists now call the “Odyssey Years.”

In this vein, he has reached out to the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America, Yeshiva University, the Jewish Federation, and numerous synagogues about undertaking joint projects and working collaboratively for the betterment of the greater Jewish community.

“We are in the midst of writing an exciting new chapter in Young Israel’s distinguished history,” said Rabbi Tirschwell. “For more than a hundred years, the National Council of Young Israel has played a pivotal role in the robust growth of Orthodox Judaism in North America. By working in tandem with our branch synagogues, our talented professional staff and dedicated lay leaders will continue enriching the work of the National Council of Young Israel and further cement its reputation as one of the leading Jewish organizations in the United States and Israel.”

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. YI was relevant back in the day when shuls were taking down their mechitzos. If you joined YI and took down your mechitza, you forfeited your assets to them, so it was like an insurance policy that the shul would stay Orthodox. A few years ago they abandoned that policy. They need to reinstate it and use it to prevent shuls from having partnership minyanim, etc., which are basically the mechitza-equivalent issues of today.

  2. Comment to #1: I am not sure that financially forcing shuls to act a certain way, will endear themselves to you.

    A large part of their services are duplicated by the OU. So they have to become more efficient. This is true for other Jewish organizations also. What does Agudah and Torah Umessorah do?

  3. There was a lot more relevancy to the Y.I. than mechitzos.

    Years ago I read an early version of the charter and one of the reasons cited for its existence was to address the challenge faced by the traveler in following the davening among the wide variety of customs adopted by Orthodox synagogues across the country. The plan was to establish a nationwide network of synagogues adhering to a common standard of prayer that an Orthodox person could enter and quickly participate in the service.

    That was a pretty laudable goal. Today, there is far greater level of Jewish education among the masses, so there is greater exposure and ability to adapt to the different practices currently in use.