Introducing our 5779 Simhat Torah Honorees

As we approach Simhat Torah, we eagerly anticipate a celebration with hundreds pouring into our sanctuary to dance the night away, along with the opportunity to read the last and first chapters of the Torah, honoring the cyclical power of our tradition. Each Simhat Torah, BJ selects a Hatan (groom) Torah and Kallat (bride) Bereshit for these two Torah readings. This year, we are thrilled to honor Freddy Goldstein and Ayala Wasser by naming them the Hatan Torah and Kallat Bereshit.

You may have seen Freddy serving as gabbai on Shabbat morning or caught Ayala in her capacity as Associate Director of Family Life and Learning, but they each to so much more to help shape and sustain the BJ community. We are truly thrilled to celebrate them and all that they give to our community. Mazal Tov!


Freddy Goldstein—Hatan Torah

Freddy Goldstein’s family has been a part of BJ since the early 1900s. His grandfather, Reverend Jacob Schwartz, officiated at the opening ceremony of the Sanctuary at 88th Street back in 1918. Reverend Schwartz was BJ’s cantor from 1914 to 1953, and his wife, Lottie G. Schwartz (Freddy’s grandmother), was sisterhood president from 1914 until she died in the 1970s. Now, Freddy’s wife, Phyllis Lefton, and their grown children, Jeffrey and Emily, are part of the BJ family. Freddy, himself, has fond memories of attending BJ as a boy. His mother dressed him in a suit, and from the balcony, he would watch his grandfather, who rubbed his necktie, on the bimah. In turn, Freddy rubbed his own tie. It was their way of greeting each other at shul. Judaism was ever-present in Freddy’s early life. His other grandfather was the rabbi of the West Side Institutional Synagogue. Freddy attended the Ramaz School, then earned his bachelor’s in public accounting and master’s in computer methodology from Baruch College, where he later began teaching courses on computers. Now, he’s an adjunct professor known as the “Excel Guru,” and he also consults. Over the years, he’s developed his own affinity for BJ and its members. In his role as gabbai, he’s forged connections between members and prompted many to become more involved. In his spare time, Freddy can be found cheering for the Mets or adding to his ever-growing necktie collection. He’s fondly known for matching his colorful, creative ties—he has several hundred now—to the parashah.


Ayala Wasser—Kallat Bereshit

Ayala Wasser, originally from Tampa, Florida, made her way to New York City to attend List College, a Joint Program between Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary.  Growing up, Ayala attended day school, was active in her synagogue’s youth group, participated in many Israel programs, and spent her summers at Camp Ramah Darom, where she discovered her love for Jewish education. It was through her work at camp that she was inspired to begin teaching at BJ’s Hebrew School (now Kadima@BJ!). After graduating with Bachelors Degrees in midrash and history, Ayala received her Masters Degree in Jewish Education from the William Davidson School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she focused on experiential education and Day School teaching. Since receiving her degree, Ayala has worked at BJ full time, and now serves as the Associate Director of Family Life and Learning. Ayala enjoys traveling, being outdoors, playing basketball, and being with friends and family.