Harrison, a Westchester County hamlet, is right near Scarsdale and New Rochelle and, though much smaller in size than those Jewish communities, has a thriving Orthodox shul. The Young Israel of Harrison, led by Rabbi Yaakov Bienenfeld for the past 28 years, is housed in beautiful facilities built in 2010 and offers weekly learning opportunities and active youth groups.
“Everyone feels comfortable in our shul,” said Rabbi Bienenfeld. “Whether someone is coming from the yeshiva world or someone brand new to Orthodoxy shows up to check us out, everyone is welcome here.”
To be certain, the shul is small—there are about 60 member families—but for William Fraenkel, that’s part of the charm. “You won’t ever get lost in the crowd here,” he explained. “Harrison is a growing community that is not yet oversaturated. When I lived in the city and davened at OZ, nobody would notice if I didn’t show up one weekend, but in our shul, everyone feels like his or her presence is noticed and valued. There is a strong sense of community here.”
For burgeoning families fleeing the confined apartments of Manhattan, Westchester—with its bucolic scenery, spacious homes and convenient commutes to the city—has long been a rite of passage. For these families who are seeking a Jewish community but feel priced out of New Rochelle, Scarsdale and White Plains, Harrison is within a 10-minute drive and offers a viable alternative where they can get more bang for the real estate buck and still have access to abundant Jewish resources.
Most Harrison residents trek to either one of those nearby Westchester communities, or Riverdale or Rockland County, for fresh kosher meat and takeout, as well as to use those communities’ mikvaot. Families in Harrison send their children to either Westchester Day and Hebrew High School, Westchester Torah Academy, a growing Orthodox day school that promotes a blended learning model, or SAR Academy. Another cost-effective reason to live in Harrison? The city provides free busing to residents who send their children to Jewish schools. Finally, Harrison is on the Metro North line, and an express train to Grand Central Station takes just 35 minutes.
William emphasizes the community’s child-friendly nature. “My wife, Yael, runs amazing youth groups every Shabbat and Yom Tov, and this year, for Rosh Hashanah, we debuted a complete youth service that ran most of the morning,” said William. “There are a lot of parks and open spaces here, and my daughter loves when we take walks and I point out the passing turkeys and deer. Our community is a great choice for younger families who want to get the most value for their dollar.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.