Woodbourne, New York: Not Just a Summer Hamlet


woodbourne-4Woodbourne is classified as a hamlet in the town of Fallsburg, Upstate New York. It is due north of Fallsburg on Route 42, intersecting with Route 52. Very little of Woodbourne’s history is available. In the mid 1800s, Medad T. Morss of Woodbourne established his tannery in Livingston Manor at a juncture named Morrston. Livingston Manor was established in 1879. The section north of Livingston Manor was called Purvis and the section to the south was called Morsston. The first railroad station was called Morsston, all in honor of Medad T. Morss, probably Woodbourne’s most distinguished citizen.

These days, during the summer months, Woodbourne has a dramatic population increase with the influx of observant Jews from all over the greater New York City Metropolitan Area. Businesses there thrive from the July 4 Weekend through the Labor Day Weekend. The months preceding July 4 and the months following Labor Day are also busy times for the area, the stores serving those that prepare and close up the summer camps, bungalow colonies, and area hotels.

woodbourneWoodbourne, Years Past

In years past, various groups of rabbis issued proclamations seeking to prohibit vacationers from visiting Woodbourne during such times as Motzaei Shabbos and Sunday evening when large crowds developed. Being on the crossroads in the very center of the Catskills, traffic would build at such times to the magnitude requiring that two police officers be stationed at every cross-section. Parking was impossible, but patience and persistence would yield one solitary parking place at a time. All through the day and, seemingly especially for those staying after midnight, visitors would meet with new and old friends. Next-door neighbors in the city, especially those almost never seen, are sure to be there and greet each other with joy and warmth. The restaurants, pizza stores, bakeries, groceries, fruit stores, and sundry shops are jam- packed with festive customers. No one ever leaves Woodbourne unhappy.

Throughout the years, Hakol B’Sefer at 443 Main Street was an oasis of Yiddishkeit. In addition to being a traditional full-service sefarim store, it always has thousands of Judaica items, from books to toys. During the summer season, Hakol B’Sefer seems to be open 24/6 and always ready to serve. Kosher Inn, “Woodbourne’s Favorite Dairy Restaurant,” formerly known as the Lucky Dip, is celebrating its 23rd anniversary under the same management on Main Street and, in addition to pizza, falafel, ice cream, etc., on its menu, it has Minchah at 7:00 p.m. and Maariv at 9:00 p.m.

woodbourne-2Dayanim in Woodbourne

The following qualified rabbis are standing by at the ready to welcome and respond to inquiries. Do not hesitate to call. They are, in alphabetical order: Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Friedman, Galánta Dayan, 347-684-3025; Rabbi Yosef Chaim Moskowitz, Shotzer Rav, 845-436-8604; Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Shneibalg, Chernowitzer Rav, 845-434-2568; and Rabbi Yosef Dovid Shneibalg, Chernowitzer Dayan, 845-436-5472.

The Woodbourne Shul

B’nai Israel Synagogue on Route 42 was built in 1922. Through its long existence, the shul served the Orthodox community throughout the years, especially during the busy summer months. Rabbi Nachum Laskin, the chaplain of the Otisville Correctional Center since its inception in 1981, served as rav in Woodbourne until approximately 1990. When Rabbi Laskin was elected to the pulpit of Congregation Ahavas Torah in Monroe, Rabbi Menachem Boaz became rav of the Woodbourne Shul. On January 15, 1999, B’nai Israel Synagogue of Woodbourne was added to the National Register of Historic Places. About the year 2000, Rabbi Boaz moved to Lakewood and the Woodbourne Shul slowly ebbed to standstill. Since then, summer visitors would heave a sad sigh as they drove past the beautiful shul that was never open anymore.

woodbourne-3Woodbourne Transformed

In the prelude to the summer of 2010, Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, beloved Nikolsburger Rebbe of Boro Park, has assumed leadership of the Woodbourne Shul. During the regular school year, Rabbi Jungreis serves as the Pre-1A rebbi in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, where he has infused thousands of children with Yiddishkeit. In addition, Rabbi Jungreis leads Beis Medrash Khal Chassidei Nikolsburg-Kollel Boro Park at 4912 16th Avenue in Boro Park. There, Rabbi Jungreis exerts a magnetic pull on chassidishe children-at-risk with astonishing success.

Chassidim of Rabbi Jungreis have freshened and upgraded the shul. In addition, they have rented a home across the street for the Nikolsburger Rebbe’s summer residence. The shul’s doors have opened wide and weekday Shacharis is at: 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 a.m., and from 12:00 p.m. onward. Minchah on Sundays begins at 3:00 p.m. and every 15 minutes thereafter; Minchah during the week begins at 5:00 p.m. and every 15 minutes thereafter; Ma’ariv begins at nightfall and every 15 minutes thereafter.

With the downstairs refurbished and turned into a large second beis medrash, the shul accommodates more than one minyan at a time. Often, a third simultaneous minyan can be met outside the front doors. The last minyan for weekday Maariv is scheduled for 11:45 p.m., but do not be surprised if you see minyan after minyan well past midnight.

woodbourne-41On Shabbos, the Nikolsburger Rebbe leads tefillos and tisch in the shul. The Motzaei Shabbos grand melaveh malkah that lasts beyond the regular Havdalah time draws large crowds and is appreciated not only by those living nearby, but by those that manage to arrive there in time to catch some of it.

Another ingredient that Rabbi Jungreis has introduced is a constant smorgasbord of cake, nosh, and drinks set out at all times. In addition, during late afternoon and evening hours, delicious chulent and kugel (potato and lukshen) are served to all takers. Rabbi Jungreis thus generously provides edible as well as spiritual nourishment.

As more and more sefarim are being brought into the shul daily, the facility now offers visitors to Woodbourne a retreat where they can learn their Daf Yomi, Mishnah, Gemara, Chumash, or Shulchan Aruch daily shiur, where they can review yesterday’s shiur, check a halacha, as well as recite Tehillim in tranquility, all mere steps away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street while wives or children are shopping nearby. The opening of the shul 24/7 has had a profound effect on Woodbourne. Seeing people on Main Street rush to catch a minyan at all hours at the Woodbourne Shul, no longer can anyone imagine that rabbis once issued any ban limiting visits there.

{Rabbi G. Tannebaum-Machberes/Photos courtesy of Dee Voch-Heshy Rubenstein}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Wow!! What an beautiful and informative article. Thank you Matzav.com !!!
    It seems that Woodburne has come full circle. The Shul, as described, is busy all day long. They really made it a great place to visit. I would not be surprized to see that Rabbi Jungreis will from now on be called the Woodbourne Rebbe from now on. He is also a very effective shdchan.

  2. ” Kosher Inn, “Woodbourne’s Favorite Dairy Restaurant,” formerly known as the Lucky Dip, is celebrating its 23rd anniversary under the same management”

    Sure I remember. So many boy’s and girls wen’t off the Derech back in the 80’s, hanging out in Woodbourne! Untill a few years ago, it was a place for bums & troubled youth to hang out! Don’t try to rewrite history!

  3. If I remember correctly it was voted to go reform or conservative,,,but Rabbi jungreiss rented the shul for the summer

  4. Rabbi Jungreis is a major change in Woodbourne, and a welcome one. No is changing Woodbourne’s history. Rabbis did, in fact, issue proclamations against it. However, times have changed, and with Rabbi Jungreis major changes are taking place. There’s a whole new heimisher atmosphere there. The Woodbourne shul now competes with Lederman shul of Bnei Brak and Shomer Shabbos of Boro Park.

  5. Icollect pictures of synagogues around the world. Is this synagogue active for the summer only.

    Stanley Elin

  6. Congratulations to all of you, you have succeeded in clogging a major artery, Route 52, creating a dangerous traffic situation for all travelers – “24/6”. Learn to drive and park BEFORE you come to Woodbourne. Do NOT walk in the road. The road is for MOTOR VEHICLES. Have some respect for the people who live here 24/7/365.

  7. I am thankful that the the shul is being used for what it is intended, to pray! It was very sad to see it sit unused because it was hard to get a minion. It seems that this Rabbi does wonderful work and attracts many, many people for prayer and services.

    The traffic is a product of poor road design, not the throngs of people who we consider “our summer visitors.”

    Be happy that those in need have a place in our small, humble town to pray.