Growing egalitarian yeshiva Hadar Institute will relocate to larger Upper West Side space


(New York Jewish Week) – The Hadar Institute is moving on up — to a recently renovated synagogue where the egalitarian yeshiva says it can continue to grow.

Since 2007, the Jewish educational institution has run many of its programs out of West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation at 69th Street and Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. But starting this fall, Hadar will move 24 blocks uptown to become the long-term tenant of Congregation Shaare Zedek.

Shaare Zedek, a Conservative congregation established in 1837, sold its building in 2017 under the terms of a deal that saw it demolished and replaced by a 14-story condominium. For the past six years, Shaare Zedek has been holding its Shabbat morning services offsite, but it will be moving back into a space in the completed condo building this fall as well.

“Our in-person community has really been at the core of what we’re trying to do,” said Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Hadar’s president and CEO. “That’s why new space and expanded space is so important for our goal of bringing people together to learn and pray together.”

Hadar, which was founded in 2006, has expanded significantly in recent years, offering a range of learning programs that engage more than 35,000 people annually and, earlier this summer, ordaining its first cohort of rabbis. It has five satellite locations outside New York City and an annual budget of $10 million. 

The Hadar Institute’s move to Shaare Zedek will also place it in the same building as Kehilat Hadar, an independent egalitarian prayer community that shares a name and some founders with the Hadar Institute, though they are separate organizations.

In 2019, Shaare Zedek began a partnership with Kehilat Hadar in which the two congregations pray together on Shabbat and collaborate on other programs. Shaare Zedek’s president, Michael Firestone, told the New York Jewish Week that Shaare Zedek and Kehilat Hadar hope to formally merge into a single entity after the move.

Shaare Zedek and Kehilat Hadar will occupy three stories of the new condo building — a space that will include a social hall, sanctuary and offices — when they move in, Firestone said. The Hadar Institute will use that space as well. 

“It will be Hadar Institute during the week with learning and Shaare Zedek and Kehilat Hadar on Shabbat and holidays with davening,” or prayer, Firestone said. “We’re very proud and excited that they’ll be the long term tenant. Together with our partners, we’re aiming to build a hub for traditional egalitarian davening and Torah study on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the benefit of the whole community.”

Kaunfer said the Hadar Institute “loved” being at West End Synagogue but that it “outgrew the space.” The Shaare Zedek location, he said, will enhance what he called the organization’s “global reach” because it will have the technological capability necessary to handle the institute’s online programming.

In an email sent on Tuesday to the Hadar Institute community, Kaunfer wrote that the organization is seeking to raise $1 million to fund the move. The sum will enable the Hadar Institute to design and renovate offices and classrooms as well as set up the online learning technology. 

“Hadar is here for the long term and our doors are open to anyone who is seeking Jewish learning and prayer in the manner that we offer it,” Kaunfer said. “So we’re super excited to welcome people to this new space.”