Professional Leadership

Clergy | Staff | Emerita

Clergy

Dale Polakoff – Rabbi

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Dale Polakoff came to New York for his undergraduate studies at Yeshiva University, and was graduated from Yeshiva in 1979 with a BA in Psychology. He continued his learning at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, and was granted Semicha in 1982, after having learned in the Gruss Kollel for several years.

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His first rabbinic position was as assistant Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, where he also served as a faculty member of the Rabbi Joseph Lookstein Upper School of Ramaz. In 1988 Rabbi Polakoff became Rabbi of Great Neck Synagogue in Great Neck, Long Island, and a faculty member of the North Shore Hebrew Academy.

Rabbi Polakoff is a Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America. He and his wife Ellen enjoy their blended family of nine children.

Moshe Genack – Assistant Rabbi

Rabbi Moshe Genack was the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Englewood NJ and a Rebbe at Heichal HaTorah High School. Rabbi Genack has been teaching Torah in formal and informal settings for over ten years and his shiurim have become known for their clarity of thought and presentation, as he is able to make complex topics comprehensible and coherent.

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Prior to this, Rabbi Genack served as the Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck and at the Young Israel of Plainview.

The author and editor of numerous seforim, he most recently published Kalos Moshe.

Rabbi Genack received a B.A. in Psychology and an M.B.A. in Nonprofit Management from Touro College. He received his Semicha from RIETS/Yeshiva University where he studied under Rav Hershel Schachter. Rabbi Genack is an avid tennis player, and a former high school tennis coach.

Rabbi Genack is married to Jenny Grad from Livingston NJ. Jenny is a graduate of Stern College and Mount Sinai School of Nursing and she is currently an MDS Coordinator for an NJ based nursing home company. As a couple they enjoy opening their home to host Shabbat meals, onegs, and organizing and participating in various shul functions. Both Moshe and Jenny are especially active in shidduchim, as they try to help singles find their match by setting them up on dates, coaching, or simply lending a compassionate ear. They are the proud parents of their adorable one-year-old son Rami.

Yitzy Spinner – Chazzan

Chazzan Yitzy Spinner started to sing as soon as he could talk. Since then, he hasn’t stopped (singing, that is). His professional singing career began when he became the Miami Boys Choir’s youngest member when he was only 8 years old. He was immediately elevated to the status of soloist and remained there until he left the choir 5 years later. In total, he has appeared and collaborated on over 50 albums in collaborations with other performers. He has performed live in concert with many of today’s most requested artists, and has had the privilege of performing all over the United States, Canada, Israel, Belgium, Holland, Mexico, and England and has appeared on some illustrious stages: Nassau Coliseum, Radio City Music Hall, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Wembley Arena (London), Yad Eliyahu (Tel Aviv).

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While adept at playing both piano and guitar as a youngster, it was his vocal abilities that led him to attend Yeshiva University’s Belz School of Jewish Music, and he was immediately asked to join their Board of Directors upon his graduation in 2004.

Most people don’t know about Chazzan Spinner’s deep understanding of music theory. His extensive studies have allowed him to compose hundreds of songs, each with a flavor of its own. He can be routinely found conducting large orchestras, both in studio and on stage, and write music arrangements and orchestrations for some of today’s top music personalities.

Chazzan Spinner served as Chazzan at the Hebrew Institute of White Plains from 2006-2018, and joined the Great Neck Synagogue community in October 2018.

The Spinner family – Chazzan Spinner and his wife Rachel, with their children Gavi, Orly, and Sivan – looks forward to many years of friendship in their new community.

Akiva Ackerman – Rabbinical Intern

Rabbi Akiva Ackerman currently serves as a Judaic Studies instructor as well as the Director of student life at Yeshiva University High School for Boys. In addition, Rabbi Ackerman is a senior staff member on one of Israel’s premier summer programs, NCSY Kollel.

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Rabbi Ackerman has participated in numerous U.S.-Israel based fellowships including with AIPAC and the iCenter. Rabbi Ackerman has earned a B.A. in Mortuary Science, a masters in Jewish Education from the Azrieli Graduate School and received Rabbinical Ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

Most recently Rabbi Ackerman has published his first Sefer called “Taharas Chaim”, an in depth all encompassing Sefer on Hilchos Mikvaos. Follow him on Twitter @akivaackerman for great Torah content.

Youth Directors – Rabbi Dr. Michael & Zehava Atlas

Rabbi Dr. Mike and Morah Zehava work together at GNS as Youth Rabbi and Youth Director respectively. Since 2012 they have fostered the religious, spiritual growth and education of our youth through myriad programs throughout the year.

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Zehava, a native of Great Neck grew up attending Great Neck Synagogue and the North Shore Hebrew Academy. As a child, Zehava enjoyed both the social and spiritual aspects of the youth program at GNS and always felt a strong connection to it. Zehava attended SKA for High School, Midreshet Moriah in Israel and Stern College for Women. Afterward, Zehava earned her Master’s degree from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. Zehava is a speech-language pathologist and works with children of all ages. Zehava is musical and artistic and enjoys developing creative strategies to engage children in the learning process.

Rabbi Dr. Mike hails from Edison, New Jersey, where he attended Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva. After graduating from the Jewish Educational Center, Rabbi Dr. Mike studied in Israel at Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim and Yeshiva University. He earned his semicha from Rabbi Chaim Jachter, respected educator and dayan. Rabbi Dr. Mike earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Argosy University in Washington D.C. where he specialized in therapy for children and adolescents. He is currently an Associate Principal at Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School.

Together, Dr. Mike and Zehava have always been active members of their community. Prior to moving to Great Neck, while living in Silver Spring, Maryland for five years, Rabbi Dr. Mike taught in the local Hebrew School and served as a youth educator for Kadima the Conservative youth organization. Zehava started a monthly learning program for young women. Together they assisted in Aish HaTorah D.C.’s High Holiday minyan and program. They also participated in Project Inspire, which trains already observant individuals to bring others closer to Judaism.

Presently Rabbi Dr. Mike and Morah Zehava enjoy leading the youth minyan (prayer services) every Shabbat, overseeing exciting and enriching youth groups on Shabbat morning for preschool age children through 5th graders and running programming around the holidays and yomim tovim . Examples of some of the programs they have initiated at GNS include, Torah Madness, a trivia competition relating to a specific area of content (e.g, the siddur, haggadah, megila ,etc), Family Friday night, during the festive month of Adar , where families can come together for a fun themed Shabbat meal, as well as an annual mother daughter shabbaton , where a guest speaker comes to Great Neck for Shabbat and addresses girls and women of all different ages.

Rabbi Dr. Mike and Morah Zehava are the proud parents of 4 daughters, Tsofia, Miriam, Tehila and Atara who all enjoy being a part of the GNS youth community.

Rabbi Dr. Mike and Morah Zehava’s goal is to continue offering the activities and programs for GNS youth that keep our synagogue an exciting and awesome place to be!

Staff

Mark Twersky – Executive Director

Mark is an alumnus of Baruch College where he received his degree as a major in Political Science.

He ran a wholesale jewelry firm for 30 years in Manhattan before becoming Executive Director of Great Neck Synagogue in July, 2000.

Dr. James Frisch – Assistant Director

“Dr. J” has a Ph. D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.  His background is as a market research professional in the consumer and B2B markets, working with quantitative and qualitative techniques. He has been Assistant Director of GNS since 2014.

Custodial Staff

Head Custodian
Dario Tavares

Staff
Henry Berrios, Bernardo Vasquez, Yeirok Urvina

Emerita

Ephraim Wolf z”l – Rabbi Emeritus

Rabbi Wolf studied at the Mesivta Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn, the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, and at the Yeshiva Tifereth Israel in Israel.

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His first rabbinical position was at the Young Israel of Malden, MA, where he founded the Beth Jacob Hebrew Academy. Subsequently, he served for years as rabbi of Congregation Ohav Zedek in Wilkes Barre, PA, during which time he founded the Israel Ben Zion Academy in Pennsylvania. In 1956, Rabbi Wolf became the spiritual leader of the Great Neck Synagogue, a pioneering Orthodox congregation in a suburban community. The Great Neck Synagogue flourished under Rabbi Wolf’s leadership. He established the North Shore Hebrew Academy as an extension of the synagogue, and helped it gain New York State accreditation. His efforts succeeded in establishing the Mikveh and the Eiruv as well as a Sephardic Minyan, all reaching out to the expanded community.

Rabbi Wolf was very active in the project of Zeirei Agudath Israel headed by Mr. Mike Tress, and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, headed by Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz. He wanted to do something for boys growing up in cities too small to support yeshivos. Rabbi Wolf was one of the “recruiters” who would travel to outlying areas with a list of boys who might be interested in coming to learn in Mesifta Torah Vodaath. First the boys would be invited for a Yom Tov in Williamsburg where they would be given a taste of Yiddishkeit. Afterwards, the parents would be encouraged to register the boys in the Yeshiva. In this way, they succeeded in bringing many out-of-town boys to learn in Yeshiva, and thereby saved them for Yiddishkeit.

When Torah Umesorah began its activities in America, Rabbi Wolf and a fellow student from Mesivta Torah Vodaath traveled from town to town, sleeping at night in railway stations to save money, as they scouted out possible communities for day schools. He was also one of the students who went from city to city trying to register boys and girls for their local day school. Much of the actual fieldwork of recruiting students and establishing schools was done by a dedicated band of volunteers led by Rabbi Ephraim Wolf and fellow students from Mesivta Torah Vodaath.

Eleazer Schulman z”l – Cantor Emeritus

Cantor Eleazer Schulman, American born cantor with the traditional European style of chazzanut, son of Rabbi and Mrs. Leib Schulman resided in Newark, New Jersey. Cantor Schulman received his English and Hebrew Training in that city. He later attended the Yeshiva in Newark, and studied at The Newark Conservatory of Music, from which he graduated with a professional Musicians degree.

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Cantor Schulman attended the Grace Moore School of Opera prior to entering the armed service. While stationed in Italy with the Special Services, he entertained the soldiers in hospitals and rest centers with a repertoire of Opera and English songs. He also officiated Friday evening services in the main Synagogue in Tunis for hundreds of Jewish Army and Navy personnel from the United States, England, Australia, Canada and France. Cantor Schulman has the Distinction of having conducted the first Rosh Hashanah service in Italy soon after the and later officiated the first Shabbat service in Germany with the 7th Army with General “Ike” Eisenhower in attendance. Cantor Schulman was the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Five Battle Stars, and three Invasion arrows.

Upon leaving the army, Cantor Schulman was elected to the pulpit of the Congregation Anshe Russia in Newark. Later he became affiliated with the Avenue N Jewish Center where he served for 10 years. In 1959, Cantor Schulman Became the Great Neck Synagogue cantor where he served the pulpit with Honor and dignity.

Cantor Schulman has concertized in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel. He has recorded albums of Chazzanut, Israeli and Yiddish, and a complete Slichos service album. These albums are featured in France, England and Israel where they are heard on Radio Kol Yisroel. He has performed for Israel Bonds, Jewish National Fund, Furtherance of Jewish Education, Mizrachi, many prominent Yeshivas and organizations.

Cantor Schulman was Vice-President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association and was president of the Fellowship Guild, a fraternal charitable organization.

Cantor married his Hilda in Newark in 1946. Hilda is the daughter of the later great Cantor Leibel Trainer. They lived in Great Neck since 1960 where their children Debra, Gary, and Larry attended the North Shore Hebrew Academy and Great Neck Schools.