Young Israel of Passaic / Clifton
200 Brook Ave, Passaic, NJ 07055
Message from our Leadership
Rabbi Yaakov and Ruth Glasser Reflect on YIPC, Leadership and the Modern Orthodox
By Mitch Morrison
His voice strains to the women’s balcony as the balls of his feet bounce rhythmically
with each punctuation. His congregation – one that has grown by more than 200 per-
cent since he arrived more than a decade ago – is captivated, eagerly awaiting the
The scene repeats itself week after week at the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton, where
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser skillfully mixes a cocktail of scholarship, inspiration and a dash of
West Coast natives, Rabbi Glasser and his wife, Ruth, a school psychologist at the Jo-
seph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, N.J., settled in Passaic during the hous-
ing boom of 2005.
In a matter of weeks, the Yeshiva University musmach, whose oratory weaves a posi-
tive pitch with structured scholarship, found himself in two distinctive positions: Rabbi
at the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton (YIPC) and Regional Director of New Jersey NCSY.
“My passion for communal work comes entirely from my upbringing,” Rabbi Glasser
shares. “My parents were always involved in major leadership roles in professional
communal life. Our home was always a center for programming, networking, hosting,
and fundraising for various causes in the community.”
“The Shul has really become an extension of our family. They have been there to sup-
port us in times of times of great challenge and to celebrate with us in times of great
simcha,” says Ruth Glasser.
As often as the Glassers poke fun at the Northeastern winters and meteorological un-
certainties, these Californians actually had their roots firmly planted in Greater New
York. Rabbi Glasser was born in New York, before his parents, Paul and Rachel, moved
the family to Los Angeles when he was five. It was in LA, where he would meet his fu-
ture wife, Ruth Lowenstein, who was born in the Garden State before her family relo-
cated to LA when she was three.
More than geography, both shared a strong, religious Modern Orthodox upbringing
anchored in communal life and both religious and academic scholarship.
“My parents were in leadership roles in NCSY in high school and in advisory roles in
college,” Rabbi Glasser says. Paul Glasser continues to serve as a chazzan for high holi-
days (yomim noraim) and works at YU, after having spent much of his professional
years at the national NCSY, and Rachel Glasser was active throughout her high-school
years in NCSY, including holding leadership positions, subsequently working in the
field of Judaic librarianship.
So it’s hardly a surprise that Rabbi Glasser would follow his parents’ footsteps at a
young age. “I began my involvement in 10th grade in my local chapter and eventually
became co-chapter president and a member of the regional board,” he offers. “I used
to give shiurim in high school to public school students in tefilah (prayer) and emunah
“I was also part of the band that played most of the Shabbatonim and conventions at
the time – Kol HaNearim. NCSY and the band were very formative experiences in my
life. They taught me about leadership, teamwork, organization, creativity, and most of
all, infused my Judaism with a deep sense of passion and inspiration.”
Rabbi Glasser’s passion for learning and music continued when he enrolled at Yeshiva
University. “I began my professional involvement in college – exclusively as a musician.
I was very focused on my Torah learning and my academics.”
During his years at YU’s rabbinical school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Semi-
nary, he accepted a position as educational director for New Jersey Junior NCSY and, 3
years later, as its director -- all while remaining in the Kollel Lehorah at YU and pursu-
ing a Master’s degree in Jewish education.
“I loved working with NCSY,” says Rabbi Glasser. “It provided the emotional, experi-
ential, and inspirational dimension of Judaism to Jewish teens across the spectrum
of affiliation. I loved working with students from Orthodox homes who were search-
ing for meaning and growth in their Judaism, and I loved introducing Judaism to
teens who were unaffiliated.
“…I embraced working with teens, a population that many find difficult. I discov-
ered that by listening to them, respecting them, and believing in them one could
reveal a spark of leadership and enthusiasm that was unlimited in its capacity to
change the world. NCSY will always be a major part of who I am.
The daughter of Dr. Steven and the late Marilynn Lowenstein, Ruth Glasser has al-
ways enjoyed a thirst for knowledge.
“My parents both valued education - they both had advanced degrees, but even
more than that, they were always learning and growing more in their respective
fields,” she says. “This focus on education definitely influenced my decision to get
my doctorate in psychology, and gave me the extra push I sometimes needed to fin-
ish my dissertation.”
For the past eight years, Ruth has served as school psychologist at the Joseph Kush-
ner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, N.J., working with kids from 5th through 8th
grade. “It is such an incredible and exciting time in a child’s life,” Ruth says, “and I
feel it is a time of tremendous transformation and growth.
“They are at an age where they are still open to adult input and guidance, and they
learn so many of the life skills that they will take with them throughout their lives. I
feel fortunate to be able to support and guide them during this crucial time.”
It is perhaps this sense of guiding and supporting that united the Glassers, parents
of four children, in their communal work and at the Young Israel, a shul recognized
for being family friendly and offering programming for youths and adults, men and
“Shul was always a major part of my life growing up, and my parents were always
very committed to the shuls that we were members of,” says Ruth. “My parents
wanted to ensure that we were always very comfortable in shul and would bring us
there at an early age.
“I distinctly remember sitting on my mother’s lap in shul on the yomim noraim as a
young girl. I always went to the shul’s youth groups as a kid, davened in the teen
minyan and was very involved in the shul’s NCSY chapter, eventually serving as co-
chapter president,” she recalls. “It is something that I think is so important to create
for the youth of our shul – a sense of comfort and ownership.”
A New Beginning
For five decades 200 Brook Avenue stood as the home of the YIPC. In recent years,
though, age and neglect left the structure not only unsafe but inadequate to meet
the growing needs of a thriving congregation.
Led by the Glassers, shul president Dr. Scott Goldberg and others, YIPC embarked on
a significant fund drive to build a new shul. From the outset, the Glassers were un-
ambiguous – it’s not just a structure but a true center for learning, prayer, youth
groups, adult education and more.
Launched before the Great Recession, the project took longer than originally
planned, but shortly after last Sukkot, the congregation of roughly 140 households
moved into their new home.
“Building the new shul was an incredible and life changing experience,” says Rabbi
Glasser. “There were never moments when I thought it would not happen – but
there were absolutely moments when I was sure it couldn’t happen naturally.
“There were numerous hurdles that were overcome with the open guidance of G-d,”
he continues. “I am, by nature, a builder. My role in NCSY, and my role in shul fo-
cused upon building – it is the aspect of community leadership I enjoy the most. No
single individual built our building. It was a combined effort of many people – who
devoted an incredible amount of time and resources to making it a reality.
“My aspirations for the shul now are to keep building. Not physically, but spiritually
emotionally and programmatically.”
And while the YIPC continues to attract new members, Rabbi Glasser is also building