On Rosh Hashanah morning, 97-year-old Edward Hoffman stood beside the ark at Chabad of Sea Cliff and Glen Cove, N.Y., faced the congregation and recited Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, as three younger generations of his family looked on during the inaugural High Holiday services at Long Island’s newest synagogue.

It was a first in so many ways and also a fitting honor for the elderly Holocaust survivor who has lived to see his great-grandson find his own path to Judaism, thanks in part to Rabbi Sholom Heber, who along with his wife, Miriam, launched Chabad of Sea Cliff and Glen Cove in the late spring. They are already having an impact on Jewish residents of all ages.

“Being able to pray next to my great-grandfather was a blessing,” said Hoffman’s 16-year-old great-grandson, Wade, who studies with Rabbi Heber once a week. “I am so lucky to share such a beautiful thing with him after all he has been through. This was the first time I was in a synagogue with my great-grandfather for the High Holidays.”


“I believe my soul has been awakened,” Wade told Chabad.org. “It is important to me to learn because of the rich history that precedes me. I want to hold onto Judaism because I want the memory of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother to live on after all they endured. The connection that Jews have with each other is like no other and I want to carry the torch of a small but mighty people.”

Hoffman with his great-grandson Wade who has become closer to Judaism through the new Chabad center in Glen Cove, Long Island.
Hoffman with his great-grandson Wade who has become closer to Judaism through the new Chabad center in Glen Cove, Long Island.

Upended by the Holocaust

Born in a small town in the Carpathian Mountains, Edward Hoffman was just a teen when his life was upended by the Holocaust. Out of 11 siblings, only he and one brother survived the Nazi German death camps.

“My father has a direct hotline to G‑d,” says his daughter, Rosalin Polisano. “He tells everyone that G‑d spoke in the camps and assured him he would live to be a very old man, and G‑d kept his promise.”

After the war, Edward made his way to a convalescent home in Sweden, where he met his wife, Eva, now 95, who was originally from Hungary and also a Holocaust survivor. The two wed and had two children in Sweden before immigrating to the United States.

“My father comes from a very religious home—the closest thing I can imagine is the shtetl in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’; that’s how he describes his village,” said Polisano.

The Hoffman family had always observed the Jewish holidays, noted Polisano. But after his brother passed away some 40 years ago, Edward Hoffman began to return to a more Torah-observant lifestyle and attended synagogue often throughout the year.

Now that her parents were living with her and facing medical challenges, Polisano wanted to ensure that her father had a connection to a local rabbi, someone who would spend time getting to know him as a person.

“My father being a righteous Jew, he is getting on in years, and it would bother me when I would go to a funeral and the rabbi would give a talk about someone they didn’t know,” she said. “My father was very close to his rabbi when he lived in Florida. The rabbi was a gem and gave all the older people kavod [‘respect’] because of their age. When the time comes, I want someone who will know my father and talk about him from the heart.”

So she set about finding a rabbi in her area who would treat her father just as warmly. She asked around and learned that a new young Chabad rabbi had just moved to the area.

Rabbi Sholom and Miriam Heber launched Chabad of Sea Cliff and Glen Cove in the late spring, 2023
Rabbi Sholom and Miriam Heber launched Chabad of Sea Cliff and Glen Cove in the late spring, 2023

An Older Man and His Young Rabbi

“Rabbi Sholom came to my house with his wife and young daughter. My father is blind and doesn’t hear well, but the rabbi kept coming and talking with him,” recalls Polisano.

Heber says his time with Hoffman is priceless. “When I am there, he treats me very warmly. I cherish listening to his story, to know what our people went through and to witness the resilience of Judaism as it sprouts back to life at our Chabad House.”

Around the same time as her father and Heber were meeting, Wade expressed a desire to learn more about Judaism. “He told my daughter Nina, ‘I feel Jewish.’ And so my daughter asked me to send the rabbi to their house as well. Now my grandson learns with the rabbi once a week.”

This is not the first time that the Sea Cliff and Glen Cove area has had a Chabad presence. In fact, Rabbi Heber’s father once led a small group there before moving to nearby Brookville, which had a larger Jewish presence and was in need of a rabbi.

However, due to demographic changes—particularly the influx of Jews moving to the Glen Cove area from Brooklyn and Queens since the Covid pandemic, and a housing project that brought in hundreds more residents to the sleepy community—it was the right time for Chabad to return to the area.

“There is currently no temple in Sea Cliff,” Heber says, “yet there has been a Jewish presence here since 1868. It’s an old Jewish community, and it’s growing.”

Chabad of Sea Cliff and Glen Cove is the second Chabad House to open on Long Island this year, joining the Chabad of Hewlett Neck and Old Woodmere, which is run by Rabbi Mendel and Goldie Gordon.

Its establishment is “the latest sign of the overall growth of Chabad throughout Long Island,” attests Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, regional director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Long Island.

The first event the Hebers hosted was a Lag BaOmer barbecue that drew about 70 people. Rosh Hashanah was the first time that the newly minted Chabad House hosted services.

Edward Hoffman hopes to return to synagogue on Yom Kippur and again bless his newfound congregation. His rabbi is looking forward to seeing him.

“This is more than the town I moved to; it is a town that has always felt like home, and it’s nice to be back,” said the rabbi, and that’s how he wants people to see the Chabad House. “We want people to feel like it is their own.”