Congregation Ohab Zedek, or OZ, as it is fondly known, is more than just a synagogue. Under the leadership of Rabbi Allen Schwartz, the Shul is known for its open doors and big heart. OZ has broad ties with the surrounding Jewish community and its Upper West Side neighborhood as a whole. A random visitor could easily encounter an up and coming scholar from Israel, or members of the local fire station. It is an informal, comfortable, inclusive community.
OZ is a modern Orthodox congregation, but any individual is welcome, regardless of background or means. It is a Shul of interlocking communities–young families who find a relaxed setting on Shabbos morning to introduce their toddlers to services; singles, who famously crowd the steps on Friday night; and seniors, many of whom have been members of OZ for decades. It is home to those tentatively exploring Judaism as well as the most learned, who are stimulated by a broad array of lecturers and classes.
OZ is known for its wide range of Chesed activities, which include a long-time Bikur Cholim group that visits Mount Sinai Hospital each Shabbos and on holidays, as well as its members’ regular visits to homebound seniors. Members also subsidize seats for those in need on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
OZ has a proud history. The Shul was founded in 1873 on Avenue B and Houston Street on the Lower East Side as the First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek. After a sojourn on West 116th Street in Harlem, the Congregation moved to its present location at 118 West 95th Street in 1926. Today, as part of a revitalized Upper West Side that has drawn an ever-expanding population of families and young adults, OZ is a vibrant and dynamic Jewish center for prayer, learning and social activities.
OZ is dedicated to serving its congregants and the wider community year-round by providing a comprehensive and meaningful religious and social environment, beginning with daily services as early as 6:00 am and often continuing until late at night with educational programs and social events. Please consult the pages of our website to find out how you can participate.
We look forward to your joining the Ohab Zedek family!
Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Allen Schwartz
Rabbi Allen Schwartz became the spiritual leader of Congregation Ohab Zedek in 1988. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva College and received his Master of Arts Degree in Bible, Rabbinics and Halacha from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School, where he continues to work on his doctoral thesis on Rashi’s methodology. Rabbi Schwartz was granted Smicha from the University’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He currently holds the Raymond J. Greenwald Chair in Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, where he has taught since 1983.
Rabbi Schwartz and his wife Alisa moved to the Upper West Side in 1985, where he served as rabbi at Congregation Ohav Shalom before moving to the pulpit at Ohab Zedek. Rabbi Schwartz’s major focus at OZ is to foster connections within and among the many different age groups and constituencies of Jews living on the Upper West Side. Seeking to make all kinds of religious opportunities available to Ohab Zedek members, he brings information to the community regarding such subjects as Chesed, Tzedakah, Torah learning, Shatnes testing, Tefillin and Mezuzah service, and assistance with Mitzvah and Shabbos observance. Rabbi Schwartz’s goal for the community is to make every OZ attendee a member of the larger community family.
Rabbi Schwartz serves on the executive board of the Rabbinical Council of America and has also served as President of the Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of Manhattan’s West Side. Rabbi Schwartz gives weekly classes on a variety of subjects at OZ and also teaches the seventh and eighth grades at Manhattan Day School. He has lectured extensively for the Board of Jewish Education of New York at elementary and high schools in the New York area. Rabbi Schwartz has published curricula on Biblical themes for Jewish day schools nationally and has written Bible curricula for Yeshiva day schools and high schools. He was the educational director of Camp Mesorah from 2002 to 2005 and continues to dedicate time during the summer months to serve on it educational staff.
Rabbi and Alisa Schwartz have six children and three grandchildren.
Assistant Rabbi, Rabbi Akiva Willig
Rabbi Akiva Willig, a native of Riverdale, NY, has served as assistant rabbi at Ohab Zedek since 2010. Rabbi Willig, a graduate of Yeshiva College and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, also studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and Mir Yeshiva in Israel. Before coming to OZ, Rabbi Willig taught and lectured at several prominent New York shuls, including The Jewish Center, Young Israel of Riverdale, and Young Israel of New Rochelle. He has also taught young students at NCSY Summer Kollel, Mir Yeshiva, and the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU.
Rabbi Willig works with Rabbi Schwartz, OZ’s senior rabbi, to help create inspiring davening and learning experiences through his regular derashot and various weekly classes. Members of the OZ community benefit from Rabbi Willig’s oversight of the Tuesday Night Learning Program, and can contact him to maximize their own learning and growth. He is a regular presence at shul functions, and, together with his wife Yael, is eager to get to know all members of the OZ community.
Yael (Karasick) Willig is a native of the West Side and a graduate of Manhattan Day School and Manhattan High School for Girls. A graduate of Stern College, she is now completing a Master’s in School Psychology at Touro College. She is an active partner in her husband’s work at OZ, and together they are the parents of Eliyahu, Betzalel, and Chana.
Chazan, Rabbi Avrohom M. Farber
Rabbi Avrohom M. Farber has served as Chazan of Congregation Ohab Zedek for the last 19 years. At the age of 18 he went to study at Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in Montreaux, Switzerland. There he learned until receiving Smicha in 1964 from a distinguished group of Rabbonim that included the world-renowned Halachic Gaon Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg and the Gatesheader Rav, Rabbi Rackoff.
In 1965, Rabbi Farber moved to the United States and has lived on the West Side since then. He has taught in Mesivta Joseph Breuer in Washington Heights since 1968 and has served as principal of the Midchester Jewish Center Hebrew School since 1973. At both institutions, his devotion to teaching has made him a respected and beloved figure.
His activities on the West Side have made him a leading member of the community here as well. Rabbi Farber has served well as Chazan of Ohab Zedek since 1981, delighting the Congregation week after week, with his charming melodies. He has worked ably for various charities including F.R.E.E. and Yeshivat Migdal Ohr.
Rabbi Farber’s wife Esther has proved herself over and over a worthy mate. Esther’s nursery school is a West Side landmark. Together they run a day camp in Tannersville, New York. Rabbi and Mrs. Farber have two children, Chaya and Dovid. Rabbi and Mrs. Farber also frequently host lively Shabbos meals.