This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on February 25, 2007 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the home of Rabbi Alan Ciner which he will give us in a moment . My name is Peggy Kaplan and I am interviewing Rabbi Alan Ciner.

Interviewer: Rabbi, would you please give me your full name.

Ciner: My full name is Alan Gabriel Ciner, and very often I am insistent on using the middle name or the middle initial. It’s said the “G” because it was my dad’s uncle’s who died at a young age and never had children but it passes upon my father’s life as well the lives of many in New York who grew up during the Depression and post-Depression and gave them something a little bit extra, in terms of inspiring them to be great baseball fans.

Interviewer: Excellent. And Rabbi, what is your Hebrew name?

Ciner: Eliezer Gabriel.

Interviewer: Does that have a meaning? What does it mean?

Ciner: Well, Eliezer means God is my helpmate and Gabriel, of course, Gabriel was an angel, and then Gabriel was for the uncle, the great-uncle, of whom I just spoke. And Eliezer was my paternal grandfather’s, father.

Interviewer: And where were you born?

Ciner: I was born in Far Rockaway, New York. Actually right on the borderline of Far Rockaway which is Queens and Lawrence which is Nassau County.

Interviewer: And what year were you born in?

Ciner: What year was I born? I’m a big believer in following my mother’s dictum. My mother always says “Never tell your age because then people will assume that you’re old.” So I was born at a wonderful time and I am a baby boomer.

Interviewer: Okay, that sounds good to me and Rabbi, where do you live?

Ciner: I live in Palm Beach, Florida, and I’m getting used to the sunny weather. The condition of being Jewish is to feel guilty. I feel a little bit guilty that at first, when I first moved down here, I didn’t really appreciate the weather as much because I am a cold weather person and I like the snow and I like to ski. But last weekend I was in Georgetown and it was bitter cold. And I called in to the office and spoke to my assistant and I was complaining a little bit about the cold to which she said, “Rabbi, I think you’re becoming “Floridized.” I think that’s the phrase that she coined.

Interviewer: And can you tell me your mother’s full name?

Ciner: My mother’s name is Betty Gardner Ciner.

Interviewer: And Gardner is her maiden name?

Ciner: Gardner is her maiden name. And I’m not going to tell you how old she is.

Interviewer: I’m not going to ask you.

Ciner: I told you I know that there would be lightning inside if I revealed it. (Laughing)

Interviewer: Your mother’s parents’ names?

Ciner: Samuel and Bella Gardner.

Interviewer: And what country was your mother born?

Ciner: My mother was born in the United States.

Interviewer: And her parents?

Ciner: They came when they were very young from Russia.

Interviewer: From Russia. Do you know the town or the location?

Ciner: Lithuania.

Interviewer: And your grandparents came here, do you have any idea what year?

Ciner: Oh, around the turn of the century.

Interviewer: Were they married when they came?

Ciner: No, they weren’t, but they were already thinking about being married to each other. They had met while living…

Interviewer: So they actually came to this country at the same time?

Ciner: Yeah.

Interviewer: And do you know why they left the old country?

Ciner: I guess just for the opportunity of coming here and being able to be who they were when, as you know, things started to get very bad at that time for the Jews.

Interviewer: Did they have other family members in the United States?

Ciner: Yeah. Interestingly enough my grandmother had a cousin, at least to New Yorkers, I think his name would be known. He was a clothier and his men’s stores were quite known, Simon Ackerman stores, and he was my grandmother’s cousin, so she came. At that time they, you know, were all very close. I remember as a child, Mr. Ackerman had died already, but his widow would come visit us in a limousine and at that time not too many people would come in a chauffeured driven car, so that was something that I remember.

Interviewer: What did your grandfather do for a living?

Ciner: He was a furrier. He was in the fur business and, uh…

Interviewer: Was that his occupation in the old country?

Ciner: I don’t think so, no.

Interviewer: He learned here in the United States?

Ciner: Yes, he learned it here in the States. He worked very hard, did well, and had four great kids and my mother is the eldest. And unfortunately he died at a young age; I never knew him. I knew my grandmother. When I was in fifth grade I wrote a composition about my grandmother. We had to write a composition, an essay, about someone who we admired. And at that time my grandmother was losing her sight. She was a very independent woman. It was very difficult for her.

She was a prolific reader and a great intellect, as my mom is, so it was hard for her and I at that age sensed it. So I wrote about her loss of her independence. She loved to go to opera and she was quite a woman.

Interviewer: What did you call your grandmother?

Ciner: Grandma.

Interviewer: Now, let’s go back and trace your father, and your father’s full name?

Ciner: William Nathan Ciner. He passed away.

Interviewer: His parents?

Ciner: Harry and Pauline Ciner and I’ve just come back from Israel and I visited their graves. They’re buried on Har HaZeitim, The Mount of Olives. And I was able to put together a group of men from one of the Yeshivas in Yerushalayim and we had a minyan and I said kaddish there. And the reason I mentioned that, I had the occasion to speak about them. My grandfather was one of the founders of the Misrachi movement in America and he is extraordinary. When he passed away, and he lived to a ripe old age, when he passed away, many rabbunim spoke and one of the things they all said was that he knew how to bring up Jews.

He lived at a time when many of his generation, at least their children, moved away from observing Judaism, but he knew how to bring up observing young men. He had four sons. He would always tell me that when he was younger and he was looking for a job he would pass businesses that had positions that were available and the signs, and these were Jewishly owned businesses, they would say, “If you don’t come in Saturday, don’t come in Sunday.” But he said, “Alan, I never would do that. I never worked on Shabbat. I held to Shabbas and that was so important.” And I think that’s why he was able to have the privilege when he died he lived to see three generations of American born kids and grand-kids and great-grand-kids all of whom are committed to Torah Judaism, to Orthodox Judaism.

Interviewer: Wow, that’s wonderful.

Ciner: It’s a great yikhes; it’s a great privilege because he held firm. And he was proud of the fact that he married my grandmother. My grandmother’s father, Simcha Abele, was well known and there are people still living today who knew him. He was a rabbi in Brooklyn and he had 12 children; my grandmother was the eldest. And his wife, I remember my great-grandma Rose, and she was very pious. I remember watching her as she would daven mincha in the afternoon, going to the corner. But what’s interesting, and the reason my grandfather was so proud of having married my grandmother, is that her maiden name was Schreiber, and as you know, a scribe, a shreib. She was a direct descendant of Chasam Sofer.

Interviewer: And you’ll have to spell that for me.

Ciner: C-H-A-S-A-M, Sofer, S-O-F-E-R.

Interviewer: Okay.

Ciner: She was a great, great, great-granddaughter; I think there were three or four greats in there. So he was so proud that he married the daughter of that woman; and, of course, the daughter of a rabbi, because Judaism meant so much to him. And as I said before he clung tenaciously to his faith. He never compromised the important parts of Judaism, and when he would tell me about the issue of Shabbat, later on in life I always thought of what Achad Haam wrote, who was not a religious Jew. He was more of a secular Jew but he said, “More than the Jewish people keeping the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jewish people.” And I believe that, and that’s my, one of the, one of my spiritual, one aspect of the spiritual legacy that I knew from my grandfather.

Interviewer: Tell me your father’s full name again.

Ciner: William Nathan Ciner.

Interviewer: And was he born in this country?

Ciner: He was born in this country.

Interviewer: And your grandparents were they born in this country?

Ciner: No, but they also came when they were very young. They were from Hungary.

Interviewer: And then you said they were buried in Israel. Did they then live in Israel or…

Ciner: No. But my grandfather wanted to be buried in Israel.

Interviewer: So they lived in New York?

Ciner: They lived in New York. My grandfather was also the founder of the Young Israel movement. I came across one of the magazines that they still put out, The Viewpoint, and they had a picture of my grandpa in 1948. He was there with a host of other gentlemen who were real movers and shakers in terms of keeping Orthodox Judaism alive and well in this country. If Orthodox Judaism is doing as well, and it is doing well in this country, it’s because these people made sure there was a foundation when it wasn’t so easy to be a Torah-observant Jew.

Interviewer: Your grandfather’s full name again?

Ciner: Harry Ciner.

Interviewer: Your grandfather?

Ciner: Harry Ciner.

Interviewer: No middle name?

Ciner: Not that I know of.

Interviewer: And your grandmother’s full name?

Ciner: Pauline Abeles Ciner.

Interviewer: Abeles Ciner?

Ciner: Yes, an old Hungarian name.

Interviewer: So when they came, your grandfather and grandmother, they weren’t married when they came to this country?

Ciner: No, and I think they met here.

Interviewer: Met here, what did your grandfather do for a living?

Ciner: He was in the textile business. The story I told you about, that was when he was a really young, looking for a job, when he was 16. Then he was able to go into his own business and did well. I think his career really peaked, I guess it must have been in the ’50s when the Davey Crockett whatever was going on. He capitalized on that and was one of the first to jump in to making Davey Crockett dungarees and hats and things like that.

Interviewer: How far back can you trace your family?

Ciner: That’s a good question. Well, on my father’s side, my grandma, as I mentioned. I don’t know. We’ve never done a genealogy in that way.

Interviewer: And you have aunts, uncles?

Ciner: I do, I do.

Interviewer: On your mother’s side.

Ciner: On my mother’s side, yes. My mother was also one of four. As I mentioned my mother was the eldest, and my mom and another brother are still living. And that’s a bit of an interesting story. My uncle Milton, my mom’s brother, was quite known on Long Island. He was a gynecologist. He was head of gynecology at the South Nassau Hospital. Well, two weeks ago I went to get a haircut. I was in New York, and one thing led to another and the barber next to the one who was cutting my hair, somehow we were all engaged in conversation. My uncle delivered him. (Laughter)

And I also remember my uncle having delivered Alvin Dark who played, many years ago, for what at that time was the New York Giants. He delivered Alvin Dark’s wife’s baby. I was very little but my older brother was an avid baseball fan so he was able to get my brother an autographed baseball from Alvin Dark.

Interviewer: On your father’s side, aunts and uncles?

Ciner: My father is the eldest of four brothers and there’s only one left. I just spoke with his wife; unfortunately in the hospital as we speak. And all his sons so far died much younger than both their parents.

Interviewer: Your uncle’s name?

Ciner: Sigmund, Simcha.

Interviewer: Sigmund. So you have two uncles living, Milton and Sigmund?

Ciner: That’s correct.

Interviewer: And do you have brothers, sisters?

Ciner: I have an older brother.

Interviewer: An older brother, his name?

Ciner: Samuel Mordecai. As you recall I mentioned my mother’s father was named Samuel Mordecai and he died at a young age.

Interviewer: And where does he live?

Ciner: He lives where I grew up, in Far Rockaway, off of Breeze Lane. Breeze Lane is a known street in that area and again as I mentioned it’s on the borderline of Queens and Nassau, right where Atlantic Beach and Lawrence and Far Rockaway meet.

Interviewer: And what is his business?

Ciner: He was in the wholesale lock business for many years.

Interviewer: Wholesale?

Ciner: Locks. L-O-C-K.

Interviewer: Okay.

Ciner: I know it sounds like he was in the lox business, smoked salmon.

Interviewer: And that’s what he does today?

Ciner: No, he’s somewhat retired and just dabbles in business deals.

Interviewer: Did you have a favorite aunt or uncle?

Ciner: I don’t know, they were all great. I was just trying to see if I could select one. They were all very…

Interviewer: Do you have a favorite story about an aunt or uncle?

Ciner: We just did wonderful things together. The aunt that I just spoke to, the wife of my uncle who is not too well. I just called her. And when I was a little boy, it was a while before they had children, so I guess she kind of adopted me and we would go all over. She would take me to the museums, abundant arts. One time we went to the Bronx zoo. I must have been about eight years old. And it started to pour, one of these…rain was just coming down. So we went under some eave I guess of a building that was there so we could be protected and we were there for a half hour. In that half hour, I guess my aunt was really ahead of her time. She taught me how to count in Spanish. (Laughter) To this day if people ask me if I know Spanish, I know a little bit of Spanish, uno, dos, tres, quatros.

Interviewer: And you remembered. That’s very good.

Ciner: I remember that.

Interviewer: Any other favorite stories about an aunt or uncle, a visit?

Ciner: Just that all my aunts and uncles were very warm and loving and always seemed to dote on me. My Aunt Dorothy was the favorite, that’s my mom’s sister. And as you may remember I used to come down to Florida, to Palm Beach. Fred Yenkin would have a lunch and I would lecture to about 80 to 100 people. And my Aunt Dorothy at that time was living there, in Florida, and she would come and she was so proud.

And when I was little there were times where her kids would be at overnight camp and I was the youngest of these cousins and she would take me to stay with her and take me out to dinner and make sure that everything was great in my life.

Interviewer: Do you still have relatives in the old country?

Ciner: Not really.

Interviewer: In Israel?

Ciner: All distant cousins; no one that I really know.

Interviewer: What are some of your favorite stories that you can tell me about your grandparents? Any stories that they used to tell you about the old country?

Ciner: Well, they came when they were young. There are great stories about both sets of grandparents. My, I recently came across a letter my grandmother had written in 1952. As I mentioned my grandfather was a religious Zionist, so they went to Israel. (Laughter) She wrote a great letter. She was a good public speaker. I guess she took after her father who was a rabbi. In fact when I did my Sheva Brachot she spoke (laughing). She said a full mincha speech. She gave a very good D’var Torah. So she wrote this letter, and it was so inspiring, about being in Israel.

My grandfather, I have very fond memories of…we used to go there for the Sedarim on Pesach, the first days of the Sedarim, and my grandfather would start the Seder and everything that we read he would apply to the world about him to indicate that nothing really changes, that Judaism is that I guess eternal validation of what’s right and good in the world. And that impressed me, and I always loved the lesson. And then when we would go for Shabbat, sometimes we would go over the Sidrah for the week. And he was not a rabbi, he was a business person, but quite learned and he loved us. You know he just loved us to bits. And my grandmother would get involved in the Seder and she cooked up a storm, and I remember all these pots of food and shisls mit teyg (bowls of dough). It was just a great time, great.

People now go to hotels for Pesach and I just spoke to a young man in the congregation in Palm Beach who is starting to move and grow as a student and he may be going away and I said, “You know it really is the holiday that you should spend at home.” And I know the reason why people go to the hotels. One year, in growing up, my father said to my mom, “Let’s try it.” And my mother said, “Never again.” She said, “I’m not going to have my Seder kind of on the schedule of a waiter or a hotel manager.” And as I said we would go to my grandparents and then later on we would have them at our house.

Interviewer: Do you know how your parents met?

Ciner: I do.

Interviewer: Can you tell me?

Ciner: Yes. It’s a great story. At that time my father was living in Bensonhurst.

Interviewer: Living where?

Ciner: Bensonhurst, that’s a section of Brooklyn.

Interviewer: Okay.

Ciner: A group of guys called the Bensonhurst boys, and they were observant Jews. And a friend of my mother, it was Slichos night, as you know, before Rosh Hashana. So one of my mother’s friends, one of her girlfriends, had a party, you know with guys and the women, and she invited the Bensonhurst boys and she invited my mother, and my father was there. And then when it came to go to Slichos my father of course got up. I guess some of the other fellows also were going to Slichos, and he said, “Just asking, do any of you,” meaning any of the women, “do any of you want to come?” And my mother said, “Of course I want to come.” My mother is a very spiritual person and has a tremendous depth of piety to her being, to her core being. My mother used to give lectures on Maimonides and is quite learned. Every Shabbat we would go through the Sidrah of the week. So my mother went and that was the night they met, Slichos night. And of course my father, my father interestingly enough was more the romantic.

I think maybe that’s because of the Hungarian in him. My mother is Litvish, and there’s an expression, a proper Litvak. You know the Litvaks are intellects but they’re not known for their warmth. This isn’t a polemic against Litvaks but my father already knew this was a sure thing. My mother took a little bit time. They did get married and here I am.

Interviewer: So you lived in Far Rockaway as a youngster?

Ciner: I grew up…I was born and raised there. My brother was born, uh, they lived in Bensonhurst when they were first married. It’s interesting, after they were married they went away to a hotel and a hotel where many Orthodox people used to go. It was a wonderful hotel in Lakewood, New Jersey. It was the (Brunswick?) hotel and I loved going there every year. My parents used to say we’d return to the scene of the crime. But when they came back from what was their honeymoon they had been robbed. All my dad’s clothes were taken and other than what he had with him when he went away. So my brother was born in Bensonhurst. But then when he was six months old we moved out to Far Rockaway.

And then I was born five years later in a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital. And after two months…in those days the mom stayed longer in the hospital, so I had my bris in the hospital. I guess it must have been in the sunroom down the hall. My father was always involved in communal affairs so he knew the nuns, those who ran the hospital. And during the bris of course there was a crucifix in the sunroom so someone took it down. My father always told the story that two weeks later he was at the hospital involved with some communal work and one of the sisters said to him, She said “You know Mr. Ciner, I have a world of regard for you. I was pleased that your son had his bris in the hospital but I noticed that they took down the crucifix and I want to ask you,” I think it was Long Island Jewish Hospital at that time, She said, “If I were to walk into Long Island Jewish Hospital and take down the mezuzah,” she used that word, “from the door, how would you feel?” So my father used to tell that story and said “I had no answer. I couldn’t tell her, but it’s different. From her perspective, it’s not.”

Interviewer: It’s a little different.

Ciner: But not from her perspective.

Interviewer: Right. As a youngster in elementary age years how did you get to school?

Ciner: Well, before we moved to our new home I was within walking distance, so I used to walk.

Interviewer: Did you walk by yourself?

Ciner: No, I walked with a friend of mine, Leslie Botnik who’s now a doctor in California.

Interviewer: Do you still keep in touch?

Ciner: We do, not that much. I have a group of friends from elementary school and we have kept in touch. Somehow Leslie’s kind of in touch but not as much as the others.

Interviewer: What was your house like in your elementary years?

Ciner: You mean the home we lived in before we moved?

Interviewer: Well, in Far Rockaway, is that where elementary school was?

Ciner: Well, we moved from there. In other words I was…

Interviewer: When you were in your younger years, what was your house like?

Ciner: It was an old Victorian house and it had a veranda, and my mother…we would sit out there. Oh, we had wonderful times there. We used to have a big sukkah in the back yard. It was a huge back yard. In those days not so many people had a sukkah and my mother always…our home was always open. We would invite people from the Shul and people would have meals with us. It was this old Victorian home and we had great times there. But it was an old house.

Interviewer: Did you share a bedroom with your brother?

Ciner: I did, even when we moved to the new house. My mother thought it was a good idea.

Interviewer: How’d your brother think of that?

Ciner: He was five years older. I guess he resented it. [Laughing.] I guess he resented my being born. I mean after all he had my parents for five years prior to my coming on the scene.

Interviewer: Are you close with your brother?

Ciner: Yeah, we’re close. We somehow…we can talk about things and we can laugh about things that we share that no one else can kind of get into and understand. So that’s being close.

Interviewer: Did you have a favorite teacher in your elementary years?

Ciner: Yeah, Mrs. Wolfson.

Interviewer: Why was she your favorite teacher?

Ciner: I don’t know, she had a kindness about her and I liked her. She was my fourth grade teacher. And that was when we were still living in the old house and sometimes she would drive me home. She had this big Cadillac. She made me feel very special.

Interviewer: How about your teenage years, in middle school and high school?

Ciner: They were great. As I said, I’m still in touch with a lot of my friends.

Interviewer: Now you’re in a different house now at this time?

Ciner: Yeah, yes. We moved to our house. And when we were looking at houses, I, I wanted to have a new house because, now I was delighted in having an old Victorian House cause I see the architectural value in it, but then I wanted everything new. We bought a house that was just a few years old and it was great. I remember when my father took us to see it and there was a point at which my father was hesitating.

They were building a new luxury apartment building at that time. He thought of maybe moving there and not buying the house. And, I was what eight years old and I sat him down and said, “No, we’re buying this house.” I said, “I want this house. It’s important for us who never lived in an apartment building.” You know a Victorian house was (Indistinct). And so we bought it and my parents re-did it even though it was only four years old. And it was just special, very special.

Interviewer: Did you walk to school again?

Ciner: No, I took a school bus.

Interviewer: A school bus.

Ciner: That was exciting. I remember Charlie the bus driver. It was right up the block and here I was taking a school bus. I remember the first night I slept in the house and everything was so fresh, the paint, the décor. And walking to the school bus was exciting and I felt so grown up.

Interviewer: That’s great. Now did you continue on in that school to high school?

Ciner: Yes, The Hebrew Institute of Long Island.

Interviewer:So it was not a public school?

Ciner: No, it was a yeshiva.

Interviewer: What were your family meal times like?

Ciner: Not Shabbat but just regular daily meal times. Well, Shabbat, that was something special. My mother, some would say she was good about it, some would say not. She fed us on demand (laughing). Like if my father got home from work at six, 6:30 she’d feed him. If I got home from school at four and was hungry at five, she’d feed me. My brother had basketball practice and he came home at another hour so…

Interviewer: So, for the most part you were not a family unit for dinners on a regular basis?

Ciner: No.

Interviewer: Okay. Tell me about Shabbat.

Ciner: Shabbat, we were obviously all together and it was extraordinary. Both my mom and father, my mother and father, my mom and dad would talk about the parsha of the week, we would sing zemirot and then my brother and I we’d kind of do different things, skits and it was just a wonderful warm loving time.
I remember we had an NCSY convention in our community and because our community had so many people who were observant and who followed kashrut, Friday night dinners were held in different homes. And there were two fellows from high school who stayed at our home, from Ozone Park, and many of those kids who came from out of our area were not observant. They wanted to see what a Shabbat dinner was like. And they just looked at me and they said, “Do you do this every Friday night? This is…wow, this is terrific.” The family gets together, singing, talking, joking with each other, eating good food.

What was your favorite food? Unfortunately everything (laughing). I thought of when you said that, rare roast beef with whipped potatoes. My mother didn’t normally make chicken. She made a lot of different maykhl. So we had rare roast beef and chicken and of course soup.

During the week when Shabbos was approaching what was your desire to have for dinner, your favorite food? Well, my mother would make food, you know, and we could always eat a little bit of that when we came home from school, like we had chicken fricassee or she’d make chopped liver and gefilte fish. I still have the wooden bowl that my mother used to chop her fish. My mother was a great cook. She was great.

Interviewer: Did you go to movies?

Ciner: Yeah.

Interviewer: Do you remember the price?

Ciner: Ha, ha, ha, you’re going to get it out of me some way. I don’t remember the price but I do remember that there used to be a children’s section.

Interviewer: Oh?

Ciner: In those days, yeah.

Interviewer: Oh? Tell me about that.

Ciner: Well, you sat in the children’s section and there were ushers with flashlights. But the one thing I remember, my brother once took me to one of these spectaculars, you know, like “Samson and Delilah”, and it had these chariot races. It wasn’t “Ben Hur”. I think it was Samson and Delilah. And I hid under the seats the whole movie I was so frightened.

Interviewer: Because of the noise or the action?

Ciner: The action I think is my…

Interviewer: How old were you?

Ciner: I don’t remember. I must have been four or five cause the particular afternoon my dad took (Indistinct) so he had to do something with me so he took me to the movies. They had gone to a funeral.

Interviewer: Were you a good kid growing up?

Ciner: I was a good kid. I was a good kid.

Interviewer: Didn’t get into trouble, mischief?

Ciner: Well, I don’t think I did. No.

Interviewer: What’s your favorite holiday?

Ciner: Again, L’Chaim was such a delight in our home and the preparation. Sukkot was great because we always had people over. Pesach when we went to my grandparents, that was great. When we came home for the last days of Pesach my mother would have people. The house was always with people. Shavuos, was wonderful. I remember once my parents were dedicated, committed to learning, so Rabbi Ephraim Stern, who was the head of the Young Israel for many years gave a class on the Book of Ruth.

My parents decided at the last minute, “Let’s invite friends of ours and have the Rabbi give a class on the Book of Ruth” and he did it and my mother, of course, baked and served lots of goodies. So, all the holidays had special qualities.

Interviewer: That’s nice. Did you carry that on in your family?

Ciner: Yeah, very much so.

Interviewer: Tell me about your first job?

Ciner: My first?

Interviewer: Your very first job, where you were paid money.

Ciner: Okay, we’re not going to tell about selling soda or lemonade.

Interviewer: Whatever it was that you remember as your first job.

Ciner: Well, that was my, you know, my entrepreneurial best selling lemonade with my friend Sandy Levitz. But after that, my first job, I was 13 years old. And there was a shtibl in our town, Rabbi Rubin, who was known and he had a place, like a day camp, a holiday summer play school. I was only thirteen but they took me on and some of my other friends (Indistinct) after school. We helped out with the kids and…but it was my first job and I made real money.

Interviewer: How much did you make?

Ciner: I don’t remember. But it was real money and I made tips as well, so, I felt I was a millionaire.

Interviewer: You were feeling very important.

Ciner: Very important, that was my very first real job.

Interviewer: Tell me about your Bar Mitzvah.

Ciner: It was hot, (laughs) and several things. Well, I remember the morning of my Bar Mitzvah. I couldn’t find my glasses. You know how suddenly there is that panic. My father said, “Just relax, I will find it. You go off to Shul.” And I went off to Shul and it was very hot. And the rabbi said, “It it wasn’t so hot, we don’t have air conditioning because it’s too blowing”. He gave me the hechsher (Indistinct), he said “You know what, you can take your jacket off when you read the Torah.” You know, I read the Torah portion. I just remember it being hot. I guess the heat made such an impression because Saturday night was, you know, a reception. And in error they turned on the heat instead of the air conditioning. Then of course they caught it. It was a good time.

Interviewer: You mentioned earlier in conversation that your mother was a very beautiful classic type of woman who loved to dress up.

Ciner: Yes.

Interviewer: And you told me a story about your Bar Mitzvah and her attire.

Ciner: Well. My mother is a beautiful woman, she still lives. And I also have to say for those who will hear this and know about hat designers, I am probably the only kid who remembers that his mother wore a Lily Dachè hat at my Bar Mitzvah and Lily Dachè was a well-known hat designer. As a matter of fact, my aunt Dorothy, who was a beautiful woman, who I mentioned before, used to model hats. So, my mom had that hat on and it was at the end of August and I remember it was a decision because I guess in those days people were really appropriate, one wore a straw hat until Labor Day and this was the weekend before Labor Day but she made the decision not to wear a straw hat. And, ah, she looked quite elegant.

Interviewer: Did you have a party after your Bar Mitzvah?

Ciner: Saturday night we had a reception. We had a Friday night dinner and all my friends were invited to that. And to answer the question I think I enjoyed my friends’ Bar Mitzvahs more than my own.

Interviewer: That’s understandable.

Ciner: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I did call a friend of mine. As I said we remained close friends, Manny Goldberg, who is involved with the Yeshiva now in Far Rockaway and I remembered his Bar Mitzvah. It was Parshat Bo which was just a few weeks ago. And when I called, I guess caller ID came up and before he even said “Hello” he knew why I was calling. It was Erev Shabbos and he said, “Alan, I can’t believe that you remembered.” But we all go back such a long time.

Interviewer: It’s nice to reconnect.

Ciner: It was a wonderful community to grow up in. Our rabbi still lives, Rabbi Pelkovitz. He was a great rabbi. He is a great guy.

Interviewer: In your high school years did you date?

Ciner: No, we went out in groups, that sort of thing.

Interviewer: And then you graduated from high school and you went on to college and what college did you go to?

Ciner: Well, when I first graduated high school, I, you know, of course the option was Yeshiva University. And I don’t know, somehow I felt maybe there was a pseudo sophistication there. I thought going to Yeshiva University would be like going to a fifth year of high school. You know, that it really wouldn’t be college. So I decided to go to Queen’s College, which had a campus like high school, 9-4, and I just attended Chaim Berlin which was then a Yeshiva. So I kept up with my Jewish studies and went to Queens College and it was so easy, I have to tell you, so easy. Certain days I was out of class at 10:00 in the morning. Of course I went to lunch. But as I was moving through that year I decided that I really wanted to go for Smicha and that Yeshiva University was the place for me to be. And so my sophomore year I entered Yeshiva and I was very fortunate.

My first rebbe (Indistinct) was great and while I was sitting in the classroom listening to him, I used to say to myself, “I belong here.” That’s why I have come to Yeshiva because he’s such an extraordinary Talmudic scholar while at the same time I think he was one of the youngest ever to receive a Ph. D. in English from Harvard. He brought together all the different worlds. And I thought it was the correct place to go. I finished my undergraduate work and then went on for Smicha and ultimately my graduate work.

So is that when you actually decided to become a rabbi or did you have that inclination earlier on? Well this really had a mystical bent to it. When I became Bar Mitzvah I received many books. One of the books I received, I think the name was “Awakeniing.” I think that was the name of the book. It was by a rabbi in a small town and it fascinated me. When I read that, I think it was the first time I said, “You know what, I might want to be a rabbi.” And the interesting thing, what was makes it mystical, when I came to Agudas Achim, you remember how the building used to be when you walked in on the Stanwood Street side there was a library. So somehow I walked straight into the library and there on one of the shelves was that book, “Awakening” and I said, “Oh.” (laughs) That was somewhat mystical. The Litvak in me didn’t go for this mystical stuff. Okay maybe its right.

Interviewer: Interesting, in what year were you married?

Ciner: 1972.

Interviewer: And you have children?

Ciner: Yes.

Interviewer: They are?

Ciner: They are a delight.

Interviewer: Tell me their names.

Ciner: Amy and Eli.

Interviewer: And Amy is married?

Ciner: She is married to Noah Weinberger and she has two wonderful children.

Interviewer: And their names are?

Ciner: Shoshana and Chana, and I believe she is expecting another one.

Interviewer: Wonderful.

Ciner: I wasn’t to tell anyone till recently, but…

Interviewer: And where do they live?

Ciner: They live in Riverdale.

Interviewer: And what does her husband do?

Ciner: He works at Goldman Sachs.

Interviewer: And Eli?

Ciner: Eli …You didn’t ask me what Amy does.

Interviewer: Let’s go back. Ok. What does Amy do?

Ciner: She’s a doctor. She does several things. She juggles being a mother, being a doctor, and being a wife and homemaker and all those things. Eli…

Interviewer: Okay, tell me about Eli.

Ciner: Eli is…he was ordained as a rabbi but decided not to take on a pulpit. He wanted to do Jewish education and he’s just been appointed assistant principal in a Jewish high school in New Jersey and is doing very well. It’s wonderful to go places and when I introduce myself as Alan Ciner, they say, “Are you related to Rabbi Ciner, to Rabbi Eli Ciner?” I say, “Yes, I actually held him when he was a few minutes old.” And then they go on to tell me the impact he’s making at the school that he’s associated with.

Interviewer: Wonderful.

Ciner: That’s wonderful.

Interviewer: And Eli is not married?

Ciner: Baruch Ha Shem, I’m blessed. No, he goes out on a lot of Shiddach dates but he has to find the right one.

Interviewer: Were you ever in another type of business? Besides being a rabbi?

Ciner: My first congregation was in Baltimore, Maryland. I was 23 years old. It was a great experience. I still keep in touch. As a matter of fact the high school seniors were so close in age to me. I remember, as I said, I was 23 and they wanted to start a young couples club and there was a particular couple, they were 36. I said, “They’re not young. Why would you want to have them as part of the couples’ club?”

Anyway, so I did that and I had a wonderful experience there. And then for certain reasons I was asked to come into family business, which was the diamond business. And the company dealt directly with DeBeers. I used to go to London, to the central selling organization and did that for a few years. And I guess I worked my way back to the rabbinate because I became a senior consultant. Somebody I knew was starting a business. They were consultants to the brokerage and commodity industry.

They asked me to be a senior consultant and that, I say “working my way back to the rabbinate,” because that rather than being more of an object that I dealt with as in diamonds, I started to deal with people, and with ideas and concepts once again as a consultant to that industry. I must say while I was in the business world, I still continued to be on faculty at the Yeshiva University. I would do seminars. I would be involved in different synagogue functions in the metropolitan area, serving as a scholar-in- residence and guest rabbi and teaching.

And Yeshiva University used to call me from the communal service division and I always say this kind of smiling ‘cause it’s all in the perspective. I was in the business world and they’d ask me, “Are you ready to come back to the real world?” (laughs) For them being a pulpit rabbi was the real world, and I guess, for me as well. Which is why one day I decided. They called me and told me about a particular position and I was ready to go back into the rabbinate full- time.

Interviewer: What really caused you to leave the rabbinate, to leave your congregation and go into the business world?

Ciner: Ah, it was a difficult decision. I was asked several times to come into the family business. They needed me at that point. And I said, “But I’m enjoying it. I’m young and I’m in Baltimore, I’m creating, you know, really a spiritual world here.” I was just down to Washington last week, on the Hill, doing some work for the college that I am associated with and it reminded me of when I was in Baltimore.

I would go to state department meetings. I was asked to be a spokesperson for the Jewish community and it reminded me of that. No, I enjoyed it very much but it was important that I go into this business. I did hesitate several times. And then, not that they pressured me, but you know, the need was there. I just decided one night, you know, maybe I will do what’s necessary. (Indistinct) I can always go back to the rabbinate.

Interviewer: Very good. As a very young rabbi, what were your goals?

Ciner: My goals then were what my goals always have been, to teach people and to touch their souls, to make a difference, to help people grow spiritually and religiously and as individuals in this world about us. It’s a tough world. So that’s what I did and continue to do, try to anyway. Not pretentious enough to say that I do it, but I hope that I do it in some way.

Interviewer: So your goals as a young rabbi have stayed the same all these years?

Ciner: Yeah, that was the theme of my farewell, as you recall, at Agudas Achim, the two “T”s, to Touch, to Teach. That’s what I think we all do throughout our lives. And I had — it was an extraordinary experience. I did so many things at that time. After all sometimes when you first are ordained, they send you out into the hinterland but Baltimore was a major city and I felt quite privileged to be there.

Interviewer: What motivated you or influenced you to come to Columbus and Agudas Achim?

Ciner: Well, I think the motivation was to go back into the rabbinate. Agudas Achim just happened to be the place. I was called by Yeshiva. As I mentioned, they used to call me several times. “Are you ready to go back into the real world?” And then they called me about this congregation and okay, I’ll give it a shot. I was interviewed and it seemed like an extraordinary challenge so I took it on.

Interviewer: When you came to Columbus did you have a mission in mind or expectations that you would like to achieve during the time that you served Agudas Achim?

Ciner: I think that people always have expectations. Many of them are realized. Some of them are couched in terms that are really far more expansive than that particular mission. So, Baruch Ha Shem, I feel as if my being there made a difference. I was just in Israel, interviewing students for the college and I had two dinners. One was with Naftoli Lever, who’s studying at the Mir(?) Yeshiva in Yerushalaim and I look at that young man and I feel good. So when you say mission, the mission is to create Jews who aspire to be better Jews. And then I had dinner with Allison Barnett, another one of my young people who has grown together with her family in their Judaism.

So I would say that my mission goes back to the notion of teaching and touching and making a difference and creating on an ongoing basis. And this I did say from the beginning. You know we have the term, mala kedushah, to intensify one’s sanctity, in one’s personal life and in one’s synagogue. So from the beginning I have told them that we can never remain the same. We have to grow and we did grow. We did gain the dynamic of kedusha, and we did embrace halachic Judaism more than when I first came. So I think that was good.

Interviewer: How many years did you spend in Columbus?

Ciner: It was almost eighteen, seventeen and a half years.

Interviewer: Let’s discuss a little bit about your time. I know you have some stories that you’d like to share about your time, maybe your joys, your disappointments, your…anything that you’d like to tell me about being at Agudas Achim.

Ciner: If you spend (Indistinct) somewhat polyanish, everything was a joy. It really was. There were disappointments but those were learning experiences as well. And the joy…people ask me that, whether I miss Columbus. As a matter of fact, I miss the people because the position was about people and each one growing in different ways and each one being responsive whether they came to classes, whether they were involved in Shabbat service, whether they were involved in ritual, whether they were involved in a trip to Israel, as you know Peggy, both of us took the teens.

Whether it was taking them to the Salute to Israel parade so that they would spend Shabbat in an Orthodox community and see what an integrated Jewish lifestyle is all about while at the same time marching up Fifth Avenue and seeing such large numbers, far more than they had ever dreamt about, and feeling the excitement of the spectators on the sidelines cheering us on. Whether it’s the woman going to the mikvah for the first time, as I said in my farewell talk, whether someone lighting candles for the first time; people discussing Halachic issues where I would go to their homes and learn the Halacha with them and then say “So now you see what the Halacha calls for;” and creating an environment where no one, once they embrace Halachic Judaism, had to go elsewhere because we had a Halachic service seven days a week and they were able to participate.

Interviewer: Rabbi, when you came to Columbus and Agudas Achim, and I’m sure it took you a few weeks to get acclimated to the people and the congregation, you were able to identify how things had been going in the past as far as the synagogue was run and the rituals, etc. What are the changes that you would like to create or have made in the synagogue?

Ciner: Well I think that question kind of begs the issue because you asked me when I came and was there a few weeks and had acclimated myself. I think we have to go back to when I was originally interviewed. And. the interview was set up by Yeshiva University and Yeshiva University knew that I was committed to Halachic Judaism and that Halachic Judaism called for the separation of the sexes, with some kind of a Mechitza. And I went, and while you knew this, they knew that Agudas Achim was an Orthodox Synagogue and followed all of these proper Halacha. But the issue of mixed seating, and this is not said in any accusatory fashion, had been compromised. And so I hesitated even going to the interview. I said, “Well they have the sense,” they meaning the Yeshiva, “that they were ready to move on to coming full circle once again.”

They had been a synagogue who was Mizrach Hashem with a women’s gallery upstairs but they made that compromise. We all know those were different times in ‘the fifties. And as I’m often apt to say, “Those people were committed to Orthodox Judaism and they really believed that the way to keep it going was to maintain all the rituals that are requested in Orthodox Judaism and just make this one pshore, make this one compromise, as I often would tell people, a major compromise. I know, you didn’t realize this but you thought that this would hold on to young people. Yeshiva University knew, even when I was going for Smicha, I was fortunate to start a particular congregation within a congregation that continues to this day and the only way I would do it was to have it upstairs in the main sanctuary.

In this particular congregation they had mixed seating and I said I will only do it downstairs. It was basically a minyan of high school and college young people and the notion was not only to create a minyan, which we did, but to have a full day of a Shabbat experience. And this was out in Bayside, it was a great experience. Many of those young people today are leaders in Orthodox Judaism and the minyan continued up until a few years ago. It finally met in a basement in Queens. So I had the privilege of starting that. The reason I’m saying this is because I would only do it if they had proper halachic seating. And then when I went to Baltimore, that synagogue had separate seating but no Mechitza and Rabbi Dobinsky, who was in rabbinic placement at that time likes to tell the story (He’s still involved, he’s Senior Vice President of Yeshiva University) that one of the people whom he met with (obviously the rabbinic placement at YU would go down and meet with the lay people in the congregation before they sent candidates) And one of the people who was on the committee said, “Over my dead body will they put in a Mechitza. ” Rabbi Dobinsky likes to tell the story that that fellow was one of those who built the Mechitza.

They built it themselves and he was one of those who made the pew. And again, I would not go to the congregation. I told them I would not take it on unless they put in a Mechitza. This was a congregation in Baltimore and at that time I was twenty-three, competing with people who were twice my age who were willing to accept it as it was. And I wouldn’t do it and so that was my track record. Whether while going to Smicha, starting this congregation within a congregation, based on whether the Baltimore congregation (Indistinct). So certainly I wasn’t about to back pedal in what I believe. It is part of Halacha for many reasons, for many reasons, without going into the detail of where the whole issue of mixed seating started and when it started.

So I told Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who then was the head of rabbinic placement, that I did not think I wanted to take on this interview. He said, “No, meet with this individual, his name is Jerome Schottenstein, and I am sure that they’re at the brink of fine-tuning this one area of compromise.” So, I said, “Ok.” And I met with Jerome Schottenstein, of blessed memory, and I told this story publicly. He said to me, “Oh don’t worry about the Mechitza. It’s a piece of cake.” Jerome liked me very much and wanted me to come on board from the moment we met and so he was doing what he did professionally, trying to get me and feeling that it would work out. The following week Victor Goodman came to New York and he joined the interview process with Jerome Schottenstein and he asked me about women aliyot.

And I remember saying, without even thinking, I said it immediately. I said, “Quite frankly, Mr. Goodman I cannot accept the mixed seating, and I think I have to exempt myself as a candidate because if you are going in that direction…” And he mentioned what was important. His views I found very respectful, a respect for women’s rights. It’s a different issue, women aliyot (Indistinct). It’s a different issue from respecting women. And so he, of course, said, “No, we’re not going to do that.” But I want to say this about Mr. Goodman. There were very few people (Indistinct) and the one issue of the Mechitzawas what it was. I was not aware of the history with Beth Jacob, what brought people over to Agudas Achim.

So there was a lot of history in that comment and I wasn’t aware of it. But, Victor, being as involved as he was with the community out there, being as politically connected, there was never anyone when I needed to call someone about an issue for a Jewish person where something had to be done so that they would be able to observe their sense of being Jewish where I couldn’t pick up the phone and he would make it happen. So I don’t want at all for that remark to sound as if it was negative. He was coming from where his background was. His dad had thought that they would start the Agudas Achim and be an Orthodox synagogue but be able to reach out to young people. They were different times.

And Jerry, of course, I used to joke with him about this “piece of cake,” but he so, of course, wanted that fine-tuning to happen because his father wouldn’t daven at Agudas Achim because of the compromise, I think. It made…they were all good people. You know, they were. I remember Sylvia Schechter coming to me and saying, she brought me flowers, and said, “Rabbi don’t divide us.” And I said,” Sylvia, that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to be mala kedusha, to intensify the sanctity and to grow in our commitment and shouldn’t we all are doing that?” And so we did grow. We were able to create another service which was totally Halachic while at the same time I made sure we finished at the same time and had kiddush together with the wine.

Those who wanted…who did not want the separate seating, I give them credit because we had a Mechitza for all the morning services and the evening services during the weekdays as well as Friday nights and of course, Saturday night, Shabbat night as well. And they had to then compromise from their point of view, but they did it. Some of them complained. I remember one of them, Jack Cooperstein, I’ll say his name. He’s a good fellow. He loved me. And he walked in Friday night and he saw the Mechitza and we, I must say this, we had and have wonderful women who would come to morning services when they were observing a Yahrzeit or for whatever reason, so it was necessary to have that Mechitza. So Jack walked in, he took one look and he walked out. I said, “Okay.” (laughs) It wasn’t the first time I had that.

And I stood in the alley, those of you who remember what to me was the old Agudas Achim; I guess the one on Washington used to be the old but now Agudas Achim is reconfigured, and I said, ” Jack, you’re here, other Jews are here. It’s what certainly our great-grandparents, how they observed their worship.” And I don’t know what else I said to him. He said “Rabbi, it’s a good thing I like you.” (laughs) So he came in and sat down. I want to be clear because, you know, nothing, when you ask me about mission, I was careful.

Nothing can be reduced to any one thing, so my mission is to create good Jews and I know someone listening to us would say, “I can be a good Jew sitting next to my wife.” And that’s true, but I can only bring to the table what my orientation is and my orientation was Halachic Judaism. And there isn’t an Orthodox rabbi, from right to left, who doesn’t say that mode of Jewish worship calls for separation with some kind of a Mechitza.

So we brought it to a point where smachot were held in the main sanctuary with a Mechitza and I give much credit to those for whom this wasn’t palatable but they went along with it. Yes, I would sit on the bimah, some people would open the door and close it and leave. I knew they wouldn’t worship in the (synagogue?) and, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But I had to do what I felt was right. That’s why we started the other minyan that’s when we started the Mechitza throughout the week and on Friday night Shabbat so that no one had to go anymore to another congregation if they embraced what I was trying to inspire them to embrace. And so, I never judged. I want to be quick to say with this entire analysis that Rabbi Rubenstein knows what different times, the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, and he kept it as an Orthodox Shul and I could only do what I did because he sowed the foundation that he made sure would continue, that of Orthodoxy.

Consider, you know, other than the mixed seating, and I don’t diminish it by saying other, but he kept it as an Orthodox Shul and he’s a great individual. I know sometimes he’d be upset with me. I tried to show the derkheretz that he deserved. You notice I didn’t say that was proper importance, it’s always proper, but that he deserved and he influenced, in a good way, so many people’s lives. So I feel privileged to follow him as rabbi at that congregation. And now they’ve made their decision.

Interviewer: Very good. I think I would like to sort of change the discussion a little bit and ask you about your hobbies. Okay, rabbi, tell me about your hobbies.

Ciner: Life is my hobby. (laughs) I’m enamored with people. I’m interested in people. I read, I’m a prolific reader. I love the world of ideas. Of course I love to study our religious texts. My mother always used to say when I was younger…we had a television but they didn’t permit us to watch television during school nights. So, two stories about that, so I was finished with my homework and my mother would say, “You can take sefer and learn or read a book.”

One day in sixth grade I came home and told my mother, “You know ma, the kids every day talk about all the television programs that they’re watching.” I said, “You’re ruining my social life.” She said, “I’m not worried about your social life, no television. {Laughs] Learn, take a sefer, do something with your life that’s important till you finished your studies and your homework.”

Interviewer: Very good. That’s good advice. How about your travels? Do you like to travel?

Ciner: I like to travel. I recently came back from Israel which was professionally related. I was interviewing students for the college that I’m associated with now, Touro College. But I like to go different places and I…it’s almost not so much to see the sights, though I do that, because I feel compelled to do that but just being with the people. I’m speaking this Tuesday night here n South Florida. And for a while, after I left Agudas Achim, I was doing a lot of speaking throughout the country and I had a publicist. My theme was negotiating this thing called life. And I’d take biblical, Talmudic, Midrashic..texts and (Indistinct)…I’d relate them to values, to ideas and ideals that we hold as sacred and that give us a path. I would say, “Text is a pretext to pry open windows and figure out how to negotiate this thing called life.” So, when I travel, getting back to your question, when I travel I like to really be with the people. This time I had a chance to do (Indistinct) shiurim (Indistinct) at a Kollel throughout Yerushalayim and that was great, meeting these young people. Cerrtain times I was asked to speak in Hebrew. I think I did quite well. But giving a shiur was a little bit difficult but I made it and I have it on tape . So my kids got to see it.

Interviewer: Are most of your travels professionally related? Or, do you take trips that are truly for personal enjoyment?

Ciner: Mostly they’re professionally related. I don’t have that much time. I, when I have some time I of course like to spend it with my kids and with my mom.

Interviewer: Tell me about your position at the college that you are currently employed with.

Ciner: Touro College was started about thirty-six years ago by a fellow by the name of Dr. Bernard Lander, who at that time was associated with Yeshiva and moved on to start Touro College. To kind of fast forward, in the thirty-sixth years, they now serve more than 23,000 students throughout the world with campuses in Berlin and Moscow, Israel, in Las Vegas, California, and New York, of course. And they serve both the Jewish community as well as general community at large. So Dr. Lander called me and asked me if I would head up…he always wanted to start branches of the college here in South Florida. It’s one of the most rapidly growing Jewish communities. So I thought about it. I said, “It’s a different type of a tehillah, a different type of congregation.” He said, “Yes it is, and why don’t you do it?” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m heading up this project.

We opened our first undergraduate division in September and that’s going very well, Baruch Ha Shem. And we’re, for this semester, we opened a graduate school in education and psychology. And we hope to open up other branches as well. Touro just had a dedication of their new law school out in Islip, Long Island and I believe it is the only law school to be on the same grounds as the federal courthouse. I met with someone recently about possibly opening a medical school. Touro was in the papers most recently for opening, they’re going to open…the plans were indicated in the paper. They’re opening a medical school in Harlem. They service the under-served community so they’re opening a medical school there.

Interviewer: So you’re actually teaching or you’re administrative?

Ciner: As you know, I love to teach, but I’ve been so busy in bringing everything together whether it’s the academic side, whether it’s the administrative end of it, whether it’s reaching out to the community and endowing different programs. So my job, as the head of many colleges, is to make everything happen. So I give certain guest lectures but I can’t have an ongoing teaching regimen. It’s too much. But I hope eventually to do that. I just gave a lecture this past Friday. I taught a Talmudic text and I enjoyed doing that.

Interviewer: So this is a Monday through Friday position?

Ciner: Monday through, I would say Monday through Friday, Sunday too. The one interesting thing about not being in Rabbinut is that you have Shabbos off which is kind of nice. (Indistinct)

Interviewer: Do you belong to a synagogue here in Palm Beach?

Ciner: Yeah, there’s a Palm Beach synagogue and very fine rabbi and…

Interviewer: What’s it like sitting in the congregation, looking up at the bimah?

Ciner: It’s great.(laughs) I think it’s great. I can hear what the rov has to say. He just asked me yesterday if I would give the droshe. I’m going to be here for Pesach. He asked if I would speak Yizkor. So I said I would. I’ve given shiur here as well.

Interviewer: Tell me, throughout your life, well let’s go and I’m going to ask in a different way. Who had the greatest influence on you while you were young?

Ciner: Those are questions that people are often asked and again, it’s so hard for me to reduce things to, not simplistic terms, but in such a simple way because many people were. My mother, my mother’s a great…Not only is my mother a great intellect, she’s pious in the good sense of the word. She influenced me and my father influenced me in other ways. People often say that I have my mother’s intellect. My father was very bright, but my mother has a great intellectual bent. She went to (Indistinct) school and my father is warm and caring. Again, not that my mother isn’t warm and caring, but I combine both of those aspects of my parents. So my parents were obviously a great influence on me, both my mother and my father. My father was an idealist. He was in the business world but also dabbled in politics. John Lindsey, who was the Mayor at one time in New York, appointed him an Assistant Commissioner for the City of New York. So he enjoyed doing that. He was an idealist. My mother was an idealist. So they influenced me very much and always, I have to say this, always said and encouraged me to do what I felt was right to me at any given time and never felt that I would, you know, do the wrong thing. I guess they had a lot of faith in me.

Interviewer: Who helped you…

Ciner: I want to add also my rabbi who still lives, Rabbi Ralph Pelcovitz. I don’t’ even know if he’s aware of the influence he had, very much so. I value that I was exposed to such a Talmud-Khokhem, to such a good person to whom values and muser and who you are as a good person as well as a Jew, yirat shamayiam,. those were important things. And I was not one of those kids who was playing (Indistinct) outside during the rabbi’s sermon. My father insisted I sit in there. And I did have the (yikhes?) the privilege of speaking. Three years ago Rabbi Pelcovitz was honored for being there fifty years. And the Shul was filled with all the Rosh Yeshiva, the local yeshivists, the rabbunim, and I had the (yikhes?) to speak on that. I guess I piggy-backed on my father’s (yikhes?) because my father was very involved at the Shul. When my father passed away his om was brought into the synagogue, which is not often done. And when the history was written of the congregation and the cornerstone of what was then the new building my father helped with it. So that was good roots.

Interviewer: Rabbi, who helped you during your lifetime through difficult times, who helped you the most? Who did you rely on?

Ciner: I don’t know. I’m not one necessarily to open up to people, so God, I guess is the only answer I could have come up with..
How would you compare the lives of your children to your young life? Are they similar or different? Certainly the values and the upbringing. Jamie and I have similar values, our understanding of God is and mishpucha is similar, but in terms of that it was very similar to my own and to Jamie’s. Times have changed, we lived in different times. But I think it was very similar.

Interviewer: If you could give a message about life and love to your children and grandchildren, what would it be?

Ciner: I would tell them to embrace life to its fullest always using Judaism as the measure for what you do. To…you said the word “love.” I tell you what my spin is about that. I’ll tell you a story. I was involved– I was meeting with my publicist when 9/11 occurred. I was meeting with my publicist when 9/11 occurred and lots of stories. This is just one story. I volunteered that day and walked right over to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was the place where many of these people were being brought and I spent the whole day counseling people, meeting with people, helping people. At the end of the day, the head of pastoral care was a nun. She decided that all of us, all of the clergy who had been involved should have a de-briefing session in her office to discuss the day, to discuss what we were going to do the next day. We knew it wasn’t over. And when I was with her in the elevator, at one point I was with her, we were alone in the elevator going to this meeting in her office and she looked like I assume all contemporary sisters look. She had gray curly hair with a blue tint. And with this angelic smile, she looked at me, and with her hands spread out, she said, “Well, Rabbi, thank the good Lord, at least we have God.” And without even thinking, I said to her, “And each other.”

Because, and this goes back to your issue about what I would tell my children, we all need each other. Our belief in God is only as good as our capacity to respect each other because we are created with b’tzelem elohim in the image of God. So I would tell them to embrace life to its fullest following the beauty and the ideals of Judaism, to respect other people, to do right by other people, to be other-directed, and then belief in God will come naturally because we are created in God’s image and to just…you know it’s an interesting question because I just found a letter that I wrote to the kids six months after 9/11. And in the letter I told them about the rich heritage that they had of their parents and grandparents and those who came before them and it dealt with this issue of fine-tuning the world. And that it’s a more difficult (place?) and I speak so much. Very often and I get up and speak and say, “These are very difficult times.” And then I’ll stop and I’ll say, “I wonder how many speakers in the last one hundred years have gotten up and said, “These are very difficult times.” They are, but if we can do whatever we can do to make it a little bit better, then I think we will have made this journey one that’s worthwhile.

And I would say one thing about my run. Rabbi Pelcovitz always used to say, he used to say, “If you looked throughout the Chumash, throughout the biblical text, it never says to be good. Not that you aren’t good. It says to be holy. You need to lead a sacred life. That’s what we are. A sense of humanity, coupled with a sense of the divine, leads to a sacred life.” So I would tell my children as I would tell my spiritual children, whether it’s Naftoli Lever or Allison Barnett, or Josh Katz, I was so fortunate to have a group of high school kids whom I would meet with every week. We had a great group, a large group. We spoke about everything, everything. I would tell them, “Try and follow the path of a life that’s sacred, follow in the path of God.” That’s all we can do. Maybe, maybe it will be a better place.

Interviewer: Rabbi, throughout your life, as you look back over the years, is there anything that you would have possibly done differently?

Ciner: It’s a question people ask, it’s a fair question but unrealistic. Because when one makes decisions, you make it within the context that you are living in at that time. So you’re asking me to be Alan Ciner now, looking back, but that’s not the way it works. No, I did what I did. I don’t want to say I had a good run. I hope I continue to have a good run for many more years. As you know, I’ve been ill. But God’s been so good to me. I’m here talking with you and I believe that, Peggy though here, that you were one who was interviewing.

Interviewer: Oh, definitely.

Ciner: I want to say that so much of what I did and accomplished was accomplished because of your being at my side and helping me out. I remember when I first came to Agudas Achim, you can’t see this but Peggy is blushing, but I want to say this. When I came to Agudas Achim, they asked me, “How do you evaluate what is going on here, Rabbi? I said, “Well, first of all you need to do something with your young people.” And I knew that. That’s why I started the NCSY group, that’s why I
started the high school. I studied with the high school students, I took them to New York, I took them to Israel. That’s why I eventually brought Hillel Fox on board. But I needed some people at the beginning and I know Peggy spoke about this at my farewell, but I am going to speak about it now. I turned to Peggy and I said, “I need you.” and she gave me her full support. And that was so encouraging to me, that everything that I wanted to do, and that’s why I can’t reduce my rabbinate to one thing. We know the many different things that I wanted to do and you were there. And I, speaking of the value of Hakarat Hatov, appreciate and want to say “thank you” to you.

Interviewer: Thank you. Is there anything else that you would like to include on this recording for people to hear?

Ciner: I don’t know. I think it got heavy in the last bit. There were so many stories. I’ll tell you one story that I always like to tell. When we were taking the Torah from the Ark, or as we would walk through the Beit Knesset with it, I was walking down the center aisle, for those of you who remember the old Agudas Achim, my old Agudas Achim, and one fellow looked at me and he said, “You know, Rabbi, you really look great.” I said, “Thank you.” We go down the aisle, and another fellow, and I always know what’s going to happen. He was kind of looking me up and down and then he’s going from side to side and says, “Rabbi, are you okay? You look terrible.” Without even thinking, I said, “You know, I’ll check with the guy a few rows back. He thinks I look great.” And my reason for telling you that is if you have to laugh, you have to. I think (Indistinct) gets you into trouble.

Rabbis can take themselves too seriously and don’t have a sense of humor. So, you have to have a light side and I did, even to people who were sometimes opposed to some of the things I wanted to do. I understood where they were coming and I tried to work through their issues. I have to say that I, at least for a while, I didn’t say it, someone else said it, that there was so much done in that basement at that time and so many members of the Jewish community, each one from a different spot, but they were all together and we were honoring…(Tape ends abruptly)

Interviewer: Let’s continue, Rabbi.

Ciner: I felt the love and the fact that they were all there. It wasn’t about honoring me. I’d like to feel that it was honoring what I tried to bring to that community. A sense of, and my daughter said it at my tenth anniversary serving as rabbi, I love to teach people my hayom ba’al yerusha (tsinga?) how beautiful and special is our spiritual legacy. I felt that all segments of the community being there that night were attesting to that value, to that mission. I think all of us have that mission, speaking about missions before, the beauty of the legacy that is ours. I’ll tell you another story. When I was interviewed I think Jerry and I, we hit it off right away and he was very concerned that I make the same impression that I had on him, that I would make it on the congregation. I’ll tell you about that first interview. I didn’t really talk about it too much.

The very first one at the Regency, Jerry said, “I see and I know from your reputation that you’ve done very well with young people but we have some old people in our congregation. What about those people?” And, hakodosh boruchu, God gave me the ability to say. Without even thinking, I said, and quoted from the Biblical text, “When Moshe speaks to the pharaoh and the pharaoh says, “who is going to go on this exodus?” He said, “Binareinu uvitzoneinu, with our young people and with our elders.” And that’s what I believe. And he liked it when I said it, I said, “Of course we can’t discount one generation for another. We all have to be in this together.”

And I was taken…I had not heard that much about the Schottensteins at that time. I knew that they had given to Yeshiva University, of which I was a graduate, and that they were very committed people. I did know they were committed to Orthodox Judaism. And then, I spoke with him that night, just the two of us. And I said to myself, “Here’s a gem of a fellow.” Because he really does believe in Torah Jews, and he does believe that it’s the path to follow. And even though he’s been so successful in his life, it was apparent to me even then that he was successful, he had the humility of what it means to walk humbly with one’s God, and one’s fellow man. And I think, I decided then, that if he’s representative of this congregation, I want to be part of this congregation. I want to be part of this world.

So he’s one of those who made me feel right about Agudas Achim. But then I came to the congregation and I met with the Board and I took it up with the Sisterhood and Sylvia Schecter always remembered this. I brought flowers to each woman. I brought each one a rose and it was an interesting meeting and a great meeting and of course that day I met Bernie Yenkin, who chaired the search committee. We’ve been friends for a long time. Unfortunately I had to go officiate, I went, I didn’t have to, I went to officiate at his mom’s funeral. She was tragically killed in a car accident. Miriam’s always been a friend. But then I came that weekend and they had the Torah Academy dinner.

It was quite a weekend and I met with people whom I hadn’t met on Sunday morning and Jerry told me that one of the people who was coming was Mel Schottenstein. And he said, “He’s a very important member of the community. He’s involved with the general community. You’re a good (Indistinct).” He didn’t use these words, I don’t want to misquote him, but he said, “Do what you do well and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” And Mel walked in late to that meeting. We were in the Board, is that what it was called, the Board (Indistinct). And he walked in late and indeed he was an imposing figure, 6’2″, 6’3″, good looking fellow and I had already given some of my thoughts. I’m thinking, oh goodness, here we go. We are going to have to redo it in a different way because Mel just walked in. And actually there was a hush when he walked in. And so everything that I had sensed from listening to Jerry was reinforced.

And he turned to me and said, “Rabbi, I see that you haven’t had a full-time position in several years. And you know, our congregation may not be doing that well now but we are a major significant player in the Columbus Jewish Community. Do you think you’re up to taking on this task?” And again, God gave me the words without even thinking, I said, “Quite frankly, Mr. Schottenstein,” and in my peripheral vision I saw Jerome was a little worried, he was tzittering, and I said, “quite frankly, Mr. Schottenstein, I think I come back to the full- time rabbinate as a far better rabbi by virtue of my exposure to the business world.” He loved it, they all loved it. I think Jerry had a sigh of relief and years later, Mel would remind me of that. We were walking. For those who knew Mel will appreciate this and this was how Mel would speak, (Indistinct) and wonderful sound. We were walking downtown when they were starting to build the building and Mel put his arm around me and he said, “Rabbi, some day you’re going to own this town.” (laughs) Which if you knew Mel, that’s how he was.

Interviewer: That’s how he spoke?

Ciner: Mel was great. And I remember Leslie didn’t come to that meeting so they set up a meeting at his home. He lived on Parkview then. And I met with Leslie. He was one of the leaders of the congregation and involved in wanting to find a new rabbi. And we had a great discussion about spirituality. And that was the beginning of, to put it in his words at my farewell, a very wonderful relationship that we continue to have. We don’t speak every day, we don’t have to. But whenever we speak, it’s a good conversation, it’s worthwhile. And there are so many people. These people were involved in the process, that’s why I’m mentioning them. But there were so many people. It meant so much, who meant so much to me. Everyone, I remember there was a woman, she still lives, she’s not doing so well. Mrs. Kaufman, I think her husband’s name was Sol.

She lived on the other side of James Avenue (Road) in this little home and I once went to visit her Erev Shabbos just to make sure she was doing okay. She was making gribenes and chopped liver for shabbos and she said to me, “Rabbi, you’re so busy. Why are you coming to visit me?” I said, “I like you. I care about you.” And so everyone was important to me and I think my people know this. One story puts it well and I want to make sure that this is understood in a positive way. We had many people who were quite successful in our congregation, successful financially, not necessarily the measure of success, you know, menschlichkeit is the measure of success.

But I was at a dinner in New York when one of our people was being honored and there was a gentleman who came over to me who had known me from a little boy. And he said, in a certain way, “Nu, Alan, how does it feel to have all of these” I don’t know what words he used, I think he said “wealthy people,” maybe “affluent people, “You have so many. Every congregation has a few but you have so many.” Again, I just immediately, responded. I said, “You know, it’s interesting Mr. (so and so) that you say that.

Quite frankly, I care about people’s souls not their bank accounts. And that’s how I felt. Because one needs to be careful to make sure and you should care about everyone and I did. I really believe that I did. There were so many; Bill Goldschmidt, he was my president. All my presidents were great. And of course my…and he always likes to tell this and it’s true, my very first friend when I came that first Shabbat was Herb Glimcher.

We walked home from Shul together. And we struck up a friendship that continues to this day. And, again, one needs to keep perspective. I spoke a little while ago about the Mechitza issue but one needs to keep a perspective. Herb and I continue to be friends, but during certain critical moments there were times when he would get up at a board meeting and say, “The Rabbi and I are great friends,” and then the “however” came. (laughs) And he (lambasted?) the issue. And again, Herb comes from a very traditional background and we used to sing zmirot together during the week but we all did it and we respected. That’s one thing, we disagreed with certain issues but we respected each other. That’s what I felt that night.

Willie Goodman was great. He used to pull me aside and we’d have meetings about where the Shul was going, and I said, “Willie let’s take in the baseball game but let’s also do (this?).” He so loved being Jewish. Willie loved being Jewish. I remember his wife, she delighted in making me blintzes. And the first home I remember when I came in December, I think it was. Before I came Victor and Elaine Goodman hosted a wonderful reception for me. And then I was in Israel recently and I had Friday night dinner at the home of Sam and Susie Portman and that was nice because that was one of the first homes I also went to and I saw their son David when I did the funeral. I keep up with so many of my young people.

When I was in Israel, visiting Yeshivas and seminars for women, I saw some of our young people I mentioned Allison, but I saw others as well. And last week when I was in Georgetown, the reason I was there, I did a wedding for a young man who is not a Columbus native but he moved to Columbus. He was in his early twenties and at that time I was so privileged to have study groups for people in their twenties so he came and then he moved away from Columbus, I think before I even left. About four months ago I had a call from him.

He “googled” me and found out where I was at Touro and he asked me to officiate at his wedding. So I did. But the reason I am telling you this story is on Friday I went to the kosher restaurant, Eli’s, in Washington. So I went there and one of my young people, is in graduate school now. She said, “Rabbi?” And it was great to see her. The night before I was in New York, Thursday night. I ate at a restaurant and (Rifka Charne?) came over and said, “Rabbi? I thought that was you.” So it is nice to see people in Israel and Washington and New York and to know that the relationships that were made continue.

I just got a call not too long ago from James Ferber. He had a loss and asked me to come and officiate at the grave site. Where I can, I can’t tell. (Benji Nemoytin?) just got married and I would have loved to have been there, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t go to Naftoli Lever’s wedding because it was last June and I was ill in the hospital. But where I can, I have try to be there, for simchas as well as the more challenging times.

Interviewer: When you were in Columbus as a rabbi, you also played a role in the general community.

Ciner: Yes, interesting that you ask. I just had occasion to mention that last evening. I did several things. I chaired the Martin Luther King event and loved doing it. When I would speak at Vet’s Memorial downtown, they would call me the Jewish Baptist. Most of the audience of course was African American, great people from the Black community and I’d say, “We’re going to go to the mountain” and they’d say, ” We’re going to go to the mountain.” So I did that for a few years and loved doing that. I marched with Martin Luther King’s son down High Street. I think the rov, Rabbi Solevechik, himself, put it very well when he said that we’re both particular and universalist. Not only are with involved with our own community but have to be involved in the world about us. And so, I followed that. I was…at the time, the Mayor was Dana Rinehart. Is that correct?

Interviewer: Yes.

Ciner: He appointed a fifteen panel member commission on ethics to raise the level of understanding of the ethical imperatives in our community. And so that was a great experience, I served on that. And Jeb MacGruder from Watergate…we received a lot of publicity was a result of that, he chaired the committee. He was a minister at that time in Columbus. So that was an interesting experience in communal affairs. I also served on the Council for Ethics in Economics and I’ll tell you, a little aside, I gave a lecture not only to the group that was on the board, it was chaired by Paul Minus, but to others. I gave a lecture and it involved a lot of business people. My mother was there and she sat next to a gentleman and he didn’t know that that was my mother and he said, cause the topic was Judaism’s Impact Upon Business Ethics, and he looked at my mother and he said, “I didn’t know that Jewish people had ethics when it came to business.” There is nothing to say about that story. (laughs) My mother handled him appropriately. So in that way I was able to show them that we do. And so the rov was correct, he always cites the pasik where Avram says, “Ger v’toshav anochi imachem, that “I am both a stranger and dweller in your midst” reflects that being both the particular and the universal. I have a different culture, a different way of life but I also dwell in your midst and have a role to play. I would like to say and be a light unto the nations.

Interviewer: Very good. That’s very good. Now was there anything else that you did in the general community?

Ciner: I lectured a lot. I would lecture at different venues. But you know, those three involved me.

Interviewer: Did you serve on any other boards, any organizations, any Jewish organizations, or any organizations?

Ciner: Yeah, I was on the board for the Anti-Defamation League, I was honored by the Federation, I was on their board at one time, I was involved with Israel Bonds. I was involved with the Rabbinic Cabinet of UJA. I would speak to those groups. I served…I was involved as the…the chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America and part of doing that, one night I had to be at an overnight and (laughs) I remember I had to sleep in this tent. I was…I slept with Gary ? I’m blanking out on his family name. Anyway and it’s this. I must say…I mean I didn’t sleep the whole night. But of course I needed, excuse me, to go to the bathroom at one point and they pointed to the woods. So, I did what I could as chaplain of the Boy Scouts . So that was another group that I was involved with. I was involved also with OSU. They asked me. I would speak as a guest lecturer in their Philosophy Department. I also spoke at Hillel, a study and understanding of tolerance between people. I was part of that group. So I did involve myself in many different ways outside of the Jewish community.

Interviewer:Your relationship with the other rabbis in the city, how was that?

Ciner: It was great. One thing I’ve said, and I’ve said this publicly, and I believe it. All the rabbis that I served with really enjoyed being rabbis. They liked it and they were good at it. You know sometimes people assume positions in which by default for whatever reason they didn’t do other things, but I think all of my colleagues were truly dedicated, committed to the community and to the people and I think say that. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have differences, we did. But we were all good with each other and that’s the point. I go back to Columbus now and I think, well, I need to call Rabbi Stavsky and I don’t have that and I speak to his grandson, who has taken over his position. He’s wonderful and I know that Rabbi Stavsky would be proud. Tully is wonderful, as is his wife Abby. I got to know them and I speak with them. I spoke to them before they made his decision, in Israel. Last year when I was in Israel we spoke about taking that position or another position. I think he’ll be a tremendous asset and of course I met Rabbi Zack many times and he is an asset. I never met Rabbi Zellermeyer, we spoke on the phone. And the new rabbi…

Interviewer: Rabbi Zinko? At Temple Israel?

Ciner: No. at Agudas Achim.

Interviewer: Jason Miller?

Ciner: Jason Miller. For the moment…I think he’s going to do the job. I met him when I officiated at Eleanor’s funeral. So I think, the other rabbis, and Rabbi Berman, he’s my friend. Both he and Beth were very good to me when I first came. So, I was blessed. I don’t know the new rabbi at Temple Israel. Rabbi Huber and I were close. As a matter of fact, we did an all-day seminar, analyzing Maimonides as a prep for the High Holy Days. It was…and we did nice things like that, all the rabbis. We did a lot of interesting things. Rabbi Stavsky, of course…but getting back to the all day seminar, that was great. Rabbi Huber and I did that. And Rabbi Stavsky was the one who exhibited great leadership in the community.

And Rabbi Rubenstein, of course, did what he does best in terms of getting people together. He has a certain way of finessing, if that’s a way of putting it, different peoples’ personalities. And he would do it for the sake of Orthodox Judaism, for the cause of Orthodox Judaism in a way that I have to say not too many people could do, so he did that. And I also knew Rabbi Zelizer, He was no longer serving, but I got to know Rabbi Zelizer. And Rabbi Apothaker, and Marcy, both of them were always so wonderful to me and Rabbi Apothaker, I think, continues to make his mark in New Albany. And Rabbi Kaltmann of course has his unique style and it works. And Rabbi Mars, the head of the Kollel, is doing an extraordinary job.

I remember when Rabbi Stavsky, Rabbi Rosenberg and I sat down and discussed the idea of a Kollel. And we never imagined that it would work in quite the way that it has. At least, I didn’t. And Rabbi Rosenberg, I remember when he first came to Ahavas Sholem, we had a long talk. And I value what he brought to the community, and I know and from what I understand, he’s been playing a very significant role in the broader community and I also understand that he is moving on which I think it’s a great thing and I wish him (Indistinct Hebrew words). He is a tremendous Torah chochem and caring individual. He’ll do well in his new position. And I remember Rabbi Steve Abrams, who at one point was the Hillel rabbi and we had a close relationship. Howie Alpert was there before him. I know also the current Hillel rabbi, he’s somebody whom I briefly got to know. He came when I was leaving. Lots of wonderful people.

Interviewer: Tell me about your relationship with Baruch and Mina Schiffman.

Ciner: I’m glad you asked that of me. I would never would want to not mention Baruch and Mina. And I hope I’m not leaving out people. You know it’s hard to know. Baruch is like a brother, like my older brother (laughs) and yes, he was an artist and sometimes could be somewhat, how can I say, but rightly so, he has an extraordinary voice and was entitled to sometimes be a little uppity. I don’t want to say prima donna, because he wasn’t like that, but, you know, he values his gift. He has a wonderful gift. And Mina in her own right, so gracious, a woman who always opens her home. Baruch was somebody who, aside from his gift of khazonut, would as they say take the shirt off of his back to give to you. I think he’s going to be happy now. We speak a lot. I see his son, (Monty?), now in my work at Touro College in Miami Beach. And I couldn’t have had a better khazn and when he davened, (Indistinct) and you know it wasn’t for show. It was min ha Lev, it was from the heart, and truly pious and a learned individual. He always shared his (emray d’vorach?) with me, his little words of Torah. And I enjoyed listening to him. And even if he repeated himself, I said, “Baruch, I heard that but.” Khazem was a good part of Jewish learning. Am I forgetting anyone?

Interviewer: Well, you’ve mentioned a lot of people.

Ciner: Sylvia Mellman, where would I have been without Sylvia? Sylvia came on board…I remember Victor called me and he said, “Rabbi, we’ve got a coup. We’re getting Sylvia Mellman as our Executive Director. You don’t know her but she’s really great.” And she was. I could always call her my Smith College graduate. She was great. I used to say, “I could dream and she made it happen.” And then Liz who followed her, Liz was great. Always have a special heart, a special place…she said that at my farewell that she has a special place in her heart for me, but I have a special place in my heart for her. So, let’s see…In a world of pretension, it’s a delight to be able to call Joel and Janice friends. They are bright people, scholarly people, and good people. And also Moshe Hertzoge served with distinction. Unfortunately he was taken at a young age. We both were part of a kehillah. And of course, Hillel, Hillel Fox, who came on board to be our Director of Youth Services. Hillel and I still speak, not as often as either of us would like, but we speak. He went through many challenges when he was at Agudas Achim, in terms of the health of his family but he never let it interfere, never let it interfere with anything he did and I know that (Hebrew word?) is watching over both Hillel and Chana. And they are doing good work in Dayton.

And he exhibits the greatest sense of (Indistinct Hebrew words) by taking over his father’s pulpit. So, Hillel was there. And of course the entire administrative staff who worked with me. All the women in the office, secretaries, they were great. We were like one family. And Richard, we can’t forget Richard, if there’s going to be a historical document, Richard was great. And Ruth, we all worked well, we really worked well together. It was a delight. I tell people that there never will be an experience like Agudas Achim. It was just extraordinary in many ways. And I certainly grew.laughs] in many ways that I’m grateful to the congregation. I am grateful to the congregation for being so good to my children when they would visit and making them feel special.

Interviewer: What do you expect for your future now?

Ciner: Well, working with the college and that’s exciting. It’s also building, similar to what I did at Agudas Achim. I like to be a builder. I always rely on Hakodesh Baruch Hu to be my partner, hopefully Hakodesh Baruch Hu. is. So I’m doing that, watch my children, my grandchildren and just continue trying to do what I do and making it a better world. I quoted a d’var yesterday, not yesterday, Friday I spoke to the entire staff at the college and I quoted the notion of doors. How doors open opportunities for us. (Indistinct) That’s what I hope to do, to continue to open doors for others, teach people, touch them, go back to the two T’s. And then one never knows what the future holds in store. I hope that I have more years to do what I want to do. And I hope that the world finds itself in a better place. We are not in a very good place now.

But as I said, the world has always been a difficult place so maybe that’s the way to look at it. And one need emunah, needs faith in Hakodesh Baruch Hu and I have that, I do. That I received from both my parents. My parents were true believers. They were, you go back to the word “pious,” they were truly pious. They weren’t perfect but they were pious. They felt their Judaism and they made their mark in their community. Long before they had frozen kosher TV dinners, Erev Shabbos, you had to prepare for Shabbos. My mother would cook lots of food, extra, more than we needed, and would bring over the fresh hot food Erev Shabbos to the patients in the hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital.

And my father, in connection with the hospital, when he served as Assistant Commissioner, he was the one to be able to make the following happen. He was able to have all the city hospitals, New York has city hospitals, have kosher food. They’d never had kosher food before. My father was able…my parents were both good people. They had values. They had ethical imperatives that were constantly operative. They would see things in the world about them and be dismayed by people who didn’t act in the way they should. So that was something I received from my parents.

Interviewer: Well, Rabbi, if there’s nothing else that you would like to tell, I would bring this interview to a close. Is there anything else?

Ciner: I can’t say that I’ve said it all because there is always more to say but I would say until the next time.

Interviewer: Very good.

Ciner: This is fine and thank you, Peggy.

Interviewer: Well, on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the oral history project and this concludes the interview.