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Rabbi Moshe Lerer
Jewish Chaplain, Pilgrim State Pyschiatric Hospital, Brentwood, NY
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Mar 20, 2014 -- Rabbi Moshe Lerer grew up in Brooklyn, NY and attended Yeshiva/Mesivta Torah Vodaas, receiving Smicha there in 1954. He has a B.A. from Brooklyn College, an M.S. degree from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Yeshiva University, and a Certificate in advanced pastoral counseling. He served on the certification committee of the Association of Mental Health Clergy. For many years this organization has had their annual conference in conjunction with the American Psychiatric Association. A number of sessions overlap between the two organizations. At one session, Rabbi Lerer delivered a paper, the topic of which was “the performance of mitzvoth in lieu of psychotropic drugs”.

After serving as a rabbi in Carbondale, PA, and helping to found, as well as teach in, the Bi-Cultural Day school of Stamford, CT, he decided to return to the New York area to afford his children the benefits of a yeshiva education. He accepted an appointment as the principal and menahel of the Yeshiva in Belle Harbor, a local elementary school.

In 1976, he looked for a new challenge in life and was appointed as the Jewish Chaplain at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital in Brentwood, NY, the largest facility of its kind in the country. Rabbi Lerer says that “for these past thirty years I have found great fulfillment in this role which addresses the needs of the clients, their families and members of the staff.”

Since Pilgrim State is a long term care facility, with clients often remaining on the premises for many decades, Rabbi Lerer developed programs which enlist the members of local synagogues. Projects have included Passover model Seders, Purim seudot, and Chanukah programs. He also introduced pre-packaged kosher food to the hospital menu and a sukkah than can seat 75 people was purchased by the hospital.

Rabbi Lerer is especially proud that he was able to obtain a plot of land from the State of New York to serve as an exclusively Jewish cemetery on hospital grounds. He later found a benefactor who underwrote the cost of monuments for the cemetery in memory of his mother, who also happens to be the grandmother of Senator Joseph Lieberman. Around Rosh Hashanah time each year, members of a local synagogue come to the cemetery to pay their respects to these souls who have no one left to perform this act in keeping with the tradition of chesed shel emet, a mitzvah of the highest order.

In his community of Far Rockaway, N.Y., Rabbi Lerer is an active member of Hatzolah and the Vaad Harabonim.

Rabbi Lerer and his wife Vivian (nee Zahler) are the parents of three married children who, Baruch Hashem, have blessed them with wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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