The chapel is close to the EL AL check-in counter as well as other international carriers (e.g., SWISSAIR, KLM, AEROSVIT, and DELTA).
The International Synagogue serves airport employees, business people, and Jewish travelers at JFK Airport. Serving American Jewry in this unique way since May, 2001, the Synagogue receives groups of persons of all ages from all over the United States prior to their departures to Israel or other places on the globe. Since travelers must now arrive early for their flights because of heightened security concerns, the chapel provides a quiet place for individuals and groups to gather, pray, meditate, and study. The Jewish chaplain is available for counseling families who may be sending children to study in Israel or parents leaving to Israel for retirement, as well as for crisis counseling in the event of emergencies (Critical Incidence Stress Debriefing).
The chapel is open for shacharit, mincha, and maariv services, as well as for group prayer (minyan). Passengers can rest between connecting flights in the chapel. Orientation for departing groups of teenagers or adults can be given in the chapel. Many prominent rabbis and communal leaders use the shul for davening and study. With the Air Train, the Synagogue is only minutes away from all the terminals and airlines that serve JFK.
Special activities conducted at the International Synagogue include a weekly Lunch and Learn program on Thursdays. Appropriate celebrations are observed for the holidays of Chanukah (serving sufganiot), Purim (hamantaschen), and Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel Independence Day. The lulav and etrog are available during Succoth. We read the megillah on Purim night before the EL AL flight. Jewish organizations can greet Israeli and/or Jewish dignitaries while in transit. While the chapel is opened by security on Shabbat, there are no organized prayer services. On rare occasions, passengers have been stranded in the chapel, and the shul has served as refuge until nightfall.
We have become a focal point for the Jewish traveler. Whenever there is a mission of young Jews traveling to Israel or another place on the globe, we host these young travelers. We host Birthright Israel, BBYO, Bnei Akiva, Elite Academy, Israel Scouts, NCSY, NCYI, USY, NFTY, YACHAD, Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, Yeshivat HaKotel, Netiv Aryeh, Brovenders, Michlalah, Sha’alavim, Bnos Israel, Bais Yaakov, BRISK, MIR, etc. students. Young people on their way to Summer camps (Sdei Chemed, Morasha-SULAM, Tuv HaAretz) as well as and Camp Kobi Mandell come to the chapel before boarding the plane. Family members join in the farewell. We provide light refreshments to these groups and the leaders have an opportunity to give orientation for their young travelers.
The Synagogue has hosted meeting for adults as well, such as Hadassah and sermon seminars for rabbis. We accommodate meetings of Project Interchange under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee. And, we are available to host smachot/celebrations on our premises.
Kosher food can now be purchased in IAT/Terminal 4. Recently, a new caterer, FRESHKO, supplies food (sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc.) to a vendor on the third floor. The food is under the hashgachah of the STAR-K. The food is tasty and reasonably priced.
We participate with the other faith groups in sponsoring the TRI-FAITH CHAPELS MUSEUM.
Travelers can view some unusual Jewish artifacts collected from around the globe. We have also installed a library of Judaica in both Hebrew and English in both the Chapel and the Museum.
As an added benefit, and to encourage people to visit the chapel, the parking garage allows the Synagogue to offer “reduced rate parking” for those who utilize the chapel for prayer or study for no more than four hours. We stamp the parking ticket exempting the driver from paying the fees. This service is only available when the rabbi is on premises.
The original International Synagogue served as testimony to the strength of the Jewish community when it unites on behalf of a meritorious cause or project. The broad based assistance for the Synagogue’s programs, coming from practically every segment of the Jewish community was initially made possible by the New York Board of Rabbis. However, the chapel is now supported solely through donations from the public, membership dues, and an annual Limited Raffle of airline tickets during the holiday of Chanukah.
We look forward to greeting you at JFK Airport in the near future. Rabbi Ari Korenblit, Chaplain