Ellie Kastel, Y's Executive Director, named Women of Distinction

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

by Hamodia May 14, 2013

his past Tuesday, in a ceremony in New York State Capitol, State Senator Simcha Felder honored Ellie Kastel, a prominent member of the Flatbush community. Ellis is the Executive Director of the Boro Park Y and has devoted many years to public service. She was honored with the “Women of Distinction” award, at the annual Women of Distinction ceremony in Albany, NY.

Ellie Kastel was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and attended Bais Yaakov Esther Schonfeld High School. She was imbued with the tendency to help others from a very young age. Her parents came to America in the 1920's as children from Russia, and immediately became very involved in the community both as members of the community and professionally. “My mother taught in a local yeshiva and then became a social worker, and my father was involved in teaching in local shuls. As a child I remember my friends’ parents, who were mostly survivors, approaching my mother for assistance with paperwork and information because they did not speak the language well. The concept of chessed and working for the community was taught at school and at home,” Ms. Kastel recalls “I attended the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and one of my first placements was at the East Flatbush Rugby Y which was undergoing a metamorphosis into a Y serving the frum community. In the fall of 1980 I was asked by the Director of the Boro Park Y, Harold Fontek, to come to work there. At that time the Y was revamping its programs, under the UJA/Federation of NY's guidance to better serve the heimishe community of Boro Park,” she told Hamodia.

That was just the beginning of the career in public service. Over the past thirty odd years Ellie has worked on behalf of the community to provide well rounded programs serving the needs and interests of the community. Programs for all ages, obviously separate for boys and girls have enabled the members of our community to enjoy physical education classes, swimming and creative arts in a center that not just respects the needs of the community, but also best serves the Torah Jew.

In 2001 the Claims Conference and UJA/Federation asked the Y to develop a program for Holocaust Survivors that would be in the image of the Social Adult Day Care Model. This program enriches the lives of the seniors while providing them with the support to continue living in their homes and bear witness to the past. “This program which has become a cornerstone of our programs. Club Nissim, as it was named by the members serves over 450 survivors each year, Ellie tells Hamodia.

Ellie’s relationship with Senator Felder did not begin with this honor, however. “Simcha Felder has worked tirelessly to enable the Y to serve this community since his days as a man. He was instrumental in allocating funds to the Y which helped us serve the children in the community. He has always advocated for the Y at different levels of government to insure the continuation our service to the community,” she continued. Mrs. Kastel was not immediately willing to accept the honor. However,” she says, “the honor of being chosen as a Women of Distinction is not for me alone, it is for all the staff of the Y who have contribute every day to the programs the Y provides to the community. From Chaya Spinner the Aquatics Director, to Simonne Hirschhorn Director of Club Nissim and Judy Liff the Director of the DFTA funded Senior Center. Together we have developed a program that serves all members of the community. The women who work at the Y truly exemplify the "Women of Distinction" and serve as roles models for the women of our community who work for non-profit agencies. They know that  although the work does not make you rich but it makes you a richer individual, and that the chessed that we can do and provide service to others is invaluable and brings you satisfaction that is incomparable. “At the award ceremony I was surrounded by other women from many different walks of life who have made differences in their communities, and I was proud to serve as a representative of the many kind people of the Boro Park Community,” she said. In his comment to Hamodia on this award, Senator Felder said: “Ellie Kastel is a remarkable woman whose gracious and compassionate ways have improved the lives of countless individuals, particularly seniors. “The Club Nissim program which she developed for Holocaust survivors is really outstanding. I was delighted to honor Ellie for her many years of service to our community. She is truly a woman of distinction.”


Ellie has the following message for the women of our community: “we have the ability to make significant changes in the lives of members of our community and we can bring about changes through chessed. There are many opportunities for women volunteer in community agencies in Boro Park and Flatbush and together we can make a difference!