August 28, 2019
Dear Members and Friends,
New Jersey Monthly’s December feature, “Sacred Spaces,” profiled Ahavas Sholom and our Jewish Museum of New Jersey as one of the state’s twelve treasured religious sites. The author wrote, “During the service Newark gained a new Jew: Tim Lee, a retired journalist and African-American, who has concluded two years of conversion classes. He read from the Torah for the first time. As he concluded, the congregation responded with an exuberant, “Mazel Tov!”
Four months later New Jersey Jewish News featured “‘Newark Eight’ To Celebrate B’nei Mitzvah,” describing these religious seekers as “the divorcee who moved from Brooklyn , the Soviet émigré newly embracing the Judaism she shunned as a child, two recent converts, a soon-to-be retired probation officer, a suburban retiree, an African-American of Sephardic heritage who left Judaism while young, and a few whose journeys began while saying Kaddish for their parents and stayed after the year of mourning.” Rabbi Simon Rosenbach welcomed the quest of Wanda Rubinstein Gohler, Alla Eicheldinger, Tim Lee, Marianne Moy, Linda Bloom, Joan Podnos, Daviyd Hawkins and Flora Sonners: “When these eight women and men who had never had a bat or bar mitzvah wanted one, they did not view it as a performance to please their parents, never to be repeated again. They viewed a bat or bar mitzvah as a chance to learn the service better, as a chance to acquire specific skills that they could employ again, as a chance to know the subject of Judaism better, and in that way get closer to God.” If this resonates with you, and you want to have a first, or even a “second” bar or bat mitzvah as we celebrated years ago, please reach out to Rabbi Rosenbach, who will welcome educating and guiding you in a similar fashion during the upcoming year.
It was a year of many simchas and other life cycle events: We celebrated the auf ruf of Gayle and Rabbi Rosenbach’s son, Benjamin, to Stephanie Israelson in May. A President’s kiddish honored Bill Oppenheim, a three-year stalwart minyan member who graduated Rutgers Law School and moved to California to live and work with his fiancée. Bruce Zweben, bar mitzvahed more than a decade ago and now a first lieutenant in the Army, celebrated his first wedding anniversary. Harold Kravis, our gabbai and cheerful, omnipresent attendee of Newark civil and Essex Jewish events, with his wife Jill, have moved to the Jersey shore, but Harold has promised to visit us regularly. The synagogue’s housekeeper, Aline Florence Mbayekette, wed husband Freddy, also a native of the Central African Republic, and moved to Freddy’s home in Boise, Idaho. Minyan member Herbert Oppenheimer, who brought his experience as a fire marshal and chef to Ahavas Sholom, died earlier this summer.
Ahavas Sholom is an active participant in New Jersey’s civic and Jewish life. In October, the synagogue hosted New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Mayor Ras Baraka and numerous clergy in an interfaith vigil in the wake of the Pittsburg synagogue shootings. In November, Mayor Baraka and Police Director Anthony Ambros conducted graduation of the Citizen Clergy program at the synagogue. President Eric Freedman blew the shofar in the Newark Public Library during a program opening “The Synagogues of Newark,” the traveling exhibition created by the Jewish Museum of New Jersey. We are an active member of NJPAC’s Community Engagement, hosting a January panel, “MLK and the Latino-American Dream,” a November concert by NJPAC Jazz for Teens as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival, and will bring the group back again this November 3. More music on Nov. 17, when internationally known jazz artist Bobby Sonobria will perform to celebrate the 40th anniversary of WBGO, which is led by congregant Amy Niles. A model seder produced by Ilyse Shainbrown, Metrowest Federation’s Gottesman Fellow, paired 125 students from Newark’s Robert Treat Academy and Gottesman RTW Academy, a program that will be expanded this spring. We’re well on our way to building our third inner city school playground and outdoor learning center, partnering our Green Acres grant with the Trust for Public Land, as the Trust has commenced detailed planning with the West Ward’s Lincoln Avenue School.
Last autumn, the Congregation’s board established a new governance structure that will position the Congregation to achieve a new level of operation. We decided that we needed full time lay leadership and voted to have Eric Freedman serve as both President and paid Chief Executive Officer. Overseeing Eric is an executive committee of the board consisting of Leonard Sanders, Joan Podnos and Rob Steinbaum, who meet monthly with Eric. The results in eight months are very encouraging: under Eric’s direction, congregant Jeff Haveson produced an entirely new and content-rich website, and Tim Lee re-created our weekly e-newsletter, now called the “Scroll,” with timely news of the world and our congregation. We have made real progress on key operating and capital projects, notably the commissioning of the stained glass laylight for the sanctuary’s ceiling and the renovation of the kitchen—thanks to April Modlinger’s opening gift, and with the gifts of others, we have now raised $40,000 and can move forward. A new yahrzeit plaque dedicated to the memory of Lois Sanders was also installed in the sanctuary. Our accounting system is in good order. And now you can register and pay membership dues and other donations online on our new website (see final paragraph for the link).
High Holiday services will be led by Rabbi Simon Rosenbach with cantorial portions provided by Fred Grabiner, Dubra Shenker, Hooshmand Delshad and Bernie Beck and our new Ahavas Sholom choir. Even if you attend another synagogue, consider joining us for one or more of our services. Selihot will begin the season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 9:00 p.m. Services for Rosh Hashanah start on Sun., Sept. 29, at 6:30 p.m., with dinner to follow. If you are interested in dinner, please sign up ($25 per person) on the enclosed form. Morning services on Mon., Sept. 30 and Tues., Oct. 1, begin at 8:30 a.m, with Tashlich following services on the first day. Kol Nidre will start at 5:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Yom Kippur services begin at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 9, and then resume at 4:10 p.m. Ben and Ciel Arons’ daughter, Susan, graciously will host the sumptuous congregational break fast in memory of her parents—for this writer the boiled potatoes, borscht and sour cream are the favorites…but there’s much more. We are scheduling our annual Chinese dinner in the sukkah on Sunday, Oct. 13. Each adult is responsible for purchasing a High Holiday ticket, which is $150 for a member and $300 for a non-member (students free). We’ll again have an AED defibrillator for safety.
As you contemplate the New Year, it is a good time to think about your own life cycle. We can offer the good counsel of the Metrowest Jewish Community Foundation (which invests the lion’s share of the Congregation’s capital funds) to assist you with planned giving, including charitable gift annuities, appropriate to your situation. Or think about adding Ahavas Sholom to your will. The Congregation also has a block of reasonably-priced burial plots at King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton.
This active and committed congregation depends upon the support of the individual members of the larger Jewish community. We appreciate every gift. If you can afford as much as $1,500, including tickets, dues and other contributions, we will inscribe your name on the plaque in the sanctuary. We encourage you to use our new PayPal account to register and pay by clicking here, or you can continue to mail in this form with payment. Please attend our annual congregational business meeting on Thurs., Nov. 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the synagogue.
Robert Steinbaum, Vice President
As the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the City of Newark, Congregation Ahavas Sholom is an Egalitarian Conservative Synagogue with a traditional service that welcomes all Jews, fulfills their spiritual needs, provides educational and cultural experiences.
The synagogue’s mission states that Ahavas Sholom is passionately committed to the pursuit of Tikun Olam (repair of the world) and Tzedakah (social justice). Ahavas Sholom recognizes as part of Tikun Olam that it has an obligation to the environment, physical space and activities of the community. We therefore consider support for the conservation of open space, the creation of both passive and active recreation in Newark and among communities within its metropolitan area to be part of our mission.
Ahavas Sholom is characteristic of other religious institutions in Newark. Just as many inner-city churches draw the greater part of their members from outside the city itself, Ahavas Sholom now has relatively few congregants who live in Newark.
American cities are redeveloping in part as their unsurpassed cultural and religious institutions attract suburbanites to meaningful experiences. Ahavas Sholom is holy ground. It inspires those who step through its doors to pray, think, and learn, and to care about each other’s lives and the life of the community.