August 17, 2023
Dear Members and Friends,
This has been a year of transition for Congregation Ahavas Sholom. In June we bid farewell to Rabbi Simon Rosenbach, our rabbi for the past 18 (chai) years. Simon had been a career prosecutor, who had started studying at the Academy for Jewish Religion in preparation for the next phase of life as a rabbi. His informal demeanor and thoughtful, empathic leadership were perfect for us. Through the years he inaugurated improvements: expanding the holidays on which the synagogue conducted services, leading conversion classes to Judaism, teaching eight adult congregants for their b’nai mitzvah, several of whom regularly now lead Mussaf, educating the ritual committee and the congregation on the Conservative movement’s elimination of the Biblical proscription against homosexuality, counseling congregants in need, and representing Jews and the congregation as a spokesperson among Newark’s clergy at public events, including memorials for the victims of the Pittsburg synagogue shooting in 2018 and the mosque shooting in Christchurch in 2019. In the final years, as this man who had argued many cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court succumbed to speech aphasia, he taught us about that disease, inspiring a program and exhibit of art by people with disabilities. We wish him mazel as he can return to regularly worship with his wife, Gayle, at Temple Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, where he had previously served as president.
In July we named Eliyahu Elijah Collins as Rabbi. Eliyahu had served as one of our rabbinic interns two years ago and as associate rabbi last year. He studied for his smicha at the Israelite Rabbinical Academy in Queens. He brings a knowledge of Judaism, combined with experience as a social worker and counselor—his secular position is as executive director of Veritas House, a 36-bed facility in upper Manhattan that provides a structured drug and alcohol-free environment for its clients to transition to employment and permanent housing. Eliyahu also brings a warm and endearing family—wife Shaaila, 17-year-old son Shatemiyah, who shares the reading in our Torah Service, 10-year-old daughter Gavriella, our ark-opener, and 5 year-old, Zephanayah. The Collins family plans to move to Newark during the coming year. Rabbi Collins wants all to know that he will make himself available for chaplaincy services and hold office hours in-person and via-Zoom for those who need additional support and counseling. He also will provide educational opportunities based on congregants’ desires. In short, he wants to make himself available for whatever needs our community may have.
Throughout the pandemic President Eric Freedman spearheaded monthly “Diversity United” Zoom study sessions where congregants and other Jews and non-Jews discussed issues of social justice led by accomplished scholars, including Rabbi Capers Funnye, and community leaders. This series culminated in our “Unity Shabbat,” on February 4, where four rabbis of the Hebrew Israelite movement from the NY metropolitan area, along with their congregants, joined our congregation for a day-long event with over 100 participants: Shabbat services, musical interludes, a kiddish/oneg luncheon, followed by discussion, music and finally the Havdalah service. This gathering inaugurated the month-long historic, photographic, and art exhibition “Jews of Color” upstairs in the Jewish Museum of New Jersey. Later this spring, the Congregation held an interracial second night seder, where leaders in the city of Newark joined our congregants and members of Israelite congregations, symbolizing the local outreach efforts the congregation has made during the past two decades.
The Congregation sponsored a host of programming during the year. “Getting the Words Out,” a panel discussion with stroke survivors with aphasia, as well as a speech therapist and the senior director of Arts & Wellbeing for NJPAC, opened “Equality,” curated by Nelson Alvarez of Sussex Avenue School, who we have named our first Curator in Residence. This exhibition showcased artwork reflecting the struggle of artists with disabilities to create artwork and develop their careers. The Jewish jazz quartet “Sha’ar,” which means “gateway” in Hebrew; a group that explores the various Jewish musical traditions of its members, performed at the exhibition’s closing. We held an outreach brunch in April for Jews living in Newark’s burgeoning high-rise buildings to be introduced to the synagogue. This summer the STEAM urban Youth Summer Camp, which meets at Newark’s Riverfront Park and has a community garden up the street on Broadway, spent its rainy days in Ahavas Sholom. The Lincoln Elementary School playground project, co-sponsored by the congregation and the Trust for Public Lands, has progressed to the solicitation of construction bids.
Lest anyone think our congregation is only for empty nesters, in April, Trustee Emily Manz and husband Antonio Valla celebrated the naming ceremony of daughter Twyla with their family, many Newark friends, and congregants at the synagogue, followed by an outdoor reception at their home in the Roseville section of Newark. Twyla’s happy face has graced our sanctuary on many occasions. In late July, Trustee Joshua Delshad and Nicole Vanderveken celebrated their auf ruf before their marriage this month. Hail also Morris Edward James Oppenheim, born in June to former minyan member and current congregant Bill Oppenheim and wife Cory, who now live in Los Angeles.
High Holiday services will be led by Rabbi Eliyahu Elijah Collins with cantorial portions provided by Fred Grabiner, Dubra Shenker, Hooshmand Delshad and Bernie Beck. Even if you attend another synagogue, consider joining us for one or more of our services. Rosh Hashanah services begin on Friday evening, September 15, at 7:00 p.m. and continue on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tashlich will follow Saturday’s service. Kol Nidre will be Sunday, September 24, at 6:30 pm, and Yom Kippur day services begin at 8:30 a.m., with Yizkor at 11:30 am. Mincha begins at 4:30, with our sumptuous break fast, (in memory of towering congregant/chef Ciel Arons) immediately following shofar blowing at 7:30 pm. Services will be live and on Zoom. We no longer require masks to be worn in the synagogue, though anyone should feel free to wear one. We are scheduling our annual Chinese dinner in the sukkah on Sunday, October 1. Each adult is responsible for purchasing a High Holiday ticket, which is $150 for a member and $300 for a non-member (students free).
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: http://ahavassholom.org/home/membership or you can continue to mail in this form with payment. Please attend our annual congregational business meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the synagogue. We encourage all to attend High Holiday and Shabbat services in our beautifully renovated sanctuary.
Robert Steinbaum, Vice President
In line with the lifting of the indoor mask mandate by the City of Newark and the relaxation of mandates under the New Jersey Executive Order No. 243, Congregation Ahavas Sholom announces the following:
Although face masking is still recommended as a defense against the transmission of Covid 19 and other communicable diseases, masking will no longer be a requirement for participation in activities at Ahavas Sholom.
The requirement to present proof of recent vaccination before admission to the premises is also waived.
As a courtesy to fellow congregants, anyone who is feeling unwell is encouraged to join services virtually.
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.