The synagogue’s most ambitious initiative is the ongoing drive to build community playgrounds and recreation areas that will serve both the needy students in Newark schools and the Newark community at large. This collaborative initiative has been conducted in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the State of New Jersey, the “Green Acres” program of the Department of Environment Protection, and the City of Newark’s Community Development Block Grant Program..
When asked by the New Jersey Jewish News in January 2014, why the congregation took on its first project at Newton Street Elementary School, and was planning a second at the Sussex Avenue Renew School, the synagogue’s president, Eric Freedman, gave a one-word answer: “Torah.”
“I don’t mean to be glib,” he added “but this is just repairing the world and extending social justice to the community we‘re in.
We consider support for the conservation of open space, the creation of both passive and active recreation in Newark and adjoining communities to be part of our mission.
To bring the playground at Newton Street Elementary School into being, we worked for almost 5 years with the school’s administration, teachers, parent organization, students, and other stakeholders to match the $100,000 NJ State “Green Acres” grant and build out the playground.
We are extremely grateful to all who believed in, funded and championed this project, and with them we shared the dedication of the playground on Monday, October 6, 2008, and all the joy that came with it, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Not long after that we began fund raising for our second playground. This one at the at the Sussex Avenue Renew School, for which it took 8 1/2 years to build out the $1,000,000 plus playground/outdoor learning center, match the $375,000 “Green Acres” grant.
We are now proud to inform you that we have just begun work on our third playground/outdoor learning center at Lincoln School, an even more ambitious project with a $2.2 million projected budget and a $250,000 “Green Acres” grant. This includes two phases encompassing both a playground/outdoor learning center and extensive gardens and environmental components, including storm water drainage.
Driven by our commitment to Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah in and around Newark, Ahavas Sholom is committed to building “chai” (18) playgrounds for Newark Public Schools. For us, Tikkun Olam is not a moment in time, or a singular project or initiative, but a way of life. This, after all is what Torah instructs us.