August 22, 2022
Dear Members and Friends:
The year 5782 has been one of renewal for Congregation Ahavas Sholom. In March we returned to the Synagogue for worship. The renovation is stunning. The Jerry Gottesman laylight, conceived and built by artist Marianne Downs Behle, captures your attention upward, instilling a sense of spirituality that complements prayer. The trio of the new laylight, the period chandeliers, and the modern cushioned seating together make a complete and magnificent transformation of our sanctuary from a historic but tired relic of the last 100 years to a new youthful look, ready for the next 100 years. If you come to synagogue for the High Holidays only to witness firsthand this transformative space, you will feel fulfilled. But this congregation offers so much more.
Consider its programmatic accomplishments during the past year:
Rabbi Rosenbach and Jeff Haveson conduct weekly Thursday evening Torah study sessions over Zoom.
The monthly “Diversity United” study group features social justice programs led by accomplished scholars and community leaders, also on Zoom.
In June, the Newark Regional Business Partnership, which is Newark’s Chamber of Commerce, hosted a freedom seder luncheon for more than 35 members at the synagogue as part of its “Intercultural Lunch” program. Mitch Cahn, a trustee of the Partnership, discussed his adventure tracking down his family’s Jewish roots in Newark, and Rabbi Baruch A. Yehudah, Spiritual Leader of B’nai Adath Kol Beth Yisrael in Brooklyn, presented an illustrated slide show of the history of the African American Hebrew Israelite movement since the 1920’s, both of which were warmly received by the ecumenical audience.
In March the Newark Police Community Affairs/Clergy Unit brought religious leaders from throughout Newark to the synagogue for its “Securing and Protecting Faith Based Communities Training Session.”
Longtime artistic partner of the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, Mansa Mussa, presented Sunday events for Newark families to create collages around jazz and postcards.
The current Jewish Museum exhibit, curated by former Arts High School teacher Joanne Leone, “Arts High School Then and Now,” features art by faculty, alumni, and students of Newark’s renowned high school.
The Congregation just received its fourth state Green Acres grant, furthering its two-decade-long mission of building playgrounds, educational gardens and nutritional programs at Newark Public Schools. The current grant is for Lincoln School in Newark’s West Ward, where together with the Trust for Public Lands, we have raised $1.1 million towards the $1.5m needed, of which Ahavas Sholom’s Green Acres grants accounted for $500,000.
With the help of Robert Wilson, security director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, the Congregation received a $150,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant administered by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, to tighten security throughout the synagogue building, from protective windows and doors to security cameras and enhanced electrical infrastructure.
This summer we lost two women who were trailblazers for our congregation:
Clara Macedo, matriarch of Eric, Isabela and Akiva Freedman’s family, and the congregation’s first administrator, passed away in her native Brazil. Clara, a former educator and dancer, taught herself “Rakefet,” the software program used by many synagogues and then went on to learn website programming, creating our first website and digital newsletter.
Trustee Joan Podnos was the spark for the entire renovation program, as she challenged fellow Executive Committee members Eric Freedman, Len Sanders and myself, to harness the pandemic’s enforced non-use of the building to implement project after project, all of which you’ll see during services. Together with husband Allan, who has now taken a seat on the synagogue board of trustees, they were regular minyan members for the last decade.
While Ahavas Sholom has enjoyed more than our fair share of “Aishes Chayils” throughout our history, losing these two modern day versions leaves a void that cannot be filled.
President and CEO Eric Freedman has conceived and directed the renovation, grant applications, and the many programs discussed above. He has also had the foresight to prepare the congregation in its core function of spiritual leadership. Since March, Rabbi Rosenbach has been assisted on alternating Shabbat mornings by two fifth-year seminary students from the Israelite Rabbinical Academy in Queens, Azriel Robert Devine and Eliyahu Elijah Collins. The Board of Trustees has decided to engage Eliyahu Elijah Collins as Associate Rabbi under the mentorship of Senior Rabbi Simon Rosenbach for the coming year.
High holiday services will begin Erev Rosh Hashanah, Sunday, September 25. They will be in-person, but with a remote option. We have instituted preparations for your health safety: All attendees must be double vaccinated, boosted, and masked.
If you have not yet sent us each High Holiday attendee’s vaccination certification, please take a picture or scan of their vaccine card, and either mail it to us, or attach it to an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org and email it to us before September 20.
You must also register for each day of High Holiday services that each of you in your family/group will be attending, using this link: http://new.ahavassholom.org/high-holiday-registration-5783/ or the enclosed High Holiday Services Registration Form.
We urge you to register as soon as possible, because if we encounter capacity issues, we may have to call those who registered later to tell them that they will need to attend remotely. An usher will greet attendees, making sure that each person is on our registration and vaccine list. Those who are not will not be allowed entry.
For those attending on Zoom, the link will be sent to everyone before each service.
We thank the congregation for having maintained the level of giving last year, notwithstanding the remote services, and we ask all congregants to continue to do so this year. Please use the enclosed form to document your dues and donations– or the digital version, http://ahavassholom.org/home/membership with payment through PayPal. If you have questions, please call Eric at 201.988.3799.
Our annual congregational meeting will take place Wednesday, November 10, at 7:15 pm, at the synagogue. Thank you all, stay safe and come observe the holidays in our beautiful shul.
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.