THE VIBRANT THOUGH LONELY NEWARK SHUL
Newark continues to be the largest city in the State of New Jersey, and early in the last century was a major destination for Jewish immigrants, primarily from Eastern Europe. The needs of that population drove the founding, in Newark, of over 50 synagogues.
Times have changed, the children and grandchildren of the immigrant Jewish population have prospered and moved on, taking their Shuls westward with them. Ahavas Sholom now remains as the only continuously operating Synagogue in the City. Its role has evolved with the times, as has the city itself.
As the sole resident voice of Judaism in a largely Black city, the Congregation is organically involved in working to restore and rebuild the lost coalition of Blacks and Jews which was at the front of the battles for equal rights and justice for all. Our Tikun Olam projects are extensive, including a monthly Zoom program called Diversity United. This program featured speakers from both the local Black community and local Jewish organizations. Our divisions are bridged by Rabbi Capers Funnye, President of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis.
The discussions have exposed issues that needed intervention, and we have responded. We became the lead non-profit serving to consolidate funding and pursue improvements needed at Newark school playgrounds. As part of a menstrual equity program, we provided needed hygiene products for use by female students at several local schools. We guided a local group seeking to provide housing for women nearing release from prison.
As the decades have rolled on, the Jewish communities from which we draw our membership and our visitors have evolved. Our community, both members and visitors, is made up of people with roots in Brazil, Peru, Russia, Israel, Iran, Africa, and other places around the world. When a newcomer seeks entry to our Shul, during services, we embrace them as fellow Jews, unless told otherwise. Our community also includes spiritual travelers, looking for an understanding of Jewish teachings. Regardless of background, ALL are most welcome at Ahavas Sholom!
Historically, when a clash has arisen between Justice and Tradition, we have chosen Justice. When traditionalists told us that permitting women on the Bima would risk making the Bima unholy, we chose Justice, and invited women to the Bima, as well as to read from the Torah.
We believe that choosing Justice over Tradition is a righteous path. Healing the wounds between communities is our mission of Tikun Olam and we are proud of our work.
Our links and associations with the Israelite synagogues of New York and the Israelite Rabbinical Academy have been a joy and a blessing to both communities. The ties have strengthened our understanding of the true meaning of Judaism and have helped us focus on Judaism as a religious practice. Rabbi Eliyahu ben Lewi (Elijah Collins), although in his first year as our Rabbi, and his first year as an ordained Rabbi, has repositioned our standing as a growing Synagogue, and stimulated renewed interest in Ahavas Sholom as the resident voice of Judaism to the larger Newark community.