May 26, 2024
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AABJ&D of West Orange Prepares for Jubilee Year With Events, Special Projects

West Orange, NJ—Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David (AABJ&D), a modern Orthodox synagogue of 450 families in West Orange is celebrating its “Jubilee” 50th year. In honor of this significant milestone, AABJ&D is planning a number of programs and initiatives that will take place throughout the year. The celebration will kick off with the creation of a large Simchat Torah Tallit (prayer shawl) to be unveiled during the holiday on October 5, 2015. The project will be a fundraiser for the shul that will include the embroidered names of the children and grandchildren of members.

“The Jubilee year gives us an opportunity to celebrate our community and the vibrancy of Orthodoxy in West Orange,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, Senior Rabbi since 2005. “We embrace the rich history that has been created, learn from the success of the past 50 years, and look forward to the continued growth of our shul in the present and into the future.”

Among the AABJ&D Jubilee events will be two commemorative Kiddush receptions, a lecture series about Jewish history in Newark, special Scholars-in-Residence programs with past assistant-rabbis and programs with Early Childhood, Youth Committee, Senior NCSY (teens), Sisterhood and Men’s Clubs, all of which will be announced in the coming months. The Jubilee year will culminate in a special Commemoration Journal at the Annual Dinner in March of 2016. Further details about all these events and programming will be made available throughout the year.

“We congratulate the AABJ&D community on this important milestone,” said West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi. “Congregation AABJ&D has been a valued part of West Orange’s rich and diverse cultural landscape, and we look forward to its ongoing success in the years to come.”

AABJ&D’s Senior Rabbi is Eliezer Zwickler and the Assistant Rabbi is Yosef Sharbat. Alvin M. Marcus is the Rabbi Emeritus.

AABJ&D was the result of a 1966 merger between two distinct synagogues: Congregation Ahavas Achim B’nai Jacob, a well-established synagogue with deep roots in Newark, and Congregation B’nai David, which had been founded in West Orange in the early 1960s, only a few short years before the merger between the two synagogues took place.

The history of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David is a chronicle of the merger of many congregations that can be traced back more than 100 years to the founding of Ahawas Achim Anshe Warshaw. Established by a small number of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the original congregation grew and prospered and by 1900, was able to erect a permanent structure, complete with a mikveh, in what is now the central ward of Newark. By the 1930s, with movement of the Jewish population of Newark out of the central ward and into the Clinton Hill and Weequahic areas, the leaders realized the congregation would have to relocate. In 1935 they welcomed the opportunity to merge with Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob. That year, Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob was founded.

Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob was founded in 1903 and was originally located on Barclay Street in Newark’s Central Ward. In 1931 it took over an imposing building on Avon Avenue that had previously been occupied by Congregation Tzemach Tsedeck. Tzemach Tzedeck had been formed in the 1920s, and the cornerstone of the Avon Avenue structure had been laid in 1937. Unfortunately, Tzemach Tsedeck experienced insurmountable financial difficulties because of the Great Depression and was unable to maintain the Avon Avenue property. The congregation had no recourse but to be absorbed by Anshe Lemberg B’nai Jacob. The newly formed congregation was named B’nai Jacob.

In 1936 Rabbi Hershel Cohen was hired as the congregation’s chazzan and in 1939, he was elected rabbi, a position he held until he was named Rabbi Emeritus in 1969. Rabbi Cohen passed away on January 20, 1989. Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob was a large, dynamic congregation with a membership of some 400 families. By the mid ’60s, most of the Jews in the Clinton Hill area had moved to the suburbs and it was imperative that the congregation relocate. Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob began negotiations with B’nai David of West Orange, resulting in another merger and the creation of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David.

B’nai David, named after the father of Bernard and Lee Kahn, had been formed in 1961 by a small group of West Orange residents. B’nai David was eager to build a strong Orthodox community in West Orange and so it welcomed the inquiries of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob. The merger was concluded in 1966 and an edifice was purchased on Pleasant Valley Way for a sanctuary and a Talmud Torah. Alvin Marcus became Rabbi in time for Rosh Hashanah, September 1968.

The continuing exodus of Jews from Newark in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in two additional synagogues being absorbed by Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David. The first, Tifereth Zion, became part of AABJ&D in 1970, and the second, Toras Emes, in 1974. Tifereth Zion had been located in the Weequahic section of Newark ever since it was founded in 1924. Toras Emes, the Ferry Street shul, had been located in the Ironbound section of Newark ever since its beginning in 1905. The congregation prospered until the 1930s, when the Jews of the Ironbound area slowly began to move to other parts of Newark and to the suburbs.

Another affiliation included Emunath Israel of East Orange. A scholarship fund was established in memory of its Rabbi, Israel Goldblum, to assist young adults attending school in Israel. Kehilath Israel of Newark’s Chancellor Avenue and the Metzger Family Association are other organizations that merged with AABJ&D.

Rabbi Alvin Marcus served as Rabbi through August 1998, when he was installed as Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Yaakov Sprung served as Rabbi from then to August 2004 and was followed by Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, who currently holds this pulpit.

Today, Congregation AABJ&D boasts a membership of 450 families and is one of the largest and most robust Jewish congregations in the country. AABJ&D has a well-deserved reputation for being a shul that possesses uncommon warmth, hospitality and chesed. The shul’s reputation has been built through the quality of its rabbis, the people within the community and the huge array of programs and activities the shul runs day in and day out. The shul is a house of worship, with daily minyanim and five minyanim on Shabbos mornings. It is also a place of learning with individuals and groups meeting daily to enrich their lives with Torah study. The Shul has a successful preschool program, an extensive youth program, a varied adult education program, an enjoyable and enlightening seniors program and so much more.

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