June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Adath Israel Celebrates ‘Together While Apart’

Adath Israel (AI) of Elizabeth has spent the past year meaningfully and successfully sustaining, and even strengthening its kehilla. “Together While Apart,” the theme of this year’s annual shul dinner, a virtual event, was hosted as per recent tradition by Jon Walzman, gabbai and dinner co-chair, with Alex Krause. The event highlighted the creativity and industriousness of the rabbi, shul board and AI members in creating unique and novel ways to remain cohesive despite “keeping the distance” necessitated by the environment of COVID-19.

AI delivered sumptuous melave malka dinner boxes to the membership ahead of time, making the Zoom a lot more fun and creating achdut among the members for being “Together While Apart.” The Zoom dinner opened with a slide show primarily of children expressing their joy and appreciation for so many of the programs that kept them connected and engaged as families and friends.

During this year, AI exceeded its own expectations, adding no fewer than 40 programs to its schedule, rising to meet the needs of the kehilla via resourceful and inventive means.

The youth director team of Yoni and Alyssa Sheer kept the engine running in the youth department with lots of special programming. The ninth and 10th graders stretched themselves on Friday nights by fulfilling the challenge to stay on pace in learning, and completed two mesechtas over the course of the year.

Other programs included the Rosh Hashana gift, the Simchat Torah drive-through, and the shul’s Siyum HaShas tailgate party. New for Purim this year, the AI sisterhood initiated a local shalach manot project, which they intend to continue going forward.

Walzman presented a brief overview of how volunteers—many unannounced—came to set up seating, lighting and a mechitza for outdoor Yom Tov services, noting the time, energy, heart and soul invested by members to assure that everyone would have a safe and COVID-compliant place to be.

Mora D’Asra of Elizabeth-Hillside Rav Elazar Teitz, Sh’lita, poignantly noted that the guests of honor for this year’s virtual dinner were “every member who comes to shul, whether for a social event, davening or Krias HaTorah.” He commented on the elevated quality of davening with no talking, and that although some of the previous usual social aspects were absent such as the kiddush; people came anyway, “… even without a kiddush.”

Rav Teitz also reported that there was a Mincha/Maariv minyan throughout the winter this past year, which had not been possible in prior years. Rav Teitz closed his remarks by offering kudos to Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Schwartz and the AI board for their vision and commitment to the function of the shul during the pandemic.

Rabbi Schwartz, rav of AI, presented the year in review in the emotional domain: “Fear of the unknown, a closed building,” with no idea of the spiritual and social toll the pandemic could take. He noted that it is the upcoming Parshat Hachodesh that marks the one year anniversary of closing the shul. Quoting the Pasuk of Hashem speaking to Moshe Rabbeinu, “Dabru al kol Adas Bnei Yisrael, laymor…” saying to them and getting the people to speak to each other about the command to get together and prepare the Korban Pesach. “Each man for his family…” and everyone comes together to recognize that “Hashem is with us and His hashgacha is with us.”

Tying this to the current experience, Rabbi Schwartz connected the shul’s response to the unknown, creating outreach chesed programs, youth department learning and tefillah in socially distanced venues, culminating in the new leadership and strengths that emerged. It is therefore apropos that this Shabbat we conclude sefer Shemot with the exclamation “Chazak, Chazak,” said Rabbi Schwartz, punctuated with his bracha that the shul go mei Chayil el Choyil as an Adas Yisrael.

The evening concluded with the comedy performance of Talia Reese, well known stand-up comedienne,who performed her show live on Zoom … sitting down!

By Ellie Wolf

 

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