April 16, 2024
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Ahavas Achim Hosts Welcome Shabbaton in HP

Sure, it could have been the large planning committee.

Or the shrewd marketing, which zeroed in effectively on the right niche.

It could have been the shul’s standing reputation as a bastion of Modern Orthodoxy, with an attractive building, an active young couples scene, and an eloquent rav.

Or the varied programming planned that weekend.

However, the most likely answer regarding the enviable success of Congregation Ahavas Achim’s Prospective Family Members’ Shabbaton, held on March 10-11, can most directly be traced to the remarkable dedication and creativity of the volunteers on the committee.

Such as Ari Podhorcer, who showed up at shul hours before his usual Shabbos morning minyan time, to cut dozens of vegetables to prepare two enormous garden salads.

Or Rachel Saper, the young working mom of a 1 year old; and Arielle Ellias, a busy midwife with a crazy work schedule, who took time to design the imprint for and order commemorative wine glasses for the attendees.

Or Sara Haarburger, Yael Ziman, Leora Lerner and Rosa Katz, who designed clever welcome baskets that included a small succulent plant with the words “Plant your roots in Highland Park” printed on the pot.

As Samara Moritz, co-chair of the planning committee, told The Jewish Link, the planning committee had more than two dozen members, who worked together for three months to plan a weekend with small family dinners, a communal lunch with nearly 200 attendees, and a Motzei Shabbos event featuring a mixology stand and a bar quiz. The weekend attracted 20 young families, and two families have already committed to moving to Highland Park, with a third poised to do so soon, and others indicating they are giving the community serious consideration.

The planning committee advertised the shabbaton extensively, in different groups on Facebook and in personal status updates, as well as by reaching out by word of mouth through their friendship networks. And, of course, they placed three weeks worth of advertising in The Jewish Link.

Moritz stated that the weekend worked so well because of the strong partnership they received from the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva of Edison, which cosponsored the lunch and the Oneg Shabbos event. She also credited the shul’s rav, Rabbi Steven Miodownik, and shul president, Yossi Benedek, for being “so encouraging and so supportive.”

Members of the planning committee were pleased to be involved and delighted with the turnout.

“I’m really excited and proud to represent Highland Park and Ahavas Achim as a young growing Jewish community,” said Saper.

Rob Haarburger, co-chair of the committee, commented, “We are blessed with a wonderful community, with so many wonderful families. We are excited to continue to grow this community and show people what makes Ahavas Achim and Highland Park so very special.”

It was clear from the reactions of a few attendees that the Shabbaton resonated quite strongly with them.

Ilana and Simon Feder of Brooklyn, an event manager (Ilana) and systems admin (Simon), stated, “This was a great weekend! We love to see a community so open and accepting of all people. This town seems to offer an out of town feel with all the in town amenities.”

Talya and Avi Nenner of Forest Hills, Queens, a speech language pathologist (Talya) and human relations professional (Avi), said, “Everyone’s just so friendly and welcoming. People seem genuinely interested in having others move here. We met folks from all ends of the spectrum and spoke with them. Everyone we met is interested in having us come here. And the food was great!”

Marianna and Moshe Miller of Staten Island, a curriculum designer (Marianna) and a physician specializing in palliative medicine (Moshe), said, “Everyone’s been overwhelmingly nice. We’ve been surprised to run into people we didn’t know already live here. We were impressed with the great babysitting arrangements and the great food. And the planners didn’t blink an eye when we told them that we wanted to bring our 3 month old. We are thinking of moving here.”

Arielle and Matt Schulman of the Upper West Side, a researcher for a social media company (Arielle) and a public relations professional for a tech firm (Matt), stated, “What stood out for us is how welcoming and warm this community is. Coming from the Upper West Side, we’re used to that feel and that’s what we want in a community. It feels good to know that there are places outside the city that are truly warm and welcoming communities. We had a great weekend here.”

Moritz shared that Ahavas Achim has more events for prospective community members planned in the months ahead. So stay tuned to hear more from the synagogue that’s working overtime to spread the word about the unique appeal of the Highland Park/Edison community. For more information, please send an email to [email protected]

By Harry Glazer

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