Tuesday, August 16, 2022

(Courtesy of Shomrei Torah) On June 12, Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn held its 47th annual dinner to recognize the shul’s past members, recent leadership and bright future. Shomrei Torah Rabbi Andrew Markowitz tied the event to the week’s parsha, Behaalotcha, by explaining how Ahron HaKohen had not only the honor of lighting the menorah, but also the privilege of cleaning the menorah, a job that could have been performed by anyone. He then spoke before each of the honorees was recognized about how their service to the community captures the essence of Ahron’s dual responsibilities.

Rabbi Emeritus Benjamin Yudin described how each of the honorees represents a portion of the tripartite blessing delivered by the Kohanim. Fair Lawn’s Mayor Kurt Peluso also attended the dinner and presented each honoree with a certificate to mark the occasion.

As part of the evening, the shul rededicated its social hall as Inge and Fredy Heiser z’l Simcha Hall. The Heisers were some of the shul’s earliest members. Longtime member Michael Rheinheimer said these true “yekkes,” who had survived the Holocaust, carried themselves with the utmost dignity. It was noted more than once that Fredy Heiser took it upon himself to put the silver on the sifrei Torah before Torah reading and return the silver before the sifre Torah were returned to the aron. Additionally, he would polish the silver to ensure it befitted sitting atop the Torah.

Rebbetzin Shevi Yudin spoke on video about how she would visit Inge Heiser before Shabbat, and that even though Shabbat was hours away, the table would already be set beautifully in all its finery. The Heisers’ grandson Natanel spoke lovingly about his grandparents, remembering how they would make the yomim tovim special for him. The Simcha Hall was an especially appropriate place to remember the Heisers’ place in the shul as Inge also worked with Rebetzin Yudin and others in the community to prepare the shul for the week’s kiddush.

Also honored were Lisa and Daniel Pickett, who have been active members of the Shomrei Torah community since they moved to Fair Lawn in 2005. Daniel served as the shul’s president during the heart of the COVID crisis, taking over when the shul was shut down. He worked with the shul leadership team and medical committee to make the difficult decisions about when and how to reopen the shul while ensuring the safety of the community and the continuity of davening and shiurim.

Rabbi Yudin remembered how Daniel continued to greet all members with a smile throughout this stressful period. Daniel spoke of how V’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha is considered a fundamental principle of the Torah, but at the same time, given human nature, is so hard to fulfill. He thanked the shul community for helping him at least attempt to fulfill this mitzvah. Lisa spoke about the importance of community, acting like an extended family that supports each other through the good and not-so-good times.

The shul also recognized the contributions of its youth director, Ilana Schwartz. Rabbi Markowitz recalled how Ilana thanked him for asking her to take on the role and refused compensation. He said the passion and commitment she has brought to the position has made her a role model for the teenagers who help lead youth groups on Shabbat and yomim tovim. Ilana, who grew up in the shul, said it was a privilege to give something back to her shul.

Overall, it was a special night to mark the shul’s illustrious history, its strong standing in the community and its very bright future.

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