Rabbi Shaya and Rebbetzin Meira Winiarz hit the ground running, eager to connect with the community and share their Torah and vision of communal programming with the newly named Congregation Beis Hillel, formerly the Elmora Hills Minyan shul in Union.
Rabbi Winiarz, a native of Staten Island, brings a multi-generational mesorah from Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, renowned for rabbis who teach Torah, whether in rabbinical positions, chinuch or kiruv. “I was greatly influenced by the yeshiva’s emphasis on this way of life, and also by the fact that my parents were always involved in community leadership and outreach.”
Rebbetzin Meira is a kallah teacher and marriage mentor. She has extensive training from experts in the art of improving marriage through Torah. Rabbi Winiarz noted, “She places a particular emphasis on the private areas of marriage, which often get overlooked since they simply can’t be taught in a public setting. She offers a number of one-on-one courses and classes [for those who want] to make the private aspect of their marriage that much more special and meaningful.”
Rabbi Winiarz said he always knew he wanted to be involved in disseminating Torah. “From in-depth study of Chovos Halevavos, I learned that one can identify Hashem’s goal for a person by noticing the skills He gave them,” he explained.
With a natural affinity towards Halacha and psak, Rabbi Winiarz feels that he has gained the experience and confidence required to work with people as a shul rav in these areas. He finds it gratifying that others benefit from his counsel and knowledge base in Torah. He genuinely enjoys presenting shiurim and drashas, which was but one of his motivations in becoming a congregational rabbi.
“People want to grow, given the setting and guidance to do so. I’m passionate about connecting with the people in our community,” with a focus on meeting their needs and to provide a setting for the guidance that they seek. “I’ve been blessed with the ability to learn for so many years, and happy and willing to share that with everyone.”
To address this interest in the shuI, Congregation Beis Hillel offers an “Ask the Rabbi” platform. “People can come with their questions, and walk away satisfied that Hashem’s Torah has the answers for all that we want to know and understand. It’s so important to me that people have a venue to present their questions—in halacha, hashkafa or simply in how they should go about their lives in the most meaningful way.”
Addressing what’s different about Congregation Beis Hillel, Rabbi Winiarz related, “We’ve got a tremendous amount of programming going on!” He and Rebbetzin Meira thoughtfully categorized the various interest groups in the shul, and decided to service all of the groups separately, from different age groups for the youth programming, to both couples and separate adult groups, singles, etc.
Some events are more serious, like the guest speaker on Hilchos Shabbos, while others are just for fun, as was the trivia “game show” to see who knows the most about the city of Elizabeth in the past and present. Some events are practical and combine creativity with fun, like when the women made a “simanim” platter at Glassworks for Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Winiarz described other events as being mitzvah-themed, “like selecting a random item from a bag and then thanking Hashem for something which relates to that item.” Of course, there are social events such as a “Teen Oneg” with refreshments on Shabbos night, or “Dessert Bar and Night Out” for women. On Sukkot, to combine Torah with nosh, there was “Shiur and Socializing in the Sukkah,” and “Bagels and Brachos” for men following Sunday Shacharis.
“The point is,” concluded Rabbi Winiarz, “our shul has been doing a great amount of programming, because our members and even non-members are interested in connecting and growing in a really enjoyable way.”
Rabbi Winiarz also indicated that other programs are in the works, and will emerge as different needs and interests are expressed and identified.
For more information about Congregation Beis Hillel in Union, which borders the northwest area of Elizabeth, contact the shul by calling 908-820-8822, or check out the website: https://www.congregationbeishillel.org.
By Ellie Wolf