Quoting a local resident and noting that West Orange was the birthplace of astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, inventor Thomas Edison and others, and was also the inspiration for the Monkees’ hit song “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” Reader’s Digest this week saluted the township as being the “nicest” in the entire state.
The Jewish Link reached out to the township’s rabbis to get their reactions.
Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, rabbi of Cong. AABJ&D, took the honor in stride. “Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. West Orange is a very pleasant place to live and raise a family. The warmth of the people in our township is palpable. Whether it is at a little league baseball game, the reservation, or kiddush on Shabbos morning, people are engaging and friendly.”
Rabbi Marc Spivak, rabbi of Cong. Ohr Torah, added, “West Orange is a very unique community in which everyone gets along. The rabbis are close friends, the shuls all work together and guests always comment on how friendly everyone was to them during their visit.”
Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz, of Chabad of West Orange, noted, “[The township is nice], not just because of how clean and beautiful it is. Not just because of the growth our shuls are experiencing. Not just [because] we have an eruv, mikvah, gorgeous parks, a wonderful mayor and township employees, dedicated service men and women, close proximity to NYC and public transportation, kosher stores, and of course Chabad...it is the people who are the heartbeat of this town.”
Rabbi Robert Tobin, rabbi of B’nai Shalom, commented, “I would have to agree. The quality of life, accessibility to services and culture, Essex County parks, zoo, quality schools, synagogues and youth programs are all stellar. Our Conservative synagogue has been here for over 85 years, and we have a deep history in the development of the town. Our relationships with town leaders, scouts and other houses of worship are excellent.”
Rabbi Boruch Klar of Shabbat House, said, “I think ‘nicest town in New Jersey’ is perfect. I think about Kessler and Daughters of Israel and so many volunteers from the community who visit patients to keep them company and be there for them and their families. The Jewish community benefits from a number of shuls that complement each other. There are restaurants, a bakery, Judaica store, caterers and a new supermarket opening up...and Shabbat House. And then there is the beauty of the parks with lakes, reservation trails, Turtle Back Zoo and all the family activities.”
Rabbi Avrohom Stone, spiritual leader of Cong. B’nei Torah, remarked, “It’s wonderful to be the ‘nicest.’ But for us, it is chesed—the actual giving of oneself for others—that is the measure of a community. There is chesed happening here in West Orange of a nature and a degree that is absolutely astounding and defining. Being the nicest—that’s great. But the chesed—now, that’s something to really be proud of.”
Rabbi Yosef Sharbat, of the Sephardic Minyan at AABJ&D, shared, “It’s no surprise that we are the friendliest town in NJ! Chesed is inherent in the people of West Orange as we habitually extend a helping hand to anyone who seeks it. Visitors continuously comment on how warm and welcoming everyone is and that they immediately feel part of the community. “
So it seems the rabbis agree. Of course, with one of the main streets in the township named “Pleasant Valley Way,” what else would you expect?
By Jill Kirsch