July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Congregation Beth Aaron Connects to Olim While Gearing Up for 50th Anniversary Celebration

The countdown to the 50th Anniversary Dinner of Congregation Beth Aaron has begun. The in-person festivities are scheduled to take place on March 6 at Congregation Keter Torah. Guests of honor Abe and Feige Leidner will be joined by the three Shelly Leffel Service Awardees for their youth minyan leadership: Rabbi Moshe Kinderlehrer, Rabbi Stephen Knapp and Steven Pudell. The Eitan Shapiro Youth Leadership Award will be presented to Kayla-Rachel Michal Singer. The evening will feature unique gourmet food selections as well as professional entertainment.

Surrounding the milestone anniversary are several other exciting activities that will highlight the special history of the shul over the past five decades. Spearheading the Israel Committee in conjunction with the 50th anniversary is Mordechai Ungar. Working alongside him are project coordinators Esther Schnaidman and David Fisher. Schnaidman has taken upon herself the task of interviewing many of the Beth Aaron olim over Zoom and recording these interviews on the Beth Aaron website and YouTube for future viewing. She has done an excellent job of eliciting inspirational as well as helpful information from her interviewees. David Fisher is working toward the creation of an artistic installation to be displayed in the halls of Beth Aaron on which the names of the olim will be listed, and more will be added as the ranks of those making aliyah increase.

To the credit of its rabbis, past and present, and its committed membership, Beth Aaron boasts of over 120 olim since its founding. They range from lone soldiers in their early 20s to full retirees in their 70s and over. They live in communities throughout the country, including Meitar near Be’er Sheva to Maale Adumim. Some came as young families and others came to join their children who preceded them. Many have settled in the Jerusalem areas of Baka and Arnona, joining Anglo communities, where they have reconnected with old friends and have met many like-minded new neighbors. Many have hosted the children of their former Beth Aaron neighbors while they were studying during their gap years or while serving in the IDF.

Linking the former CBA members to each other are two active WhatsApp groups: Whatsapp Beth Aaron Olim News and WhatsAppBAShmooze. Through the first site, the olim are kept abreast of good news such as births, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and other simchas. When needed, the WhatsApp organizes tehillim recitations for the refuah sheleima of local individuals as well as those back in Teaneck and provides vital levaya and shiva information. The second site allows for more conversation and has proved highly effective in helping people connect, learn about medical and other vital services, advertise their events such as Arvin Levine’s trumpet performances and Leah Raab’s art exhibits, and just keep in touch, sans politics. These Apps were initially set up by Oriyah Nitkin, the daughter of Beth Aaron members Rita-Rivka and Abe Newman, who reside in Har Choma. Though not exclusive to Beth Aaron olim, there is a group that tours sites within the country called Tiyul Tuesdays in which several CBA families regularly participate including Phil and Shelly Stein of Ma’ale Adumim and Phyllis and Sandy Zlotnick of Baka.

Among her interview questions, Schnaidman asked the olim to offer advice to future olim based upon their personal experience. Several of those interviewed, including Sara and Benjy Taragin of Beit Shemesh said that knowing Hebrew is vital to a smooth absorption. This idea was echoed by Barbara and Kal Feinberg of Arnona, as well as Shifra and Larry Shafier of Baka, who feel that whether you come with a firm grounding in Hebrew from the States or you take a serious Ulpan, Hebrew language facility is definitely a plus in acculturating to the country. For Yael (First) and Avi Pinsky of Kochav Yaakov in the Binyamin area, their young daughters’ quick immersion in Hebrew made their adjustment so much easier. They find that they even rely upon their 9-year-old daughter to serve as their interpreter when needed. For some olim, the Ulpan was more useful than for others who learn their Hebrew in the supermarket.

For many of those interviewed, their move to Israel was “truly orchestrated by Divine intervention.” The Weisslers of Neve Daniel feel that their aliyah was blessed, especially since they now live near their daughter and not far from their other children and grandchildren and are truly a part of their lives. For the Reubens of Meitar, their journey was “directed step by step” through exciting professional opportunities offered to them as well as the zechut to enable Hedda Reuben’s father’s to fulfill his dream of settling in Israel, which he had prayed for since surviving the Holocaust. For Judi Resnick, who had so capably served as the administrator of CBA before making aliyah, living in Arnona is a “gift,” as she is surrounded by a plethora of learning and touring opportunities as well as hosting her grandchildren from Karnei Shomron. Kudos to Resnick, who has been working alongside Esther Schnaidman for many weeks now in updating the olim list. For most of the retirees, their days are a combination of learning, volunteering and “babysitting” or just getting together with children and grandchildren. Consensus among the olim was that despite the to-be-expected bumps and hurdles of being a new immigrant, Israel is “where we belong.” Whether a view from their window or a short drive to Har Habayit and the Kotel, they are never far away from their history.

Schnaidman concluded every interview by asking the olim to share memories of Beth Aaron. To the last couple, the first comment was in praise of Rabbi Larry Rothwachs and Chaviva. Several shared that the rabbi was very encouraging of their aliyah, which they greatly appreciated. Many recalled the new rebbetzin, Chaviva, preparing hundreds of tasty mishloach manot, which she distributed to the whole shul. Memories were shared of joyous bar/bat mitzvah celebrations at which the rabbi spoke eloquently. Nearly all expressed their belief that Beth Aaron was much more than a shul, that it was a large family that joined its members in a feeling of closeness and camaraderie. Though hesitant to admit it, many felt that with few exceptions, and mainly only those shuls in smaller communities, the Israeli shul cannot yet compare in warmth and closeness to its American counterparts. Hopefully, with more olim arriving from communities such as Beth Aaron, this will change for the better. Adding to this exceptional and continuing warmth, Schnaidman shared that another initiative being undertaken by the Israel Committee is facilitating visits by Beth Aaron gap-year students and lone soldiers to Beth Aaron olim around the country.

Adding to the commemoration will be an artistic installation that will be hung prominently at Beth Aaron recording the names of the relatives of Beth Aaron members who made aliyah over the past 50 years. Project coordinator Fisher foresees that this plaque, which will hopefully expand going forward, will serve as a highly visible and impressive tribute to a community that values Medinat Yisrael—and so many of whom chose to make their home and the homes of their families within its precious boundaries.

The videos of the Beth Aaron olim are available on Beth Aaron’s YouTube Channel as well as on the shul website, bethaaron.org/50. To contribute to the plaque, contact David Fisher at [email protected].

By Pearl Markovitz

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles