“The Burgs and the Baums have inspired the entire Ohr HaTorah family by their selfless dedication to our shul as well as to the greater Jewish community,” said Rav Zvi Sobolofsky, mara d’atra of Congregation Ohr HaTorah.
Ohr HaTorah invites the community to join them on Wednesday, June 6, at Congregation Keter Torah when they honor Rabbi Steven and Rachel Burg, and Binny and Sheri Baum, two families who have been a part of the shul almost since its inception, and have continued to selflessly dedicate themselves as active members ever since. What adds to the excited nature of this evening is the fact that the honorees have not only been a part of the shul, but are close friends and neighbors and have often volunteered together.
“When you think of families that personify Ohr HaTorah, the Burgs and the Baums are at the top of everyone’s minds,” said Gabe Hanauer, shul president.
The Burgs are no strangers to communal participation. They have been involved in different aspects of the community, as in Rabbi Burg’s past roles in OU/NCSY and the Simon Wiesenthal Center and his current position as CEO of Aish HaTorah, where he is impacting Jewish life for generations to come. With a background in education, Rachel Burg continues to empower the youngest members of the Jewish community as a first-grade teacher at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey. Though she teaches English subjects, a Torah approach to life is at the forefront of her classroom and infuses her lessons and the environment. In fact, many members of Ohr HaTorah have had children in her class and have benefited from her dedication. She is also the director of Camp Dina, a popular sleepaway camp for many families in the Ohr HaTorah community.
The Burgs have applied the same dedication and commitment to the community in Ohr HaTorah as they show in every other aspect of their lives. Rabbi Burg brings his expertise in working with youth to all levels of his involvement in the shul. He helped initiate the early Shabbat afternoon Mincha, also known as “Shoresh Mincha,” which was started to allow the older teens to become more involved with the shul and primarily run the minyan. By empowering the teens, it gives them early hands-on experience and responsibility.
“Rabbi Burg’s leadership is known worldwide, but what the Ohr HaTorah community knows as well is how he cherishes his position at home,” said Hanauer. Not only have the Burgs helped make the shul a place for the community, but they extend that feeling to their own home. On Purim day you can see Rabbi Burg and their children giving out hotdogs and cotton candy to the whole community as friends stop by their residence. It is a happy and warm communal feeling that one takes away from visiting the Burgs.
“Rabbi Burg, because of the nature of his work, has formed deep connections with many gedolim in Torah throughout the world. It is inspiring to see how he looks to them for guidance in his own life and work,” said Rav Sobolofsky. “Even with his worldwide acclaim, his trademark humility makes it so that there is nothing Rabbi Burg won’t do for the shul and the community.”
Rachel Burg, with constant energy and warmth, has been a force in her own right and is always happy to take charge and run whatever is needed. Each year she not only plans an adorable mishloach manot theme on behalf of the shul, complete with a poem and fun treats, but her dining room becomes Purim central as she welcomes shul volunteers for the pre-Purim setup while also engaging her own children and showing them the ropes of shul volunteerism. In fact, Rachel, a dynamic presenter as well, has inspired the women of the shul with her positivity at shiurim and stayed up late to inspire the young ladies of Ohr HaTorah with a tikkun leil Shavuot shiur as well.
“For the past 13 years we have been privileged to raise our family under the unique umbrella of the Ohr HaTorah community,” said Rachel Burg. “The Torah leadership, sensitivity and friendship of the Rav and Efrat have helped guide our family through smachot, loss and a daily engagement of limud haTorah. It has been a gift watching my children run to shul, run to daven, run to learn, work at groups and run to ask a shailah, making Ohr HaTorah an extension of our home, not simply where we attend shul.”
“Binny and Sheri Baum are true examples of ‘oskim b’tzarchei tzibbur,’” said Hanauer. “They are no strangers to being involved in the needs of the community on any level.”
Even before moving to Bergenfield 12 years ago, Binny was a member of Hatzolah of Washington Heights. Once they moved to Bergenfield he continued to volunteer for them, in addition to becoming a part of Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and still serves as the assistant treasurer for Hatzolah. Around Bergenfield Binny is still known as a resource, whether to check up on someone with an injury or when his EMT knowledge is needed. From the moment the Baums moved into Bergenfield in the early days of Ohr HaTorah, they stepped into any role that was needed, whether to change a light bulb, solve a plumbing issue or set up the shul.
“We are so grateful to everything Binny and Sheri have done to help establish our shul,” said Rav Sobolofsky. “Even the way he was able to use his experience as an EMT and helped the shul acquire the AED units is an example of the many different ways he takes care of what is needed.”
Binny was also on the Yamim Noraim seating committee, accommodating an overflowing crowd and ensuring that everyone who attended would have a meaningful and uplifting davening.
As time went on, Binny was asked to be the shul president, a position he held for two years. Over those two years, along with the officers and board, the shul was able to purchase the house that has since become known as the “youth house.” After the purchase Binny oversaw construction on the house, which allowed the shul to accommodate the hashkama minyan and allowed for youth groups on Shabbat. He then stayed on as second vice president, ensuring a smooth transition for incoming board members. Though he no longer serves on the board in an official capacity, Binny stays active and is still called upon when the shul needs someone to step up.
“It has been a true pleasure to work on behalf of the shul and to work beside our rav and rebbetzin and see how much they truly care about the community,” said Binny. “When I was tied up in shul work, this left everything to be taken care of by my aishes chayil, Sheri, who also put in many long hours and allowed me to concentrate my efforts into the shul.”
Sheri Baum has served on various committees as part of the shul as well. Sheri and Rachel Burg were part of Ohr HaTorah’s earliest kiddush committee. Often this meant dragging their kids out of the house earlier than planned on Shabbat mornings, or spending Friday afternoons in the shul kitchen, but through their efforts the shul’s kiddush was able to come together. Sheri also served on Ohr HaTorah’s chesed committee, coordinating meals for families in the shul.
“Ohr HaTorah is a wonderful shul where our family has grown spiritually over the past 12 years under the guidance and leadership of the Rav and Rebbetzin Efrat,” said Sheri.
Sheri, with an eye for artistry, color and presentation, has enhanced the aesthetics and style of everything she works with, and whether she was part of a special event or plattering food for a kiddush, her talent and attention to detail were evident in everything she did. Now she works as a morah in RYNJ, where friends and neighbors are always happy to say hello to “Mrs. Baum.”
“These families are all about the community, the rav and rebbetzin, and their families, and it shows through everything they do,” said Hanauer. “Their children are a part of shul events, and as they get older the kids then become group leaders and volunteer for the shul. There is nothing greater than seeing children follow in their parents’ wonderful footsteps.”
“On a personal note, it has been a privilege to work side by side with two devoted couples as we continue to help Ohr HaTorah flourish as a thriving shul dedicated to the principles of Torah, tefillah and chesed, the principles that are so dear to the hearts of our honorees,” said Rav Sobolofsky.
Please join Ohr HaTorah and pay tribute to these two families who have worked harmoniously to benefit the greater community on Wednesday, June 6, at 7 p.m. at Congregation Keter Torah, located at 600 Roemer Avenue in Teaneck.
To register, visit www.ohrhatorah.com.
By Jenny Gans