After years of planning, fundraising and moving from one temporary space to another, Kehilat Kesher, the Community Synagogue of Englewood and Tenafly, finally celebrated the opening of their new shul with a Chanukat HaBayit and ribbon cutting on Sunday morning, February 7.
Rebecca Tobin, president of Kehilat Kesher, introduced Kesher’s rabbi, Rabbi Akiva Block, with words of gratitude. She said, “I am extraordinarily grateful that you have been our rabbi these past few years of wandering, providing the shul with great spiritual guidance and sustenance.”
Before beginning his dvar Torah, Rabbi Block noted that the day was “truly Super Sunday.” In his speech he discussed a passage from Talmud Brachot, that “the proper and appropriate venue for prayer is in a synagogue” which differs from the writings of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, who maintained that “prayers are not offered unless with a tzibur, a congregation.” Rabbi Block said that “Rabbi Eiger was explaining the Gemara, not changing it, as these are one and the same. Shul is the embodiment of the tzibur. The place you daven is the ultimate reflection of the people who daven in it.” He added that “today, at long last, our Beit Knesset becomes our tzibur.”
Tobi Kahn, the artist who crafted the shul’s Aron Kodesh and Ner Tamid, spoke about “what it’s like, as an artist, to create something for a shul that I can daven in.” He noted that “you are part of a kehilah that is very diverse,” and that this is reflected in the beautiful Aron, which is composed of 70 individual pieces, specially constructed so that “each piece should bring more strength to each other individual piece.”
Dr. Natie Fox, past president and chair of Strategic Growth, gave a history and dedication of the building. He thanked the many people who were instrumental in the shul’s design and construction since the project’s inception in 2007. He recognized the eight founding families who “all made it possible,” and unveiled a plaque dedicating the shul to the Agus, Book, Lissauer, Nelkin, Parness, Polinsky, Sohn and Wagner families, adding that “everyone is here because of you [and] we are all so proud of this community you have built.”
In her closing remarks, Rebecca Tobin said, “The building is a vehicle to fulfill our mission. We no longer have space constraints when it comes to carrying out our lofty goals.” She asked everyone to “think about what you want your children to remember about growing up here,” and then urged members to fill out the unique pledge cards in front of them, asking “what members will contribute to the shul beyond finances.” Members had a myriad of options, ranging from pledging to lead an adult education class to chaperoning youth activities, and many more in between.
After singing Hatikvah, the ribbon was cut and proclamations were made by the mayors of Tenafly and Englewood. Mayor Peter Rustin, of Tenafly, declared February 7 “Kehilat Kesher Day in Tenafly.” Frank Huttle III, mayor of Englewood, said, “From our city we express our warmest congratulations. Thank you for being part of Englewood.”
The ceremony was followed by a delicious breakfast and children’s entertainment in the beautiful new Judith Sohn Social Hall.
By Robin Tare