July 23, 2024
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Long Branch Shul Opens Satellite Location

When Congregation Brothers of Israel (CBI) in Long Branch, New Jersey, decided to expand to meet their congregational needs, they didn’t follow the usual route of adding a new wing or floor to their current building. They added a satellite synagogue about a mile-and-a-half away, at a location closer to the ocean.

This isn’t the first move for CBI. Founded in the late 19th century, the building had two locations in the downtown area of Long Branch before moving to the Park Avenue location in the Elberon section in the 1970s. “Many shuls move as their population moves; we did the same,” said Gerald Ostrov, synagogue president. The Park Avenue location was in the suburban area where the congregational families were moving to at the time. As those families became empty-nesters or snowbirds spending time in Florida, they moved closer to the shore and found the walk to Park Avenue difficult. Considering the many families from North Jersey who came for the summer months, the shul’s leaders decided to create a satellite location on Ocean Avenue.

The satellite location grew from one apartment to two, and finally three. Yet even with three apartments, the space was too tight to fit everyone. The congregation’s rabbi, Nasanayl Braun, said that they “felt like sardines.” There were around 150 members who prayed weekly in their Ocean Avenue apartments and almost 300 members on high holidays. The growing community with its need for a bigger space inspired the idea of a new building that will serve members of the congregational community who live far from Park Avenue.

The newly constructed, beautiful building has more space, designated rooms for children, and a larger kiddush space than the former satellite location. The interior design and furniture—from the tables and chairs to the Aron Kodesh—came from Kibbutz Lavi in Israel.

The new location at 38 Sternberger Avenue will have a “soft” opening before Pesach, with a gala grand opening on Memorial Day weekend with a VIP guest speaker, an a capella singing group, gala kiddush for Friday night dinner, and Shabbat lunch. They are also planning a family carnival on Sunday of the grand opening weekend.

As with any major construction project, surprises are always part of the process. There were some COVID delays, such as the window frames being stuck in a port for two months. Despite the delay, the building is on track for the scheduled grand opening date.

Rabbi Braun notes: “Parshiot Terumah and Tetzaveh highlight the importance and spiritual benefit of davening in a beautiful structure. It is my sincerest hope that our new building will allow the community to continue to grow both in numbers of mispallelim and the quality of our tefillot. It is an exciting time at the shore; the community has been overwhelming in its support and generosity; and I feel honored and privileged to be a part of this wonderful synagogue community.”

The satellite shul will benefit from their “summer rabbi” who spends summers with his family in Long Branch while residing in Bergenfield the rest of the year. Rabbi David Sher has served in this role since 2008. “Our newest building is a testament to the vitality of our community and how much the shul means to our members. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in recent years, with people coming from all over North Jersey and New York to have a place by the shore. The enthusiasm and passion that our members have shown to this project demonstrates that they do not view their time in Long Branch simply as a ‘temporary place where they vacation,’ but rather as a central piece of their Jewish and communal affiliation.”

Ostrov remarked that the members of the multifaceted congregational community want to be engaged and share the levels of togetherness with both locations. Weekly prayer services are only held at the Park Avenue location.

Program Director Roz Ben David notes the cohesion of the community. “There is a great deal of communication in chat groups. Committees, such as chesed and Israel action and awareness committee, have active participants from both locations. We’ve been running both locations for the last 20 years and we hope to continue doing that into the future.”

Ostrov added: “Few synagogues have 120-plus years of history like we do. I and the board have a daunting responsibility to continue this proud legacy for the next 120 years. The response of the community has been awe-inspiring. We will now have a beautiful new building serving the growing Ocean Avenue segment of our congregation supplementing the Park Avenue facility.

We are in a real growth mode, and it is wonderful.”

Congregation Brothers of Israel is proud to be a Modern Orthodox Zionist shul located on the Jersey Shore. It has a small-town vibe with big-city Jewish amenities. Multiple kosher restaurants plus the beach makes CBI an ideal place to raise a family, retire to, or spend the summer. Find more information at: https://cbilb.shulcloud.com/

By Deborah Melman

 

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