July 21, 2024
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Manalapan’s Congregation Sons of Israel Hosts Joyous Crowd on Purim Night

I had to see it for myself. I’ve written two news stories for The Jewish Link recently about the remarkable changes at Congregation Sons of Israel in Manalapan, and the resurgence of participation in the synagogue since the arrival of Rabbi Ken Brodkin in August. He’s worked with long time lay leader Bonnie Leff and others to reposition the shul and engage Jews of all backgrounds in activities at Sons of Israel. And from all I’ve heard, their efforts are making a big impact.

But I had to see it first hand.

So my wife Fran and I drove to Manalapan to hear the Megillas Esther reading on Purim night at the shul. And to observe a children’s costume contest beforehand, as well as to people-watch the parents, their costumes, and their emotions on this festive holiday.

I was so impressed with the large and happy crowd, of all ages, that gathered that night at the shul. Such a contrast for a congregation which only a year ago was concerned with a dwindling attendance.

The families who showed up, filling the congregation’s large social hall, were attentive to the Megillah reading and excited to be there. It was a real delight to see the communal buzz the shul has inspired.

One particular aspect of the evening touched me the most.

I found myself sitting right behind an older man who seemed to know the words of the Megillah reading very well. Afterwards, I introduced myself and asked how he was so familiar with the text. He told me that his name was Rafi Mishan and he’d been the Megillah reader in the synagogue for 35 years.

Lately, Mishan lacks the strength for that very public 35-45 minute role, so he knew he had to give up reading aloud for the shul. He’s retired now and lives in Bradley Beach. But he just had to come back to Congregation Sons of Israel and see the re-energized shul and watch as his successor, the rabbi’s son, Dov, read the Megillah.

Mishan beamed as he watched the scene. And I couldn’t help but bask in the nachas he exuded.


Harry Glazer can be reached at [email protected]

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