February 27, 2024
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February 27, 2024
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Paramus Expands Eruv, Invites Growing Families to Join

Paramus—There are shuls that are a sea of faces and hats, and shuls where everyone knows your name. Paramus, a town where many of Bergen County’s Jews travel to or through every day to shop or bring their children to school, is home to about 100 observant families and encompasses two Orthodox shuls with a diverse array of friendly, welcoming faces.

“Paramus is an undiscovered gem,” said Steve Paley, a community resident who serves as a co-president as part of a presidium at Congregation Beth Tefillah. “It’s a heimishe community, eclectic, with a wide range of people, in terms of both knowledge and observance,” he said.

Paramus, according to many who live there, is a community of energetic families who enjoy all of the benefits of Bergen County Jewry, but with a fraction of the tax burden, as the city’s sizable commercial real estate assets offset that burden for residences. Another notable Paramus amenity is that it offers free bussing for town students, and if a family carpools, they are provided with a commuting stipend.

The area has long been known for its beautiful parks. Last year, a Paramus family began asking if the current eruv could be expanded to include Van Saun Park, a beloved local park and playground facility which also encompasses the Bergen County Zoo. Months later, the idea became a reality. “It makes Shabbos sort of amazing when the weather is warm. We can buy tickets in summer beforehand, take the stroller and go see the animals,” said Will Yagoda, the community resident who, with his wife Shoshana, put forward the idea. The Yagoda family’s 3- year-old son Ezra is a big fan of the zoo.

“There’s not a lot of bureaucracy, so if we want to do something, we just do it,” Yagoda said. “It’s exciting to be involved in the building process,” he said.

“It’s not big, and it’s not a shul factory. It’s a small, warm and diverse community,” said Rabbi Moshe Grossbaum, a Chabad shaliach who lives in Paramus. Rabbi Grossbaum, with his wife Zeesy, run Friendship Circle of Bergen County, as well as a number of other Living Legacy seasonal programs such as the Shofar Factory for area day schools.

Fifteen families visited Paramus this past year as part of a Shabbaton to welcome prospective new community members who learned about Paramus through the Orthodox Union’s Emerging Communities Job and Relocation Fair. To welcome even more people, a pop-up barbeque will be held in Paramus this coming March 2nd, from 12 noon to 6 p.m. The food will be provided by Wandering Que (formerly known as Hakadosh BBQ), the Star-K certified smokehouse/barbeque arm of Gemstone Catering.

While Paramus may be small in numbers now, it is growing and has deep roots. One of the two shuls was originally a branch of Breuer’s Yeshiva, established 36 years ago. K’hal Adath Jeshurun (KAJ), has approximately 20 families and is led by Rabbi Chaim Shapiro. The shul houses the community’s full-service, appointment-only mikvah, which was built in 2005 and is open to the entire Bergen County community.

Paramus is also home to Congregation Beth Tefillah, with close to 80 families on its membership list, which began 45 years ago as a mechitza minyan offshoot of a conservative synagogue, the Paramus Jewish Center, said Rabbi Daniel Wolff, Beth Tefillah’s mara d’asra for the past ten years, who also teaches at Stern College. The shuls have a positive relationship with one another, and the members often daven together as a group for mincha and ma’ariv in the summer. A sephardic minyan also meets in Congregation Beth Tefillah.

Congregation Beth Tefillah is also home to a Sefer Torah that was rescued from Estonia during the Holocaust era, and while it is too damaged to be used, it is lovingly displayed in the shul’s lobby.

The shuls have a positive relationship with one another, and the members often daven together as a group for mincha and ma’ariv in the summer. “People are at whatever level of observance of Shabbos that they are. The most distinctive quality of this community is our non-judgment. Everyone is beloved, and everyone is welcomed. I think people feel very much at home here,” Wolff said. To celebrate his decade in the community, Wolff will be honored with his wife Chavivah at Beth Tefillah’s annual dinner on May 8th. The featured speaker at the dinner will be former vice presidential candidate, Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Paramus is also home to the JCC of Paramus, Petruska Park (another favorite Shabbos park), the Frisch School, Yavneh Academy, Yeshivat Noam, and several other synagogues. Paramus residents are also proud of the impressive kosher shopping available at Shop Rite, as well as Fairway Market and Trader Joe’s.

Those interested in visiting Paramus or learning more, are invited to email [email protected]. For information about the pop-up barbeque being held in Paramus on March 2nd, visit http://www.cbtparamus.org.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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