May 30, 2024
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Teaneck Residents Learn About Long Branch Community

About 20 people gathered in the home of Aliza and Eli Scher, of Teaneck, recently to learn about the Jewish community of Long Branch, New Jersey. Fifty miles from Manhattan and just minutes away from Deal, New Jersey, it is home to an Ashkenazi modern Orthodox Jewish community which has been around for over a century.

The president of Congregation Brothers of Israel, Andy Samuel; the shul’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Nasanayl Braun; and shul member Yitz Belsh presented information about the Long Branch community to the small gathering in the Schers’ living room.

Congregation Brothers of Israel was founded in 1896 and is the largest Ashkenazi synagogue on the Jersey Shore, with about 250 member families.

Although the community is looking to grow, one of the benefits of a community this size, according to Braun, is that “it’s small enough that I know everyone who comes into the shul.”

His wife, Tamar, added, “My kids are more like siblings with their friends. They are really growing up in other people’s homes.”

Aliza Scher, who grew up in Long Branch and whose parents, Marvin and Zahava Sher, still live in the community, agreed. “We all grew up like family,” she said. “It’s an amazing place to live and grow up.”

“It works for adults also,” added Tamar Braun. “When you move in, people notice you’re new.”

Another advantage of this small community, added Rabbi Braun, is that “the children grow up with a tremendous respect for all types of Jews. Everyone is respected and everyone is loved, simply by being a part of the shul.”

Samuel explained that the vast majority of Brothers of Israel’s members are shomer Shabbos and shomer kashrus. However, because the shul has been in the neighborhood for over a century, there are some less observant families in the shul, as well, because their grandparents or great-grandparents had a history with Brothers of Israel.

Although Long Branch has a small community feel, because of its proximity to Deal, it has the amenities of a larger community, which includes a day school, high schools, kosher food, mikvaot and an eruv.

“The Syrian community is great,” said Samuel, “because it gives us a tremendous infrastructure. It gives us everything we need.”

The Monmouth County area boasts about a dozen restaurants, from pizza to Chinese, as well as two butcher shops and four caterers. Long Branch is also only about 20 minutes away from Lakewood.

“You will never go hungry in our area,” Samuel joked.

Samuel has been integral in opening and sustaining the local day school, Yeshiva of the Jersey Shore, which, he says has a philosophy similar to Yeshivat Noam. It opened its doors nine years ago and educates 110 children in preschool through 8th grade at the main campus and 34 children at a satellite preschool at the Young Israel of East Brunswick. High School age children attend Hillel, Ilan High School for girls, Meor Yeshiva High School, JEC or Bruriah.

Brothers of Israel also provides learning programs, youth programs and social programs for families, as well as plenty of opportunities for involvement.

Samuel, who grew up in Long Branch, said, “I lived in Brookline for almost 10 years and I didn’t get to get involved in the shul. When I came back to Brothers of Israel in 1995, I was able to get involved. You can really make a difference here if you are the type of person who wants to help shape a community.”

Belsh, who grew up in Highland Park, moved from Brooklyn to Long Branch with his wife, Melissa, almost five years ago when he finished his residency and got a job as an anesthesiologist at Monmouth Medical Center. He said one of the things that drew him to Long Branch is that “there is more space and larger properties than in Highland Park.”

Samuel said that housing can be a lot more affordable in Long Branch, with a typical three-bedroom fixer-upper listed for $350,000. Newer houses can range from $600,000-$800,000.

“I also like the fact that we’re close to the beach and have a pool in the backyard,” said Belsh. “It’s nice in the summer and the rest of the year it’s nice too.”

His wife, Melissa, added, “We also like the feel of ‘out-of-town’ communities where everyone is close and caring and nonjudgmental. We were happy that there are restaurants and grocers. The fact that there is an Ashkenazi Jewish day school was what convinced us to put down roots.”

By Tova Domnitch

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