If one wonders what factors influence a family when they are looking for a warm and open community in which to settle, whether to raise their children or to retire, the best way to determine this is to ask those who have done so. There are a host of factors that have brought together the individuals who comprise the kehilla of Greater Elizabeth. Among them are the Jewish Educational Center and its comprehensive day school system, the diversity and warmth of the community, the affordability of the housing, and both the intrinsic and extrinsic conveniences associated with its location in the greater tri-state area.
Now in their “chai” year as Elmora Shul Elizabethans, Rachie and Lee Niren relocated to town for all of the aforementioned reasons. Both graduates of Yeshiva University, Rachie and Lee had lived in Washington Heights—the “Breuer’s Side”—and, remaining within the great metropolis, moved to Brooklyn for the sake of proximity to Lee’s work with OHEL. As they started their family, they were increasingly disheartened by life in the boroughs.
“Despite there being such an overwhelming Jewish presence, there was simply no sense of community,” related Rachie, “and there was very little opportunity for the children to have their own [safe] space to play—on Shabbat or at any other time.” Rachie and Lee (and close friends) stumbled upon Elizabeth, and the rest is history. “We have felt like integral members of the kehilla since day one,” offered Rachie.
Lee became involved with the development of Hatzalah of Union County, and, as a charter member of the organization, has remained an active member throughout its years of operation, having a significant impact, one life at a time. Rachie has been employed at the business office of the JEC almost since the day of their arrival, and as such is a fixture in the administration of the institution that binds the kehilla. Both Rachie and Lee are members of the board of directors of the JEC Elmora Shul, responsible for many of its myriad daily and weekly functions, but none more than Lee’s management of the shul’s extensive youth department. Together with Youth Director Elie Bodner, Lee oversees activities for Shabbat and the chagim, as well as social activities throughout the academic year. In short, Rachie and Lee have embraced their hometown and have been indispensable in shaping its ever-present and future course.
Chanie and Elly Miller are an interesting hybrid couple in the Elizabeth kehilla. As the child of parents involved in chinuch, Chanie mentioned, “I never truly put down roots anywhere,” whereas Elly was raised in Elizabeth and forever remains a “JECer” through and through. Together as newlyweds they were searching for a community that would resonate “home” —a welcoming place offering educational and social opportunities for themselves as well as their future, planned family; an established community that had growth potential yet was still affordable.
“We have the best of all worlds here,” confirmed Elly, “a wonderful chevra of our peers and their families…great friends for us and our kids.” “For example,” enthused Chanie, “there is an incredible playground that was constructed in the neighborhood a few years back…even the mayor, Chris Bollwage, calls it the Shabbos Park! On any given Shabbat the park is bursting at the seams with our friends and their children. It is a social happening!”
Chanie and Elly are dedicated parents whose daughters are satisfied, thoroughly integrated, happy students at the JEC. “The new principal of the lower school, Rabbi Uzi Beer, is fantastic,” commented Chanie. “He has boundless energy and enthusiasm,” added Elly.
Their children absolutely love the school and have endeared themselves to one and all, from administrators to faculty and staff to the beloved women and men who maintain the physical plant. Neither Chanie nor Elly can believe that their oldest child will be moving up to middle school at Bruriah in the fall.
As enamored as they are of the offerings of the kehilla, Chanie and Elly are extremely fond of the rabbinic leadership of the Elmora Avenue Shul, Rabbi Avrohom Herman and his rebbetzin, Rivky. “Both the rabbi and the rebbetzin are totally available, at any time, night or day. They are fantastic people who care for their kehilla as few I have ever observed do,” said Chanie,
“They are tremendous role models as leaders and parents.” Elly mentioned, “I have been learning with Rabbi Herman, and it is incredibly special. His classes are simultaneously fun and absorbing…and the nosh can’t be beat!” Chanie and Elly are clearly the future of the Elizabeth kehilla—dynamic and engaged, working ceaselessly to make their chosen home the very best that it can be for generations to come.
Brooklynites until very recently, Fran and Chezky Medetsky were seeking a new home to inspire them, a welcoming place where they felt they could yet make a difference while simultaneously being appreciated and encouraged for their contributions. “Brooklyn was an odd place; we raised our family there, but there is no sense of community,” lamented Chezky, “You can literally walk down a street on Shabbat, offer greetings to a fellow Jew, and receive absolutely no response.”
Ultimately, with their children no longer at home, the Medetskys actually felt isolated. They had the opportunity to spend a Shabbat in the Elmora Shul kehilla and knew immediately that they had found their new home. “The people were so friendly and interested…there was a simple warmth, a heimishness that was incredible,” enthused Chezky. “We have been here since the chagim and I do not believe that we have eaten a Shabbat meal at home yet,” offered Fran, “And there is no cliquishness. Everyone, but everyone, has welcomed us, and it feels as though we have been living in town for years.” “I was a gabbai at our shul in Brooklyn, and would love to become involved with the kehilla, stated Chezky, “The community really beckons me to become active, it’s fantastic.” Fran and Chezky have embraced their newfound hometown and anticipate welcoming newcomers in the future, just as they were welcomed only a few short months ago.
All together, these three families represent the width and breadth of the Elizabeth JEC Elmora Avenue Shul community. Each had their own reasons for choosing Elizabeth, but combined they truly embody the type of families you will find here. Warmth, openness, friendship and support are the characteristics of what you will find if you are looking for a place to put down roots. Hope to see you in Elizabeth one day soon.