July 14, 2024
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The Elmora Avenue Synagogue in Elizabeth: Family Focused, Family Driven

Elizabeth—Rabbi Avrohom Herman, of the Elmora Avenue Synagogue, recalls his trepidation at the awesome responsibility of following the legacy of Rav Elazar M. Teitz over 10 years ago. It was a transitional time in the Elizabeth-Hillside Orthodox Jewish community, and the leadership roles were shifting in all neighborhoods. Rabbi Herman relates his realization of the added challenge of this “changing of the guard,” so to speak, in terms of the move from singular community leadership to the new team of three new rabbis for the three larger congregational locations. These were uncertain times for everyone.

All these years later, the Elmora Avenue Synagogue has settled comfortably into the leadership of Rabbi Herman while still enjoying and appreciating the ongoing presence of Rav Teitz. The shul, according to Rabbi Herman, is a “partnership” between the members/families, the shul board and himself, creating an ongoing “collective effort for planning, Torah and mitzvos.”

Rabbi Herman describes the engine of the shul as its core of volunteers. The Program Chagiga and the Shabbos Project are driven by the strength and fellowship of dedicated members who also have a strong partnership with the shul board of directors.

One of the strongest attributes and most active departments is the youth department, under the capable and seasoned leadership of Rachel and Elie Bodner. Young children engage in Shabbos groups during the time of the main minyan. They daven and play games with leaders who are caring and sensitive to their needs. Teens have a minyan in the JEC’s Beis Medrash and lead the davening and leining, which is an excellent venue for youth to prepare for the roles of ba’alei tefilah, ba’alei koreh and leadership in a shul setting. Periodically, the teens come up to the main minyan and lead the davening, displaying their skills and progress in this important area. The youth department runs abundant activities, programs and field trips, often meeting in the home of the Bodners.

The success formula for the shul, says Rabbi Herman, is this pervasive family involvement. The shul cares for the personal needs of every member. And the youth are involved at all levels, as well as valued and desired for leadership, as they transition from child to young adult to full adulthood. The caring and unity are further exemplified by the Sephardic minyan and the shul’s commitment to the idea of “specialization without polarization” in meeting the spiritual and personal needs of the members of both minyanim.

To spread its message to the community, the shul offers its weekly bulletin and weekly shiurim and relevant topical videos for children and women in addition to a regular and rigorous schedule of learning for men. Stepping up to meet the needs of an expanding and dynamic community, Rabbi Herman believes that the shul is also in a great location to encourage younger families to join the community. There is affordable housing and nice “starter homes” in the immediate area. There is a newer apartment building on Westfield Avenue and families are currently located in a fairly broad geographic grid ranging from Westfield north towards Hillside, east towards Morris Avenue, and even some homes south of North Avenue.

Rabbi Herman is upbeat and optimistic about the future of the Elmora Avenue Synagogue, and grateful for a positive and productive first 11 years in Elizabeth. Rabbi Herman holds both Yoreh Yoreh and Yadin Yadin semicha, which focuses on the halachos of Jewish civil law. He came to Elizabeth from Scranton, PA, where he was involved in kiruv for 16 years following the completion of his education in accounting at Queens College, later switching to Jewish education. He is pleased to say without hesitation that there is really something for everyone at the Elmora Avenue Synagogue, and all are welcome to come and enjoy the benefits of the dynamic and all-embracing environment.

By Ellie Wolf

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