April 23, 2024
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The Elmora Hills Minyan: Member Driven by Member Values

Elizabeth—The Elmora Hills Minyan was founded by members focused on creating an environment conducive to strengthening one’s relationship with Hashem in a respectful and serious but joyful setting amongst others who share those core values. There is a pervasive respect among members for their sincere and deeply held desire to connect in the varied ways one might experience in a shul, whether it be the reverence for quiet during davening, or the jubilant rise to song, attending or giving shiurim, or the abundant volunteer-driven programming and activities offered at the shul. Sensitively guided by Rabbi Michael and Yael Bleicher, the rabbi is known affectionately as having ascended “from Capitol Hill to Elmora Hills,” following his work for the OU and later his service as a senate staffer in Washington, DC.

The shul has hosted numerous dynamic and diverse scholars-in-residence to consistently overflow crowds, and entertains a most ambitious agenda for future events. The shul began as just a small Friday night minyan and has grown into a fully functioning congregation that welcomes Jews of all backgrounds and ages. While attentive and conversation-free davening is at the heart of their values, members also enjoy a robust kiddush on Shabbos mornings, complete with homemade cholent and a variety of other refreshments that accompany the comfortable social atmosphere, an extended discussion about the parsha, or just catching up on the events of family and friends. Members are also intentional about greeting a new people and helping to make them comfortable in the sanctuary as well as during social events. Both the Rabbi and the members express these as core values of the shul.

Asked about the “strong suit” of the shul, member Naomi Strook noted that many of the women make a supreme effort to be in shul in time for the rabbi’s weekly Shabbos drasha, as he weaves current events into insights on the Shabbos sidra, always including a practical lesson for daily living. Member Jacob Gielchinsky adds that the increasing opportunities for programming, shiurim and activities also address the needs of a growing and evolving community, by addressing a spectrum of age ranges and member-family configurations. Shari Bloomberg also commented that the shul works to create programming which promotes “socialization, celebration and inspiration,” in a warm and caring environment. Rabbi Bleicher notes that the pervasive doctrine of volunteerism in a shul membership of all-volunteers serves as a poignant role model for the youth of the shul. They experience the importance and influence of communal involvement as an essential function of their community and its success.

The youth programming is spearheaded by Rebbetzin Yael Bleicher, including a “mitzvah fair” prior to the Yamim Noraim, highlighting the special mitzvot of the season. The older children in the group help out with the younger ones, and on Shabbos they join the adult minyan at the end to participate in the concluding hymns. The Bleichers host melave malka events for the youth, known for the spiritual atmosphere enhanced by a delicious barbecue!

A unique and popular program coordinated and lead by the rebbetzin, Yael Bleicher, was the pre-Tu B’Shvat seder. This event was hosted at the shul on Tuesday night, January 12, with over 80 women registered at last count. For the community of Elizabeth on a weeknight in January, this attendance is a phenomenon in itself, and speaks to the appreciation and appeal of the shul’s intuitive programming and leadership in the community.

In light of recent world events, the shul membership is taking steps to augment the safety and security of the building in consultation with local law enforcement, as well as assistance of liaisons from the Federation of Greater Metrowest. This process is a crucial one, especially in view of the shul’s new plans for expansion to meet its growing needs and membership. Last month, the shul announced that they had secured an architect, and were excitedly awaiting the renderings for their proposed expansion.

It should also be noted that the Elmora Hills Minyan is one of the few shuls which holds a “late” 9 a.m. Sunday minyan.

The shul and Rabbi Bleicher look to a very bright and exciting future for the Elmora Hills Minyan. You can learn more about the shul, its mission and values and programming by visiting their website: ElmoraHillsMinyan.org where you can find information about programs and davening schedules.

By Ellie Wolf

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