Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple
Background: Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple is a Reform synagogue located at 222 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick. Membership is approximately 500. Rabbi Philip N. Bazeley, RJE, was ordained in 2012 from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.
Founded in 1859, it is the oldest temple in Middlesex County, and the only one still in the town in which it began. By the time it moved into its impressive building in 1930, the congregation, originally known as Congregation Anshe Emeth, had been renamed Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple “in honor of the Jewish dead of New Brunswick.” For more information, go to www.aemt.net or call (732) 545-6484.
What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and services?
Our diverse congregation enjoys a variety of programs, Asking us to pick the most popular program is not an easy task. Our synagogue is packed for Shabbat starting with a joyful Friday night service with a monthly congregational dinner that packs our ballroom. Shabbat morning hosts our religious school as well as several adult education classes and services.
We have a diverse speakers series for which we bring in scholars who constantly push and challenge us. We also have a robust music program featuring multiple choirs and bands that put on several concerts a year. Our community is also dedicated to Tikkun Olam and we pride ourselves in what we give back to the New Brunswick community as well as what we do as Jewish citizens of New Jersey.
We have had a team of congregants making lunches for Elijah’s Promise. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have made over 70,000 lunches. We are also heavily involved with the Religious Action Center of NJ and have had a strong hand in passing the Fair Chance in Housing Bill and we are working hard to create a society anchored in Tzedek/Justice for us to hand down to our children. There is something for everyone here–that’s why our synagogue is always full.
Our motto is “Anshe Emeth: A Jewish Community Helping Build a Better World,” and anything we do to enact that vision speaks to who we are. Whether it’s our Anshe Emeth Community Development program that hands out over 300,000 diapers a year to those who need them, or our Elijah’s Promise lunch program, or any of our educational programs that help inspire a sacred world around us.
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
Our synagogue was founded in 1859 and has been in New Brunswick since its establishment. The congregation has grown steadily through the decades, providing leadership to the local Jewish community and the city of New Brunswick. In the 1970s, at a time when many urban congregations were following the migration of Jewish populations to the suburbs, the members of Anshe Emeth voted to remain in New Brunswick and participate in the city’s growth and renaissance. Anshe Emeth, the oldest synagogue in Middlesex County, is also the oldest synagogue in New Jersey to still be located in its city of origin. When we chose to stay in New Brunswick, we knew that we could no longer be a synagogue of convenience. Instead we became and remain a synagogue of purpose.
Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience?
When the pandemic began, we leaned into improving our technology. Much of it we have kept in a post-COVID world. Most of our programs now are hybrid and access to communal life is no longer geographically bound. In fact, we have several families living three to five hours away who attend services and weekly classes. It has also meant that those who are homebound have been able to reconnect with their community in strong and powerful ways.
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
We are not a synagogue that is a sanctuary from life’s storms. Instead, we are a community that supports one another and makes meaning out of those storms and works to create a better world in spite of them. Come and see what we are all about and we promise you, you won’t want to leave.
JOANN ABRAHAM began chronicling Jewish life as editor of Monmouth County’s Jewish newspaper, now defunct, and has written for national and international publications. She is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.