Home JUNE 2024 A Shul for You- Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen

A Shul for You- Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen

The adjustable Shulhan

Background: Congregation Neve Shalom, 250 Grove Avenue, Metuchen, NJ 
    Congregation Neve Shalom was founded in approximately 1930, when local Jewish families rented space in Royal Arcanum Hall on Main Street so they could celebrate the High Holidays. It characterizes itself as a traditional Conservative synagogue offering multiple service options including a Family Shabbat designed for children, families, and those individuals seeking an alternative service. 
    According to a history of the congregation, “… in Middlesex County, only New Brunswick and Perth Amboy had significant Jewish communities in the 19th century. New Brunswick’s community was organized before the Civil War with the German immigration and expanded greatly later in the century with the large wave of Eastern European arrivals. Perth Amboy’s started in the later half of the century with mostly people of Eastern European background. Jewish institutions abounded everywhere in these urban centers. At the same time, Jewish farmers laid the foundation for strong communities in the southern part of the county, mostly in South Brunswick Township.
    “It was not until the 20th century that the community spread to rural and newly developing suburban enclaves in Woodbridge Township.
    “Over time, as demographics in the area have changed, five once-active synagogues in Woodbridge Township (Congregations Adath Israel, Beth Ahm, Beth Sholom, B’nai Jacob, and Ohev Shalom) were absorbed into Congregation Neve Shalom.”
Stuart Shlossman, President
Rabbi Elliot Salo Schoenberg, Interim Rabbi
Hazzan Sheldon M. Levin, Cantor, Adult Education Director and Director of the  Hebrew School.
T: (732) 548-2238 
Email: office@neveshalom.net 
Website: www.Neveshalom.net

What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
    Our adult education programming is very popular. We feature 4 to 6 speakers per year, plus informative classes. This year we had speakers such as Rabbi Ron Isaacs; Rabbi Ned Soltz; Rabbi David Golinkin; Jewish Theological Seminary Professor Shira Billet; Andrew Silow-Carrol, Managing Editor for Ideas at JTA/Editor at Large at New York Jewish Week; and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. In recent years we have combined efforts with the JCC of Middlesex and Temple Emmanu-El, a local reform temple in Edison, to offer a community wide learning experience from all three organizations.
    Every year we hold the Donald and Ruth Kahn Book and Author Event which showcases two to three Jewish authors and books with Jewish content. The books are available for sale and the authors stay to sign books.
    We hold a concert, named after one of our members who died at an early age and had a deep love for Israel. Over the years the Susy Schwarts Concert has had entertainers such as Debbie Friedman z”l, Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson, Rick Recht, Peri Smilow, Sam Glaser, Six13, Julie Silver and many more. The money from the Susy Schwartz concert helps send our youth to Israel and Jewish camps. They are presented with the “Passport to Israel” worth $2000 at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This money is to be used for an educational trip to Israel. Over 150 young people have redeemed their Passports. The fund also recently sponsored a viewing of a concert from the Abayudaya Ugandan Jews and helped their youth visit Israel.
    We have activities almost every Sunday, whether it is speakers or the Rabbi’s class teaching us about coffee. Speaking of coffee, Rabbi Schoenberg took us on a walking tour of Dumbo in Brooklyn where coffee has a deep history.
    Our Men’s Club is very active. They meet for a weekly Torah on Tap learning session where they learn, eat pizza, and have a beer. The men’s club has some of the best chefs in our congregation. They share those talents with us at an annual breakfast where they honor one of their members, Steak and Spirits in the Sukkah and a post Pesach pasta dinner.

One section of the synagogue’s stained glass windows

What programs and/or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
    Our synagogue is all about community. In fact, the motto is “Neve Shalom, One Community.” We love to celebrate together and we are always there for you in times of need.
    We hold catered community Shabbat dinners six times a year. The dinners have had anywhere from 70 to 100 people.
    Every two to three months we have a Friday Night Holy Happy Hour. Congregants and visitors come and socialize and make new friends and have a little nosh before services.
    We also have an active Tikkun Olam committee. We send dinners to people who are sitting shiva and people who are ill. Our Bikhur Cholim committee is returning to its pre-Covid strength and is busy visiting people at JFK Hospital. We sponsor blood drives for the community five times a year.
    We have just restarted our Israel Awareness Committee (post Covid). The committee has a monthly book club discussing non-fiction books about Israel. We have also had an October 7th survivor speak at our synagogue. We had a program where members of our congregation who are IDF veterans speak about their experiences and help raise money for FIDF. We have helped congregants write letters to our elected representatives and to college presidents.

What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    Probably the most unique thing in our synagogue is our accessible shulhan, which can be lowered and raised, making it accessible for people in wheelchairs.
    We are also unique in the number of excellent lay Torah readers and service leaders we have in our congregation. We are always looking for new people to learn how to read Torah.
    Neve Shalom has a loom room which offers the opportunity to weave a Judaic heirloom (tallit, challah cover, matzoh cover, tallit bag, huppah).  Tallitot have been created as a multi-generational experience woven by the bar or bat mitzvah, grandparents, parents, other family and friends. We have two looms and volunteers who help people who come from the tri-state area to our synagogue to weave tallit. Our weavers have been commissioned to make tallitot for cantors and rabbis in other states.
    We also have beautiful, artistic, stained glass windows in our sanctuary. They set our sanctuary apart from others. The windows represent creation from birth to death. They were designed for Neve Shalom by Efrem Basava Weitzman z”l over fifty years ago. 

Congregants enjoying the Holy Happy Hour

Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience? What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    We are still using Zoom for services and some meetings. This allows us to give aliyot to members who have moved away or for homebound to have a feeling of being part of the community to say Mourners Kaddish.

What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
Visit us, try us, you’ll love us! If you are looking for a home away from home, look no further. We try to be there for all different needs, whether it be ritual or social or tikkun olam.  

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.

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