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Home February 2024 A Shul for You- Congregation Beth Ohr, 70 County Rd 516, Old...

A Shul for You- Congregation Beth Ohr, 70 County Rd 516, Old Bridge

The Star of David stained glass window in the shul’s sanctuary

Background: Congregation Beth Ohr in Old Bridge, Middlesex County, New Jersey, is an egalitarian, traditional conservative synagogue affiliated with United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, in existence since 1956. It boasts a loyal core of members who regard one another as family.
    It sees its mission as preserving Jewish identity in the community, furthering Jewish education, providing religious, cultural, and social opportunities to its members, while reaching out to the greater community of Central New Jersey with activities and interfaith programs. Its goal is to maintain Jewish continuity through the generations.
    The sanctuary is graced with a stained glass window in which the Star of David is embellished with illustrations, including  symbols of Shabbat surrounded by the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, Pesach/Passover and Shavuot. The side panels show an open Torah scroll and the Kotel/Wailing Wall using opaque glass to represent Jerusalem stone.
     Rabbi Joel Mishkin is in his 10th year as spiritual leader. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He is a great asset for our Congregation, with his terrific speeches, interesting educational classes, calming personality and strong leadership within the local rabbinate. Rabbi Mishkin and his wife, Beverly, reside in Old Bridge and are the parents of adult twin sons.
     Philip Rabinowitz is the current President of Congregation Beth Ohr, a position he previously held from 2015 through 2017.
    For further information or to contact Rabbi Mishkin, email congregationbethohr@gmail.com or call the office at 732-257-1523.
    The web address is https://www.oldbridgebethohr.org.

Sunday Men’s Club Bagel and Shmooze

What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
     The most popular programs and services at Beth Ohr include our Rabbi-in-Residence and Cantorial Music weekends. Our Men’s Club annually honors a member with the Sydney Lustgarten Mensch Award, while our Sisterhood honors a member at its annual Torah Fund Benefactor Luncheon.
What programs and/or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
    Programs and services that capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy include our weekly Shabbat morning services, which are known for their haimish community, warmth and totally non-judgmental approach to prayer and community. Our weekly Sunday Morning Minyan is followed by Men’s Club breakfast and schmooze for prayer, fellowship and bagels.
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    President Phil Rabinowitz  said, “The knowledge and talents of our lay members who lead services and Torah reading are the ideal accompaniment to our scholarly Rabbi. This was very appealing to me when I joined over 35 years ago.”
    Another aspect of our synagogue is our beautiful sanctuary, built in 1988 with seating for two hundred people. It was designed with the Bimah in the middle of the room so congregants would be close to the Chazzan and Torah reader. Each stained-glass pane in the beautiful Star of David window represents a Jewish holiday or the Sabbath.
Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience?

Cantor Zahava Fried leading a weekend of cantorial music

What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    Our Friday evening services are now available on Zoom. This provides members who are unable to attend services on Saturday morning in person and those who are no longer living within physical proximity to our synagogue to participate. We now offer Zoom services as an alternative for the High Holidays.
Are there any other challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to share, so others can learn from your experience?
    As a smaller congregation, one challenge that we face each year is hiring a High Holiday Cantor. Using our Rabbi’s connections, we contacted the Academy of Jewish Religion Seminary in Yonkers, New York. This Academy worked with us to find our first female Cantor, Zahava Fried, from Buffalo, New York, for the 2023 High Holidays. She shared her wonderful soprano voice and sparkling personality which provided inspirational spirituality to our members and guests. President Rabinowitz stated that “This was the first time in my lifetime of attending High Holiday Services where a Cantor was given a standing ovation.” We are excited to announce that she will return to Beth Ohr for the 2024 High Holidays.
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
    The most important approach used to encourage someone to join Beth Ohr is letting them know that if they are looking for a small, cozy spiritual home with an incredibly nice group of folks, you could not find a more inviting and hospitable atmosphere for your spiritual needs. Beth Ohr offers a warm and non-judgmental approach to Conservative Judaism, along with an extremely solicitous approach to new members. Our leadership and Rabbi are uniformly in agreement with these considerations. When in doubt, be a mensch!  

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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