Home January 2024 A Shul for You- Congregation Beth Shalom

A Shul for You- Congregation Beth Shalom

Hindy’s Challah Bakes are always well attended

Background: According to its website, the synagogue was founded in 1957 and is “guided by the idea that there should be a place where everyone can feel at home, within a Jewish context. At our shul and community, open-minded exploration is the key, not background or affiliation. We don’t believe in labels or divisions.”
    Artist Nissan Mayk, whose parents were founders, remembers helping to clean out the basement of what was rumored to have been a house/bordello in the 1920s, and recalls seeing cases of liquor in the basement.
    Rabbi Dovid Harrison attended high school at a Chabad French yeshiva and received a bachelor’s degree in Talmudic law from Yeshiva Gedolah Rabbinical College of Greater Miami. He earned a master’s in Hebrew letters and ordination from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown and his law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan in 2004.
    Hindy Harrison received her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in special education with a focus on early intervention therapy for autistic children. Part of the community since 2010, they now have six children.
President, Israel Burdei
Rabbi Dovid Harrison, RabbiHarrison@gmail.com
(732) 741-1657
What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
    Hindy’s Challah Bakes! But there are so many other fun programs and parties, e.g. our Shabbat dinners and holiday parties/events, including our recent Shabbat dinner with a rabbi from Israel. This past year we’ve had record turnouts for our Purim party and backyard Shavuot dinner and ice-cream party.  Hindy also does Young Mom events that are extremely popular.  We enjoyed latkes and doughnuts with locally crafted beer at our Hanukkah party, held at Red Tank, a local brewery, with a live klezmer five-piece band, on Dec. 10.

Rabbi Dovid and Hindy Harrison and their children

What programs and/or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
    We believe that being Jewish today should be fun and meaningful and accessible to all, and that we should all be knowledgeable and proud Jews. Our parties and events exemplify that philosophy.  Almost all our attendees come to Shabbat services and to our regular classes. Our weekly Tuesday evening Torah Tonight class (7:30-8:15 p.m.) – are people who attended our parties/dinners/events and wanted to study more.
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    Our “no commitment, everyone is welcome” atmosphere, where all are welcome. We believe that we’re all created in G-d’s image, and that everyone is deserving of respect and love. We therefore make all of our events, programs and services open to everyone. The father of a local family who moved into the area last year from New York City told me that he loves coming to shul because everyone genuinely wants to be there; there are no pressures. Just people coming together, uniting as part of a larger family.  We’re a relatively small shul, where everyone is welcomed and appreciated. It is one of the few synagogues in the area in which four generations of a family have worshipped.

Rabbi Harrison, seated at left, led a shul trip to Israel in March

Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience? What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
    Yes, we’ve switched our Tuesday evening Torah Tonight class to Zoom. While we’ve lost some of the person-to-person connection that you can only get from in-person events, it has enabled many people to study and connect from the comforts of home. 
Are there any other challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to share, so others can learn from your experience?
    Some may have had a bad experience in their Jewish past, at a place or with an individual. Others might never have been exposed to authentic Judaism. Don’t let that hold you back. Come and join us. You’ll meet other like-minded Jewish people from all backgrounds, places of origin, and age.  Each of us is a valuable part of our Jewish people. Come and join us and learn about your history and people. There is no better time to join us than now, when Jews all over the world are exploring their heritage and background and coming together.    
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
    Being Jewish is our inheritance. It’s yours to explore. Don’t wait! Come and check us out. I promise you’ll have a good time, learn some interesting things about your heritage, and meet nice people.   

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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