Background: Founded by twelve families in 1963, Temple Shalom is a Reform congregation meeting serving Northern Monmouth and Southeastern Middlesex counties. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in June. After spending a few years meeting in various locations in the area, Temple Shalom’s building opened in time for the 1967 High Holidays. A member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) it reports on having 226 members.
Rabbi Henry M. Weiner, at the helm for its first 32 years. Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger has been its spiritual leader ever since. It boasts a bust religious school as well as very active Youth, Brotherhood, and Women of Temple Shalom groups.
In October, 2021, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, made a surprise drop-in visit to his former congregation. He and his family celebrated his bar mitzvah there in 1977. Melissa Rauch who played Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on the Big Bang Theory and currently plays Judge Abby Stone on Night Court became a bat mitzva at Temple Shalom.
Laurence P. Malinger, Rabbi
Sarah Zemel, Cantor
Jessica Sammut, President
What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
Temple Shalom is invested in supporting members of all ages, demographics and interests and thus develops programs to support all. One of our unique programs is Rock Shabbat, at which we have had many of the top Jewish musical performers including Josh Nelson, Nefesh Mountain and Shira Kline. For the very young, we have Temple Tots, for teens we have a very active TOSTY youth group, for continuing education we have ongoing adult Jewish education classes led by our Rabbi, and for empty nesters we have the Renaissance group series of activities and trips.
What programs and/or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
Our philosophy of ‘Torah, worship, loving deeds’ informs many programs led by our Caring committee, which has focused on topics ranging from suicide awareness and managing grief to recognizing hate and bias in today’s world. Breakfast programming topics included internet safety, men’s health and interfaith programming. Annually, we support breast cancer awareness, Pride and programs developed with local churches of many denominations, such as MLK weekend.
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
Temple Shalom is proud to be a welcoming and inclusive community: our doors are open to all. We have a large number of interfaith families, families of color, LGBTQ families. Children with all different gender identities feel comfortable and safe in our classes and in our temple. Special needs students are welcomed and included in all programs, classes and services.
Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience? What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
As a result of COVID, we pivoted to online services, meetings and programming. Today, we continue to have services and most other meetings and programs available via Zoom and Facebook live. We remain open for business in our building.
Are there any other challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to share, so others can learn from your experience?
Security is our highest priority. At Temple Shalom we continue to put a high emphasis on the safety of our congregants. We continue to look into all options to create a safe environment for all that enter our building.
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
We are a welcoming and inclusive congregation. Rabbi Malinger is always there for our congregants, from preschoolers to school-age children, where he teaches 7th grade, and for our seniors. He has a sense of humor, is open and flexible and ensures that members connect with him and others in the congregation.
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.