Home July 2024 A Shul for You- Temple Beth Ahm, Aberdeen

A Shul for You- Temple Beth Ahm, Aberdeen

Rabbi Chaim Edelstein flanked by Temple Beth Ahm
Co-Presidents Matthew Kaufman and Erin Klein

Background: Temple Beth Ahm, 550 Lloyd Rd., Aberdeen is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue. It began in 1962 as the Strathmore-at-Matawan Jewish Center, organized by a group of homeowners in the then-new Levitt development. By 1963 it had aligned with the Conservative movement, and in 1964 hired its first Rabbi, Morris Rubinstein Z”l. The building was completed in 1968.
    Known as a welcoming, friendly congregation, it has embraced the membership of two other synagogues: the United Hebrew Congregation of Keyport, which had been in existence for more than one hundred years; and Temple Ohav Shalom on Sayreville.
Chaim Edelstein, Rabbi
Erin Klein and Matthew Kaufman, Co-Presidents
Contact information: Info@TempleBethAhm.org,
732.583.1700, www.templebethahm.org   

What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
    We have many programs that continue to bring our congregants together. Our monthly Lunch and Learn classes with Rabbi Chaim Edelstein are always well attended. He teaches classes on rituals, ethics, religious observance, and current events.
    Our Casino Night is always a hit with our congregants and is a great fundraiser for our synagogue. It brings in outsiders who are new to our shul as well as our “usual crowd.” It is a fabulous “fun-raiser” for all!
    Our pre-school brings in children ages 3 to 5 from many nearby towns and has an excellent reputation for teaching and preparing children for kindergarten. They do many interesting and immersive units, including the Passover experience that includes the Exodus, with our own Rabbi Edelstein as Moses and our own “Baker Mark” as Pharoah. The kids take a “trip” to Israel where they experience the sights, smells and tastes of Israel! The pre-school has their own vegetable garden and the children learn the basics of recycling and composting to help “heal the world,” as well as many other immersive lessons.
    For Lag B’Omer this year, we rented out a scout nature reservation and celebrated the holiday by many of our congregants experiencing archery and other sports as well as enjoying a cookout. We look forward to doing that again next year!

Congregants learned archery at the Lag B’Omer outing

What programs and/or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
   Temple Beth Ahm is very focused on social action and helping our community. We collect an average of 1,500 winter coats each season for the One Warm Coat drive. All coats and warm winter items are received by the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission in Asbury Park and distributed throughout the community to those in need.
    We plant and grow two community Giving Gardens. One garden is on our property and one is at Temple Shalom, the Reform synagogue around the corner from us. Together the two gardens provide well over 1,000 pounds of organic vegetables to three different food pantries in our area to help combat food insecurity. 
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
  Our “Milestones” program is unique! The fourth Shabbos of the month, we celebrate the milestones from that month throughout the congregation, including engagements, weddings, births, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations—anything that our congregants want to “kvell” over. It has fast become a popular time to build community by celebrating simchas along with fellow congregants, while being one of our most popular fundraisers (at no expense to the synagogue). 
    Rabbi Edelstein is also one of our most unique aspects. He has a very interesting background and many different interests such as woodworking, building, coffee roasting and so much more! Very often when we bring up a topic, he has experience with that subject and is always willing to share what he knows or teach a lesson.
    Temple Beth Ahm is lucky to have an in-house baker who prepares delicious cakes and cookies for all kiddushim and onegs in the shul. In addition, he helps to raise funds for our Religious School by selling cakes and cookies to members and their friends and family.
    We have an active knitting and crocheting group. The attendees include experienced crafters who teach novices or those just looking to refresh their skills. The group makes scarves and hats for both the IDF and our annual coat drive, in addition to making rectangles that are sewn together to make blankets for the Warm-Up America Organization.

Temple Beth Ahm congregants and friends enjoying Casino Night

Have you implemented any changes based on the COVID experience?
    The change that stands out is the evening minyan on Zoom. This Zoom minyan community has become close-knit as we check on each other, tell tidbits from the day, and we are able to share updates on other congregants when needed. The minyan provides a place for home-bound or older people who may not be able to get out at night but would like to participate in a minyan. It also enables congregants to recite the Mourners’ Kaddish when needed and participate in the prayer for the ill. First-timers who join the minyan are always warmly welcomed.
Are there any other challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to share, so others can learn from your experience? 
    During Covid, we held our Religious School classes on Zoom. As we emerged from the Covid world, some parents were reluctant to let go of the Zoom aspect of the schooling. As a result, they now have the option to participate via Zoom or be in-person for Wednesday Religious School classes and all students are in person on Sundays. The hybrid model relieves the pressure on parents of students who do not get off the school bus until later. It also gives children who learn better in person the opportunity to do so. 
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
    We have an unusual dues model that we call “The Promise Program.” Each year, we let congregants know how much a sustaining amount for membership would be; however, people are able to “promise” to pay what they feel is affordable for them. It is based on the theory that as the congregant finds more value in being a member of the shul and becomes more involved and active, they will value their membership more, and be willing to pay more for it. We are now in our fifth year and the program has been working quite well. 
    We are known as a very welcoming “haimish” community, inclusive to all. We would love for you to come check us out for yourself and see what we have to offer! 

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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