Temple Beth Miriam, Elberon, NJ
Background: Temple Beth Miriam is a progressive Reform congregation, located at 180 South Lincoln Avenue, Elberon. Originally founded as a summer-only congregation in 1858 on North Bath Avenue, Long Branch, it became year-round in 1939. The cornerstone for the Elberon building was laid in the summer of 1952 on land donated by Leonard Block. Spiritual leadership includes Rabbi Cy Stanway and Cantor Marnie Camhi. Wendy J. Sloter is president. The number of family units is 190. For more information please visit www.templebethmiriam.org or call (732) 222-3754.
What are the most popular of your synagogue’s programs and/or services?
We have many popular programs and services. Some are the Beach Service and Barbeque; outdoor summer services on our lovely patio; our Annual Hanukkah Bash; our winter Canadian Picnic; Talmud, Torah and Theology classes taught by Rabbi Stanway; Breakfast with the Rabbi, which have included concerts, disability awareness programs, and interfaith family meetings; children-led services; and our Purim Spiel, authored by Cantor Camhi. Our religious school is vibrant and energizing. We have growing enrollment, and enthusiastic teachers who create fun lessons for the children. Thanks to our creative, caring Religious School Principal Stella Stanway, classes are enhanced by an innovative technology program sponsored by our Sisterhood.
What is the most unique aspect of your synagogue?
The most unique aspects of our temple are that we have employed only three full-time rabbis over the years: Rabbi Aaron Lefkowitz, 1944-1969, Rabbi Joseph Goldman, 1969-1998 and Rabbi Cy Stanway, 1998-present. We stand out as a congregation because we are warm, welcoming and embracing. We support each other in good times and bad.
What programs do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
We have been successful in reactivating our Social Action/Social Justice committee by sponsoring food and toy drives for our local community organizations and engaging temple members to find out what issues they would like to support and get involved in, including our new initiative to address antisemitism and hate.
Have you implemented any changes based on the Covid experience?
Like most organizations during Covid, we began using Zoom for classes, services, and meetings. The Rabbi led a Zoom group of post-high students called YALLA (Hebrew for Let’s go!). Our livestream system was upgraded to a professional level, to make the experience more engaging. This enables us to include members who cannot attend Shabbat services in person.
Are there any other challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to share, so others can learn from your experience?
To address concerns about security in our place of worship, Temple President Wendy Sloter formed the new Security Committee. A risk assessment by representatives of the Long Branch Police, the Federation, Homeland Security, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, and the sheriff’s department pointed out opportunities for improvement, such as high-tech equipment and “hardening” projects. Unfortunately, some are not in our budget. We will also be installing a removable ramp to our bima to accommodate those congregants with mobility issues.
What would you say to encourage someone to join your synagogue?
At Temple Beth Miriam, you will be part of a Jewish community as diverse as the Jewish world. Ours is completely inclusive; a place of no judgment regardless of your religious background, marital status, sexual identity, or how you celebrate Judaism. There are many ways to be a Jew and Beth Miriam welcomes you to do just that. “Temple Beth Miriam is the oldest congregation with the youngest attitude.”
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.