Home APRIL_2024 If You Build It, They Will Come

If You Build It, They Will Come

Building connections within our Jewish community.

    Adar Darnov is a young Jewish professional who is a member of Temple Beth Ahm of Aberdeen. He was searching for more connections from others like him in his community. When he could not find a group that served this population, he created one.
    He says, “I have made many new friendships as a result of organizing the group, and see other friendships in the community growing as well.”

JLife: Tell us about your experience starting this new group at your synagogue.
Adar: Temple Beth Ahm is a tight-knit and largely volunteer-run shul. It depends on people to step up and take the reins.         
    The main challenge for me has been in gauging what focus to lead the group towards. There are some Jews in this age group who are purely interested in social opportunities, and not in ritual. And there are others who find Jewish ritual meaningful. Some participants are reluctant to set foot in a synagogue, while others appreciate the chance to reconnect with the place they feel warmly about from their childhood. For now, we are experimenting with events that meet a variety of interests of our 20s/30s community.

JLife: What was the driving force behind starting the Young Jewish Professional’s Club at your Synagogue?
Adar: Young Jewish Professionals of Temple Beth Ahm was created by my co-organizers and I out of a desire to help local Jews in their 20’s and 30’s connect with each other. I run the group along with assistance from my two close friends, Josh and Jaime Young. We also derive support from Rabbi Edelstein and Co-Presidents, Matthew Kaufman and Erin Kaplan Klein. I wanted to do something to serve the community and this felt like the best way I could make a difference. Throughout 2023, I visited young professional groups in other parts of New Jersey, as well as in the city. It became clear to me that there are plenty of Jews in this age group who have a desire to form social connections with others their age when given the opportunity.

 JLife: How did your first event go?
Adar: We organized ‘Jews & Brews’ last year and brought over 20 members of our group to the Alternate Ending Beer Co. in Aberdeen for pizza and beer before Passover. During that summer, we also organized an early Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat dinner at our synagogue. Our Rabbi played guitar for the Kabbalat Shabbat portion of the service, before sundown. That event brought in over 20 people. In February of this year, we organized a havdalah service at the Temple, immediately followed by bowling that same night. This year, we are increasing the frequency of our gatherings to strengthen connections in our community.

JLife: How do you spread the word about the events?
Adar: We publicize the events on Facebook, Instagram, and in our Temple announcements. While there are additional social media platforms we can utilize, we need more volunteers to be able to cover that digital ground. Our group participants include both members of Temple Beth Ahm and those who are not. Anyone from the wider Jewish community is welcome to attend. Attendees have come from as far north as Morris County and as south as Cherry Hill. The nucleus of people we invited to our Facebook group consists of friendships my co-organizers and I retained from high school and college. However, the participants have expanded far beyond those circles.

JLife: What has your experience been with observing Shabbat? Has it been helpful in your own life?
Adar:  In recent years I found myself wanting a deeper Shabbat observance and started to get proactive about it last year. I host friends from the group for Shabbat dinners and take time to put away electronics, read, meditate, hike with friends, attend services, or spend time visiting other 20s/30s Jewish communities in New Jersey. I’ve found that the deeper I’ve delved into Shabbat it has liberated me from the crush modern life imposes on many of us. Whether it’s the constant oppression of our phones and email, the feeling that there’s always something else to do, or that we are never enough. I’ve also been more productive overall. Knowing Shabbat is coming, I squeeze every minute of work I can get in before it arrives and feel re-energized to return to work once it’s over.

JLife: How has implementing a gratitude practice changed your life for the better?
Adar: Judaism is such a practical religion with a lot of structure, and sets up opportunities throughout the day to express gratitude. I’ve been accessing that, and it’s helped me go beyond my own worries and feel more grateful.

JLife: What are you guys working on now?
Adar: We are still in the planning stages of a few events but if anyone following the group is interested, you can find us on social media. We plan on continuing to experiment with a mix of social and spiritual events that provide young Jews with different opportunities to engage in what appeals to them. For anyone interested in participating, please reach out on Facebook (Facebook.com/yjpbethahm) or Instagram (Instagram.com/yjp_tba).  

Gena Ansell-Lande is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.


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