Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David, a Modern Orthodox synagogue which is affiliated with the OU, located in the suburban township of West Orange, New Jersey, is celebrating its 50th year anniversary. AABJ&D better known as the “Alphabet Shul” to the local MetroWest Federation is a result of a merger in March 1966 between two diverse synagogues.
B’nai David was founded in 1963 by twenty families in West Orange who sought to establish a synagogue with a more traditional service and a Hebrew Day School for their children to attend. Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob was a well established Newark synagogue whose leadership sought to leave the Weequahic neighborhood shortly before the Newark riots.
In an article that recently appeared in the Jewish Week, “Calling It As They Saw It” author Dr. Jeffrey S. Gurock, Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at YU, explains the process behind how synagogues selected a particular moniker. Gurock explains how Congregation AABJ&D got its name which means Congregation of Brotherly Love of the Children of Jacob and David. He writes, “When synagogues followed their worshippers out of declining inner-city neighborhoods to more comfortable suburban locales, they pooled their resources and consolidated their names to start a new chapter in their histories, without forgetting their inner-city origins.”
“The Jubilee or Yovel year is an important milestone for AABJ&D. One of the goals of planning a year of celebratory events is to develop a shared sense of communal history among our synagogue members,” noted Mali Schwartz, AABJ&D’s Jubilee Chairperson. “The Jubilee Kick-Off event took place on September 30th, Hol Hamoed Sukkoth where synagogue members were able to view the brand new custom made Kol Hanearim Tallit”
“A number of synagogues around the country have decided to create custom Kol Hanearim Talleisim to be used on Simchat Torah, and commissioning the tallit is a tangible way to remember ABJ&D’s special anniversary with an eye toward the future represented by our synagogue youth, shares Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, AABJ&D spiritual leader.
Adina Gatt, an Israeli artist with over 30 years of experience, who owns and oversees Efod Art Embroidery Studio which has a storefront in the Artist’s Colony on 14 Hutzot Ha’yotzer Street in Jerusalem, had a vision for the Kol Hanaerim Tallit that she designed for AABJ&D. She wanted to create a feeling of unity and oneness which is a central value that Rabbi Alvin M. Marcus promoted tirelessly during his rabbinic tenure from 1968 – 1998.
Rabbi Marcus is a classic example of “oskim b’tzorchai tzibur b’emunah; those who, imbued with faith, occupy themselves with the needs of the community.” Rabbi Marcus assumed a number of leadership roles within the greater Orthodox community such as serving as president of the Rabbinical Council of New Jersey and as a past president of the council of Orthodox Rabbis of Metropolitan New Jersey and has held many Jewish communal board positions.
Other Jubilee Year activities include inviting two former assistant rabbis to be Scholars in Residence. Rabbi Daniel Cohen currently serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, CT since 2005 and recently published Mining for Gold: Essays on Torah in the Modern World.
Rabbi Daniel Alter recently moved back to New Jersey where he will be Head of School at Moriah in Englewood, NJ made an impact in the Denver Jewish community where he founded a new shul, DAT, doubled attendance at the Modern Orthodox elementary school and founded a high school five years ago.
Andrew Yolin, Chairman of the AABJ&D Incentive Committee is working with the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, the JCC, and Camp Gesher, to offer an educational package of nearly $50,000, an exciting way to attract new families to the AABJ&D community. “You can find AABJ&D on the OU website – just click on the Community Engagement link and look for featured synagogues under West Orange. “I think the theme for the Jubilee Celebration says it all: Embracing our Past; Building our Future.”