2016-07-20 / Voice at the Shore

Shirat Hayam, the shore’s first Reform/Conservative congregation, officially opens this month

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor

It’s official: As of July 1, Temple Emeth Shalom and Congregation Beth Judah are now “Shirat Hayam.”

The new Reform/Conservative congregation, located at 700 N. Swarthmore Avenue — in the Ventnor building that’s long been home to Beth Judah — celebrated its first month with a slew of social and educational programming catering to adults, its primary demographic. It also announced its new board, which is led by co-presidents Marc Needleman, former president of Emeth Shalom, and Sheila Friedman, the former Beth Judah president.

Shirat Hayam’s first official Shabbat on Friday, July 1— in the midst of a holiday weekend and on the heels of a raging rainstorm— was low-key but joyous, with about 25- 30 people attending each service.

“Both the Conservative service at 6 p.m. and the Reform service at 7:30 p.m. were spirited, filled with song, congregational participation and prayer to usher in Shabbat,” said Friedman. “Rabbi Geller and Rabbi Kremer as well as Hazzan Myers attended both services. We celebrated by reciting the Shehecheyanu together and offering a l’chaim toast to our partnership between the two services.”

For former Emeth Shalom congregants, the question of feeling at home was foremost on their minds. Although Emeth Shalom held its Shabbat services at Beth Judah last summer to test out the idea of merging, this time it was different: Congregants entered the building knowing that this was their new home.

According to Needleman, all went well. “We felt very happy to be in our new sanctuary and felt right at home.”

Since then, Shirat Hayam has been exploding with activity. As of Voice at the Shore’s deadline, big plans were in the works for the rest of the month, with the Kulp Scholar-in-Residence weekend July 15-16 focusing on the theme of “Jewish Futures,” with Dr. Aaron Hahn Tapper, followed by a “Giant Thrift Sale” at Emeth Shalom’s building in Margate on July 17 and 18.

Shirat Hayam also held its first annual meeting on July 12, where it approved a new board offering equal representation to both former synagogues. In addition to co-presidents Needleman and Friedman, new board members included Bob Bishop, Steve Baer, Michele Bronkesh, Michael Cool, Lois Fried, Judy Galler, Mitch Gordon, Linda Goukler, Sandy Greenberg, Bruce Greenfield, Linda Kulp, Carol Myerowitz, Lisa Naegele, Betty Rimm, Karen Pollock, Leigh Turner, Dean Scarpa, Jackie Sirota, Ed Weinstein, Stuart Wiser, Natalyn Wolbransky, and Michelle Zibulsky.

Programs traditionally offered by each merging synagogue are now being offered under the auspices of Shirat Hayam. These include Emeth Shalom’s Salute to Stockton Summer Series, which brings in lecturers for various Shabbat services (on July 22 and August 5, 12 and 19 – see Voice at the Shore’s calendar for details), as well as Rabbi Geller’s popular Ask the Rabbi class, which meets on select Mondays at 1:30 p.m. Likewise, Shirat Hayam will continue to offer Beth Judah’s Devotion by the Ocean Beach Services (with upcoming services July 29 and August 26) and Shabbat on the Rocks, a happy hour-type event preceding selected Shabbat services, which takes place this Friday, July 22, and on August 19.

The merger also seems to have sparked the creation of diverse new programming for adults, which the new congregation appears to be embracing with open arms. Among these new programs is the Sunday Summer Sessions, featuring breakfast and a speaker from 9:45-10:30 a.m. on July 24 and August 7 and 14. Shirat Hayam will also host a Community Shabbat Dinner on Friday, August 26, a Mah Jongg Tournament on September 11, and a trip to the Cape May Playhouse to see “Disgraced” combined with dinner on September 25. For more information on any of these programs, call George Korbelak at (609) 822-7116, extension 101. s

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