2017-10-11 / Voice at the Shore

Beth El Synagogue embraces continuity, renewal, and outreach to the unaffiliated

By DIANA GURWICZ President of Beth El Synagogue

As the new president of Beth El Synagogue, it gives me great pleasure to offer readers my warmest wishes for a healthy and a happy New Year! For Jews around the world, this is a time of renewal and rebirth.

Beth El as a synagogue is also experiencing a great renewal. As we enter 5778, our corner of the Jewish community remains strong and committed to its long heritage. As I assume the presidency, I am looking forward to continuing to help our synagogue grow and thrive, particularly amidst these uncertain times for Conservative Judaism throughout the country.

This is not Beth El’s first period of rebirth. Beth El’s heritage is rooted in Atlantic City’s Community Synagogue, which was located in a small building on Maryland and Pacific Avenues. It wasn’t until 1960 that Beth El moved to its current location, built its beautiful sanctuary and school, and dedicated itself as Beth El Synagogue of Margate. For the past 59 years, we have been the center of life for so many, and the bimah has served as the platform for many generations of births, bar and bat mitzvahs, plays, holidays, weddings, funerals, and so much more.

When I moved here from Teaneck, I was delighted to find a place where the community sang the songs I was used to and provided a warm and caring place to worship for myself and my family. I felt honored to be married in front of Beth El’s beautiful ark, and am happy that my children are learning at Beth El’s wonderful Hebrew school. For the past six years, it has been my sincere pleasure to serve on the board of directors with a group of people who care so much—about the synagogue, Jewish life, and most importantly, each other.

In recent years, Beth El has experienced the most common of maladies, the attrition that happens so often as Jews opt out of living a Jewish life, or simply move away, or pass on from this world with no one to replace them in their seats. The synagogue has responded in various ways, exploring new ways of reaching the Jewish community— such as through the opening of a Mainland site for school and for Friday night musical services.

Through the overarching generosity of our benefactors, we remain ever eager to connect with the unaffiliated Jewish population of South Jersey. We know there are so many people who are seeking spirituality and are put off by one thing or another. We continue to consider all possible ways of reaching out and making people feel welcome among us, expanding our ability to serve the spiritual needs of congregants and other community members.

Through all of this, our synagogue remains true to its strongest traditions, carrying out the work of tefilla and tikkun olam every week, serving the needs of all the Jews of South Jersey, regardless of level of engagement, or affiliation.

At Beth El, continuity is paramount. Thanks to the efforts of so many Beth El members working together, our synagogue continues to provide meaningful services to the community at large, in the way of daily minyans, weekly services, adult education classes, inspiring holiday services, and community and social events that attract people of all faiths. Rabbi Aaron Krauss and Cantor Ralph Goren are remarkable for their ability to connect and establish meaningful relationships that define what it means to be Jewish. Their dedication and service to all is another reason it is so easy to be proud to be a member at Beth El.

Jewish education is also a high priority at Beth El. If we as a people want to do something to reinvigorate Conservative Judaism, it must begin with the children. At Beth El, we are proud of our school and our marvelous teachers, who develop the same love and understanding of Judaism I remember from my own childhood. The children are well prepared for their bar and bat mitzvahs and parents and guests always marvel at how much they know of Hebrew and the Jewish faith. My own children, age 11 and 10, have been attending Beth El since first grade and I’m confident that even at this stage, they recognize the importance of maintaining our heritage and will carry the lessons from our Hebrew School with them always.

With a strong foundation steeped in continuity and tradition, adapting to changing circumstances is a much easier proposition. At Beth El, we remain committed to providing a meaningful Jewish experience in a uniquely welcoming way. I have great hope for the future of Beth El and the future of Conservative Judaism. Shana Tova to all!

To learn more about Beth El, please check out our website at www.bethelsynagogue.com or contact Joyce at (609) 823- 2725. 

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